Parks and Recreation Festival Has Huge Economic Impact in Roanoke

Attendance surged this year at the annual Anthem GO Outside Festival (GO Fest): a free three-day festival that celebrates nature and outdoor recreation. This marks the sixth year that the City of Roanoke’s Parks and Recreation department has co-hosted GO Fest with Roanoke Outside. The festival, which took place on Oct. 14 – 16 at River’s Edge Sports Complex, attracted 30,000 people and generated an estimated $180,000 in retail sales in a single weekend.

“Based on the great feedback and how smooth everything went from an organizational standpoint, this was indeed our best year yet,” said Patrick Boas, Co-Director for GO Fest and Outdoor Recreation Coordinator, City of Roanoke Parks and Recreation.

Not only did attendance grow by 20 percent, the festival attracted visitors and vendors from 39 states. Deemed Blue Ridge Outdoors’ Best of the Blue Ridge Top Festival, GO Fest included 140 free activities, ranging from free yoga and rock climbing to log rolling and gear demos; live music presented by FloydFest’s producers and performances by 12 distinguished pro athletes. More than 100 retail vendors, outdoor gear manufacturers and food trucks set up shop and 20,000 beers from Deschutes Brewery and Parkway Brewery were sold.

Why have the numbers grown so much in just five years? The event organizers credit their growing list of sponsors.

“GO Fest’s success greatly correlates with the strong partnerships that we’ve built over the years,” said Boas. “Through new partnerships with Across the Way Productions, Deschutes Brewery and Barebones Living, we were able to offer huge live concerts, a cast iron and craft beer dinner, and VIP glamping – or glamorous camping – to GO Fest for the first time.”

Although the growing festival offers big live entertainment acts, thousands of dollars in gear giveaways and free activities, it has remained free to the public, thanks to the support of its sponsors.

“Our goal as a department is to deliver affordable and accessible programs for community members of all ages, which is why it’s so important that GO Fest continues to be a free event,” added Boas. “We’re thankful for the hundreds of volunteers who donated their time and hard work, and to our long-standing partners, like Anthem, Keen Footwear, Parkway Brewery and Carter Machinery, who have been with us from the beginning. They are a big reason why GO Fest has grown so quickly while letting us maintain free admission.”

Next year, GO Fest will take place on Oct. 20 – 22 at River’s Edge Sports Complex. To learn more about the upcoming festival and opportunities to get involved, visit www.roanokegofest.com.

View photos from GO Fest 2016:

Photos taken by photographer Brian Cripe.

Eureka Park Recreation Center to Host First Trunk or Treat Fall Festival

Roanoke, VA – On Oct. 31 at 5 p.m., the city’s Eureka Park Recreation Center will welcome more than 200 families, vendors, and volunteers for its first Fall Festival and Halloween Trunk or Treat. In addition to Parks and Recreation staff, representatives from Roanoke Fire-EMS, the Sheriff’s Office, and Roanoke Public Libraries will also take part in the event to encourage community safety and wellness. Mayor Sherman Lea will speak at this event.

For more information, contact Whitney Slightham, Department of Parks and Recreation Marketing and Outreach Coordinator, at 540-853-5847 or whitney.slightham@roanokeva.gov.

Roanoke Parks and Recreation Opens New Playground at Smith Park

Roanoke, VA – The new handicap accessible playground at Smith Park is open for play. Mayor Sherman Lea, members of Roanoke’s Civitan Club, and the Roanoke Parks and Recreation team celebrated the ribbon cutting earlier this afternoon.

“Inclusivity played a big role in determining the design of this playground,” said Donnie Underwood, Parks and Greenways Planner for Roanoke Parks and Recreation. “Our goal was to build a playground that appeals to children of all ages, abilities and interests.”

The playground design includes features and equipment that meet many Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. The ramps that connect most of the playground, for example, are wheelchair accessible. In addition to slides, swings, and a climbing tunnel, there are also chimes, drums, sprocket and gear panels, spinners and both Braille and language instruction elements built into the playground design.

The Civitan Club donated money to build the original playground at Smith Park in the early ‘90s. When it came time to replace the old equipment with a new playground, the Civitans donated $35,000 this year to replace the original park.

“I have enjoyed this project probably more than any other that I have been involved in, because you can see the joy that Smith Park has brought to so many over the years,” said Nancy Larsen, Area 6 Director of the Chesapeake District, Civitan International.

