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Louisa Mayor Harold Slone displays plans for a new riverfront development project.

Louisa Mayor Harold Slone displays plans for a new riverfront development project.

When Harold Slone was elected mayor of Louisa, one of the first items on his to-do list was to try to get the riverfront development project off the ground.

The city of Louisa is rich in history. The Levisa Fork River and the Tug Fork River join at Louisa to form the Big Sandy River. Just north of this merger is the first needle dam in the United States, originally built in 1896.

Another unique feature in Louisa is the Louisa-Fort Gay Bridge, once featured in an edition of Robert Ripley’s “Believe It or Not.” The bridge is unique because it crosses two towns, two states, two counties, two rivers, and turns right in the middle.

Sloan’s vision, and an idea shared by other community leaders, was to turn a patch of undeveloped land near the center of town into a thriving riverfront development. But Sloan did not have the resources or the funding to draw up plans where he could share his vision with others.

ARC grant provides resources for Louisa riverfront project 

DSC_1540That’s where The Center for Rural Development was able to help. The city of Louisa in Lawrence County was awarded a $9,500 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) mini-grant to hire a consultant to complete a master plan for a proposed riverfront development project on the Big Sandy River.

“It was vitally important for us to receive this ARC grant, because it is hard to convenience people to believe in a project when they cannot see what you’re talking about,” Sloan said. “But now, we have something that the whole town is excited about and can get behind this project.”

Besides a new walking trail and other riverfront developments, one of the most ambitious ideas for the ReDiscover Louisa riverfront project is the construction of a zip line from Lawrence County in Kentucky to West Virginia. If built, it is thought to be the first zip line ever to cross from one state to the other.

“This is just the beginning,” Sloan said. “The ARC grant we received from The Center will have a long-term impact on the project that will go on for years.”

Second ARC mini-grant funds complimentary mural project

PHOTO CAPTION 4_1582The ARC Flex-E-Grant came on the heels of a second $10,000 grant awarded during that same funding cycle to the Lawrence County Economic Development Board to work collaboratively with city and county government on revitalization of the downtown area and the development of the riverfront area.

Out of that project came a 50-by-60-foot hand-painted mural that brings to life the story of the Levisa, Tug Fork, and Big Sandy rivers and the role they play in the history, heritage, development, and future of Lawrence County.

“We want people to step back in time and understand the history of Louisa and what the river has meant to the development of the region,” said Catrina Vargo, economic development coordinator. “Today, the river is just as important as it was back then, because of the recreation and tourism it brings to the area.”

The mural, painted by artists Denise Spaulding and Melanie Osborne with support from local students and community volunteers, is located on a public building in a prominent location in downtown Louisa.

Contact information

Both projects were funded through The Center’s Developing and Implementing Community Strategies program.

For more information about the program or the next available ARC funding cycle, contact Patti Simpson at 606-677-6000.