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Parks nonprofit gifts climbing wall to city
A new nonprofit aimed at supporting Roanoke’s parks and recreation department has purchased a portable climbing wall for public park users.
The Roanoke Parks Foundation formed last year as a way to raise outside funding for the department, which faces a $70-million maintenance backlog.
The 26-foot climbing wall, worth $12,000, will pop up at different city events, including at Washington Park for summer activity days and at the Roanoke GO Outside Festival, according to the city.
“This is a great first project for the Foundation because it allows our Department to offer programs across the City,” Patrick Boas, recreation manager for the department, said in a city press release last Wednesday. “In the past, we’ve rented climbing towers for events, which came out of our total budget. Being able to operate this ourselves means we can reallocate those funds to other programming or equipment needs.”
Boas previously said the nonprofit wanted to focus on an affordable first project that could attract buzz.
“The mobility of this wall and the potential to take it directly to events, recreation centers, and neighborhood parks was an important factor as it prioritizes equity of access and inclusion,” Andy Gill, the foundation’s president, said in the release.
About 2 percent of Roanoke’s overall $355-million annual budget goes to the parks department, compared to a typical rate of between 4 and 6 percent for parks departments at cities comparable to Roanoke, according to the city press release.
The foundation intends to focus future fundraising efforts to support the department’s efforts to improve and maintain trails on Mill Mountain.
Roanoke police target reckless drivers
Roanoke police are cracking down on drivers who speed and run red lights, according to a presentation delivered to members of City Council.
From January to May of this year, Roanoke police issued 3,283 traffic citations, compared to 1,962 over the same period last year, data show, a 67 percent increase.
“Most recently we were able to put some personnel back into our traffic division, which we are very excited about as we bring more officers on to the police force,” Police Chief Sam Roman told members of City Council last month. On July 1, Roman became an assistant city manager. “Obviously one of our goals is to ensure … the streets of our fine city are safe.”
Asked what kind of traffic citations police are issuing, Roman said police look at where car crashes are occurring.
“Many times it's either running a red light or disregarding the stop sign or, simply put, speeding,” he said.
Police then put patrol cars in those locations to try to reduce crashes.
“I would say speeding, disregarding red lights and disregarding stop signs is probably the number-one issue, along with ... cell phone distraction,” Roman said. “We have written many of those tickets as well.”
Council earmarks more pandemic relief funds
Roanoke has decided where to spend another $5 million in federal relief funds held back in case the Covid pandemic worsened.
City Council last month approved what City Manager Bob Cowell described as his “phase three” plan for funding under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The city has already devoted much of the nearly $65 million it received on major projects including a Northwest Roanoke hub with a grocery store; a renovated Eureka Park Recreation Center; and affordable housing.
Of the $5 million available, the city intends to devote:
- $2 million to a trust fund for workforce housing
- $2 million for infrastructure at Southeast Roanoke's Riverdale redevelopment project, specifically on starting to replace water and sewer lines, which were privately operated at the former American Viscose Plant
- $1 million to the city’s previously earmarked $2 million for an in-river kayak park at Wasena Park, whose construction costs are estimated to exceed the initial allotment
The city has also earned an extra $1.6 million in interest payments from its ARPA money, Cowell said. About half of that will be used to match federal grants — such as those aimed at renewable energy projects under the Inflation Reduction Act — just under $400,000 will be earmarked for any future capital campaign started by The Harrison Museum of African American Culture and $250,000 will go toward youth recreation programming.
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