“While it may take a community to raise a child, it also takes a community to create fun and enjoyable experiences in our public spaces,” said Underwood. “Partnerships with like-minded organizations like the Civitans of Roanoke enable the city to create new and vibrant park features that otherwise would not have been possible.”

With the opening of the new playground at Smith Park, Roanoke Parks and Recreation has completed its goal to rebuild four ADA accessible playgrounds this year. The other three new playgrounds are at Morningside Park, Norwich Park and Eureka Park.

For more information, contact Whitney Slightham, Department of Parks and Recreation Marketing and Outreach Coordinator, at 540-853-5847 or whitney.slightham@roanokeva.gov.

River’s Edge Sports Complex Opens New Tournament Ready Tennis Courts

Roanoke, VA – For the first time, Roanoke now has 12 tournament ready tennis courts at River’s Edge Sports Complex. Councilwoman Michelle Dykstra, members of the tennis community, and Roanoke Parks and Recreation staff formally opened the gates to six new courts at the ribbon cutting this morning.

The added court space not only gives Roanoke the opportunity to host tournaments and league matches more regularly, but it also gives recreational players more time to play.

“Roanoke tennis players are excited to have new and extra courts in Roanoke to play on,” said Jennifer Frye, captain of several U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) leagues in Roanoke. “Right now we have to travel 20 minutes to play our USTA matches. Hopefully we can play some of those league matches on the new courts.”

The new laser-graded courts are donned with bright colors, designed to help players better distinguish the court from the ball. With state-of-the-art wirelessly controlled sports lighting, players can schedule games earlier in the morning and into the evening. In addition to the new six courts at River’s Edge North, the Parks and Recreation team is also improving the city’s existing six tennis courts at River’s Edge South along Wiley Drive.

For more information, contact Whitney Slightham, Department of Parks and Recreation Marketing and Outreach Coordinator, at 540-853-5847 or whitney.slightham@roanokeva.gov.

Mayor Lea Launches New Parks and Recreation Dog Walking Wellness Initiative

Roanoke, VA – Mayor Lea introduced a new local dog walking wellness program called Marla’s Miles this morning at Highland Park. The City of Roanoke’s Department of Parks and Recreation has teamed up with Angels of Assisi to encourage volunteers to get outdoors and walk a dog from the shelter before work, on lunch break, or after work. The program was first developed by City employee, Marla Robertson, who adopted a rescue hound named Gabby.

Every mile walked counts helps support the shelter. Local businesses are supporting the program by donating walking harnesses to the dogs based on volunteer mileage. When the dog is adopted, their new family will receive the harness as a gift. Other local businesses in the downtown area will set up checkpoint stations, where program participants can stop for water and dog snacks. Parks and Recreation staff liaise with local sponsors and help the walkers track their miles while offering wellness tips, encouragement and suggested walking routes.

“Marla’s Miles benefits Angels of Assisi, the dogs, the volunteers, and our community by promoting optimal wellness through walking,” said Maurissa Mursch-Medina, fitness and aquatics program supervisor, Roanoke Parks and Recreation. “We want people to get outside, explore downtown Roanoke and breathe in some fresh air while walking a furry friend.”

All volunteer walkers need to attend orientation at Angels of Assisi before getting started. The first orientation session is set for Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 5:15 p.m. All of the dogs are ready for adoption, which means they are spayed or neutered and up-to-date on shots. Once a Marla’s Miles participant completes the training, they will be paired with a dog that matches their walking pace. Walkers can meet their friends at Angels of Assisi any time after 9 a.m., as long as the dogs are back by 5:30 p.m.

Marla’s Miles runs from Sept. 1 through Nov. 23, and will resume again in the Spring. To learn more, visit www.playroanoke.com.

Free Reading for All!

HeaderMost of us have fond memories of loved ones reading to us when we were younger. Some might even remember the excitement of learning to read on their own and would return the favor! However, with infinite information and entertainment literally at our finger tips, it is easy to see why reading books (real, physical books) has become something of the past.  Unfortunately, not everyone has access to e-readers, the internet, or even an actual library to check out and read books whenever one wants, and even those who do have access rarely take advantage of it. Whatever it is  that has made us forget about this basic form of entertainment, there are some employees of the City of Roanoke who are working diligently to bring it back and make books easily available to citizens in all corners of the city through the Little Free Libraries program.

