Moton Seeks Grant Funds

Published 4:36 pm Tuesday, December 20, 2011

FARMVILLE – The Robert Russa Moton Museum is applying for state funds to create the Civil Rights In Education Heritage Trail Tourist Center at the museum.

The museum's director, Lacy Ward, told Town Council Wednesday night that resulting tourism could generate an economic impact of $1 million annually in the region.

The Moton Museum is the anchor for the 13-county heritage trail.

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The Town of Farmville is acting as project sponsor and the Commonwealth Regional Council is project manager. “I'd like to thank the Town for a very expeditious turnaround getting this application done,” Ward said.

If the grant application succeeds, the tourist center would be housed in a replica of one of the tarpaper shacks built on the site as classroom space when R. R. Moton High School became too small to accommodate the county's African American students.

“This is a picture from 1952. It's on Main Street. It shows one of the tarpaper shacks,” Ward said during his slide presentation to council during its regular December monthly meeting. “We want to reproduce the Main Street side and use the internal part as a tourist visitation center to orient visitors to the Civil Rights In Education Heritage Trail.”

Ward said, “We want to put in restrooms, multi-modal access-biking, motorcycle, car, bus-and it makes some safety improvements to what's a very busy intersection.”

As for the potential economic impact, he told Town officials, “We think this can produce about a million dollars in economic activity in the trail communities on an annual basis. That's coming from about 35,000 visitors on an annual basis.”

The museum hopes to receive $302,662 in VDOT Transportation Enhancement funding and would raise the project's remaining $75,655 privately as matching funds.

Ward said the project would also complement Farmville's Main Street improvement efforts as well as improvements being made to the museum, itself.

There has been, he pointed out, “a great deal of improvement along Main Street throughout the town. We (the museum) have a little section of that and we'd like to be able to improve so the improvement will be continuously out past Wal-Mart into Cumberland; people see a greatly enhanced Main Street through the heart of Farmville.”

And “it improves the Moton Museum grounds and the significance, of course, is by Moton being a National Historic Landmark,” he said, regarding the applicability to grant award criteria.

“We're eligible because the Civil Rights In Education Heritage Trail is noted in VDOT's own criteria as a place that can qualify as a welcome center,” Ward told council members.

Furthermore, “Farmville's very centrally located (to the trail's 13 counties) and the largest number, per county, (of the 41 total sites) are in Prince Edward County,” Ward said.

The project's impact on the trail is also related to efforts to help previously tobacco-dependent economies convert “to other types of economies, in our case heritage tourism,” he advised. That factor will also score points for the project's application for grant funds.

Additionally, it would also assist Virginia's Retreat as a regional organization.

The tourist center, he explained, would interpret the trail and “tell our collective history post-Civil War.”

That story is one of expanded educational opportunity.

Fittingly, the project would enhance the museum's ability to meet the educational needs of all students of every age, according to the museum's director.

The timing is right, too, Ward continued, with sesquicentennial of the Civil War. “Of course it allows us to carry forward what happened after the Civil War and how it developed Southside,” Ward said.

As for the Moton Museum, the future looks very bright.

“We've got a robust development program. We've been raising a lot of money. We're going to keep raising a lot of money,” Ward told Town Council, “because it's good for the community.

“We've had strong community, local and statewide support.”