The Little Free Libraries program began in Hudson Wisconsin in 2009. A man named Todd Bol wanted to honor his late mother, a school teacher and an avid reader. Thus, he built a small replica of a school house, put it in his yard, and filled it with books for all of his neighbors to share– the idea of Little Free Libraries was born.

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A committee comprising employees and members from Economic Development, the Arts Commission, Neighborhood Services, Parks and Recreation, and Roanoke City Public Libraries are working together to bring more Little Free Libraries to the area and make literacy more accessible to the citizens of the city. The group is starting with six kiosks in various neighborhoods and parks. The kiosks, which are old, coin-operated newspaper racks donated by the Roanoke Times, will be decorated by area artists. Once they are completed, they will be placed around the city and filled with books for anyone who would like to borrow them. Each Little Free Library has a steward to help maintain the structure and let the committee know if it is running low on books or is in need of repair. The committee’s hope is that people will not only take books and bring them back when they’re finished, but that people will share some of their own books that they loved. The plan is to have the Little Free Libraries in place and fully stocked by the spring of 2016.

If you’re looking for something to pass the time, expand your horizons, or just read to a little one, stop by one of the little free libraries and get back to your reading roots.

Alternative Active Living

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Americans are becoming more and more sedentary. Our lives are busy, and technology has taken the place of human labor or distracted us from doing the things we all know are important, like exercising. In fact, we are inactive to the point that almost 36% of Americans are considered obese, and according to the CDC, 80% are not getting the recommended amount of exercise weekly.

According to the American Osteopathic Association, leading a sedentary lifestyle is as dangerous, if not more so, than smoking. Sitting all day and not being active can lead to increased anxiety, depression, higher blood pressure, decreased mobility of the joints and spine, obesity and loss of muscle mass.

We are animals designed to be in motion, our bodies are adaptable and we change to fit the conditions we find ourselves in most often. If we sit in front of a screen for more than seven hours per day, which is now the average screen time for 8-18 year old children according to a study by Kaiser Family Foundation, we will adapt into sitting and staring machines. However, if we are constantly moving, our bodies will be healthy and function as we have evolved to.

Many of us don’t have the time to devote to going to the gym 90 minutes per day, five days per week, but we can make simple changes to our day-to-day lives to incorporate constant movement.

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One: Plant a garden
Planting a garden is a great way to move your body through all sorts of motions, gives you exposure to vitamin D from the sun, and provides healthy, organic food for most of the year. On top of that Mycobacterium vaccae, a common soil bacterium, has been shown to improve our mood in the same way as antidepressants by increasing our bodies’ production of serotonin. In the book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, best-selling author Dan Buettner studied populations of people around the world who regularly live over the age of 100. He found that in nearly every centenarian population the majority of people maintained a garden. With the physical and mental health benefits there is no reason why everyone shouldn’t be out in the garden. If you don’t have a yard, a container garden only needs a few square feet of sun. You can also join a local community garden or start one at your place of worship or your child’s school.

Two: Stand-up desk
If you work in an office, a stand-up desk is a great way to be mobile all day long. Standing burns 15-25% more calories than sitting and up to 35% more for people who are obese. That means if you stand while at work eight hours per day, five days a week, for 48 weeks a year, you would burn the equivalent amount of additional calories as running 28 marathons. Standing desks allow for better mobility in your hips, thoracic spine, and shoulders. They have also been shown to help prevent pelvic floor dysfunction. School districts across the country are switching to standing desks as a way of combating childhood obesity, attention disorders and discipline issues. These don’t have to be fancy; my first stand-up desk was a milk crate atop my desk with a laptop sitting on it. The desk just needs to be slightly higher than your elbow and allow you to look straight ahead at your computer screen.

Three: Volunteer
Your community needs your help, and it can be great for your health as well. River cleanups, building and maintaining local trails and walking dogs at the local animal shelters can give you a sense of purpose, are great ways to meet new people and add activity into your day or lunch hour. Talk to your employer because more progressive organizations may even pay for a few hours of volunteering each month.

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Four: Walk or ride your bike to the grocery store or work

Did you know that the average trip in a car is less than six miles? If you only need a few things from the store, throw on a backpack and walk or ride your bike. There are few things that wake me up and get me going in the morning more than riding my bike to work. It’s also a great way to unplug and relax after a hard day. It’s healthier, more fun and less stressful.

Five: Register for a race
One of the best ways to motivate you to be more active is to set a high but attainable goal like finishing a 5k, half marathon or sprint triathlon. It’s not all about winning; it’s about being active and part of a group. I’ve found that fellow racers and race spectators are incredibly supportive of everyone who is competing, and in most cases, the proceeds for many races are donated back to a community group or a cause. Raceroanoke.com has several races that Roanoke Parks and Recreation coordinates and there are many other organizations in the area that collectively put on a race almost every week throughout the year.

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Six: Find Something Active that you Love
The key to living an active life is finding things that you love doing and doing them every day. Hate going to the gym but love walking the dogs? Great, do that. Hate dodging traffic when you run? Try trail running. Don’t like riding a bike, but like eating healthy food? Double the size of your garden. Once you find active things you love, it’s easy to do them everyday.

Seven: Suggest a walking meeting at work
You probably aren’t the only one at work bored nearly to tears at meetings. Suggest that your next meeting be a walking meeting. Researchers at Stanford University found that creativity was boosted by an average of 60% when walking. Combine that with the stress reducing benefits of being in nature and meetings may become something everyone looks forward to.

Eight: Swap your TV for a podcast
Find a podcast to listen to, and instead of watching TV, go for a walk around the neighborhood or in one of the nearly 70 parks in town while you listen. Make a vow to yourself that you will only listen while you walk. You will still be entertained but have the added benefit of being active. Even better, devote one day per week to unplug from all technology. Turn off the TV, smartphone, laptop and tablet from the time you wake up until you go to bed. It’s incredible what we find to do when there isn’t that easy source of distraction.

Nine: Find a hobby
Woodworking, painting, fly tying and playing a musical instrument all develop hand eye coordination and are great ways to spend evenings in the winter or when it is raining. Bird watching, nature or landscape photography will get you active with the added mental health benefits of being in nature.

Ten: Never take the elevator
Challenge yourself. If it’s less than four floors, the stairs will be faster anyway.

Living an active lifestyle doesn’t mean going to the gym every day. It means making conscious decisions to move all day long, rather than taking the easy route. None of these suggestions are difficult or time consuming, but collectively, they can have a huge positive impact on the quality of your life. Now, get moving!

Roanoke – Top Mid-Sized Town!

Article from Blue Ridge Outdoors Magaine. Read in its entirety here.

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Set against a backdrop of rolling countryside and idyllic ridgelines, the city of Roanoke is perfectly poised to offer visitors and residents alike a balanced blend of scenic beauty in a diverse and thriving urban environment. Situated at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the heart of the valley, alongside a river, wrapped in the arms of national forest, you’d think outdoor recreation would have always been an integral part of the city’s identity.

Yet it wasn’t until the early 2000s that Roanoke began to step away from its storied past as an industrial hub and promote the great outdoors outside, and within, city limits. As plans for greenways and urban parks took shape, so too did a community that supported an active lifestyle. By 2013, there was no question as to the direction Roanoke was going—with the formation of the Roanoke Outside Foundation (a non-profit created by the Roanoke Regional Partnership) came events, initiatives, and even businesses, that not only encouraged people to get outside, but also helped them get there.

“We kinda feel like it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” says Roanoke Mountain Adventures co-owner James Revercomb.
Revercomb is part of that new wave of outdoor-minded businesses. Born and raised in Roanoke, Revercomb never envisioned returning to his hometown. In fact, he spent the better part of eight years far from the Star City as a snowmobile and fly-fish guide in and around Jackson Hole, Wyo. Despite the western town’s reputation as a mecca for outdoor tourism though, Revercomb and his wife eventually came to the conclusion that there’s no place like home.

“We figured that if we weren’t in Roanoke, we’d be wishing we were,” he says. “The cost of living is fairly high [in Jackson Hole]. We were enjoying what we were doing, but we were thinking longer term. We knew we wanted to be in the mountains in a place where we could still recreate and have that quality of life as well as career opportunities.”
In early April of 2015, Revercomb and his father opened up Roanoke Mountain Adventures as a gear rental and guiding service for the greater Roanoke area. Though starting any business can be a daunting task, the Revercombs have seen nothing but support from the local community.

Blaine Lewis shares that sentiment. “We knew Roanoke was an area that would support the type of business we were going to bring here,” says Lewis, owner of Fleet Feet Sports.
Lewis, whose wife is originally from Roanoke, also relocated to the city in 2003 after leaving a 16-year career stint as an adult probation and parole supervisor to open up a franchise of Fleet Feet Sports (headquartered out of Carrboro, N.C.). As a runner and triathlete, Lewis says Roanoke’s access to the outdoors combined with a low cost of living made moving to the city a no-brainer.

“Roanoke has grown and changed a lot in the past 12 years,” Lewis says. “From an outdoor perspective, Roanoke was just starting to find its roots there. From a business standpoint, it’s great because we’ve been able to help contribute to the active lifestyle growth here as well.”

As the momentum behind the city’s outdoor recreation scene continues to grow, Roanoke, once ranked as one of the “best places to retire” by Money Magazine, is also attracting a much younger, more active generation.

Roanoke Welcomes a New Holiday Tradition

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Roanoke, Va — A new holiday tradition is afoot as Roanoke prepares for the grand opening of an ice-skating rink at Elmwood Park. Named for its title sponsor, the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport, the new rink will be called “ROA’s Elmwood on Ice.”

Tina Workman, president and CEO of Downtown Roanoke, Inc., will hire approximately 20 seasonal workers to manage the new facility, and the group is looking forward to bringing winter cheer to Elmwood. “The concept of a downtown ice rink has been floating around for a while, and we’re really excited to finally see it come to fruition,” said Workman.

According to Workman, the 3,900-square-foot rink, which will measure 65 feet long and 60 feet wide, will accommodate upward of 100 skaters. The fees for admission will be $6, with an additional $2 for skate rentals.

The rink will officially be open from Nov. 23 through Feb. 14 and have varying hours to accommodate skating enthusiasts:

• 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday
• 4 to 10 p.m. Friday
• 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday
• Noon to 7 p.m. Sunday
• Extended hours from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. while schools are out

To see the full schedule, which includes closures and shortened hours for holidays, visit www.ElmwoodOnIce.com.

In addition to the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport and the City of Roanoke, this project is also being supported by WDBJ7, HomeTrust Bank, STEVE FM, Leonard Storage Buildings, Sunny 93.5 and WJJS.

As a nationally accredited agency, Roanoke Parks and Recreation strives to deliver parks, recreation facilities and activities that are attractive and accessible and provide memorable experiences that move the body, mind and spirit. For information about our best-in-class services and facilities, visit PlayRoanoke.com.

New Greenway Bridge Traverses Route 581 at Valley View

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Roanoke, VA – Roanoke residents living near the Lick Run Greenway now have easy access to Valley View Mall thanks to a brand-new greenway bridge that spans across Route 581 to the mall area. The city will celebrate the opening of this bridge with Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) officials at a ribbon-cutting and inaugural walk across the bridge on Thursday, Oct. 22, at 2 p.m. Parking for the event will be in the back of the Best Buy parking lot.

According to Ken King, VDOT’s Salem District Engineer, this new bridge is one portion of the new Valley View Mall interchange project and will be an asset for pedestrians. “The new bridge will serve as a real safety benefit for Lick Run Greenway users who will have their own I-581 crossing away from the busy Valley View interchange,” he said. The entire Valley View Mall traffic interchange is scheduled to be completed by fall of 2016.

In addition to enhancing safety, the new bridge, which is 14 feet wide and nearly 250 feet in length, also provides spectacular views from an elevated, bird’s-eye vantage point. With an overall cost of $800,000, the final project will include lighting and permanent fencing along the greenway side in the near future.

According to Bob Clement, Roanoke’s neighborhood services coordinator, the new bridge offers optimal connectivity for citizens. “This is definitely an asset for our neighborhoods. Now pedestrians can access the Lick Run Greenway from as far away as the City Market Building and travel on a traffic-free, paved pathway all the way to Valley View Mall,” he said. According to Clement, the bridge ends at the mall but gives pedestrians and cyclists direct access to Huff Lane Park and the Greater Grandview Area neighborhood.

As a resource for greenway enthusiasts, Roanoke Parks and Recreation recently divided all of the city’s greenway sections into separate routes. To see these routes, including mileage, terrain information and difficulty levels, visit PlayRoanoke.com/greenways. For information on all greenways in the Roanoke Region, visit www.Greenways.org.

As a nationally accredited agency, Roanoke Parks and Recreation strives to deliver parks, recreation facilities and activities that are attractive and accessible and provide memorable experiences that move the body, mind and spirit. For information about our best-in-class services and facilities, visit PlayRoanoke.com.