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Halifax County commissioners backed two items Monday related to potential improvements of the 4-H Rural Life Center — a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant application for a multipurpose rec center and the other a state Environmental Enhancement Grant application for a gravel walking trail.

Halifax County Cooperative Extension Director Beth Burchell told the board, “We are fulfilling our vision plan that Jerry (Edmonds IV) and I worked on over the past several years of increasing the usage of the 4-H Rural Life Center and thanks to your support a lot of those plans are able to proceed.”

Burchell asked the board to use its American Rescue Plant Act funds up to $500,000 as a match for the $1 million application for a 7,200-square-foot multipurpose recreation center. “We already have a substantial amount of funds allotted from ARPA funding for improvements and we’re asking that you support a portion of those up to a half a million dollars,” she said, adding, “based on preliminary figures it’s not going to reach that amount.”

Edmonds, the extension agent for 4-H Youth Development, said, “This is really a vision that we had from years ago. We want to be good stewards of what we have access to already and the partnerships that are already there. It’s really chipping away at some foundational difficulties, providing some consistency, so when it rains we don’t have to call off a program. If people need to be picked up we can do that with the bus.” 

In her memo contained in the meeting agenda, Burchell wrote, “The purpose of all programming at the 4-H Rural Life Center is to bring the citizens, youth, and adults of Halifax County together to enhance, enlighten, and improve their everyday lives,” 

In the same memo she said the building will provide much needed year-round access to recreation, health and wellness opportunities for all area citizens. “Once completed this facility will allow all-season use year-round to promote recreation activities, health and wellness education that in this Tier 1 county is greatly needed.”

In writing for the justification of the project it is noted that 4-H Summer Youth Day Camps are held from June through August and that they encompass more than 320 hours of youth development and serve more than 350 children.

During the other nine months it serves as a recreational and educational hub in conjunction with organizations that include the county’s master gardeners, the Roanoke Valley Beekeepers Association, the North Carolina Forest Service, Reser’s Fine Foods, and the Roanoke Valley Community Health Initiative.

Harvest Days, which is held on the grounds of the center, drew more than 3,300 people last year, including more than 850 fourth and fifth grade students.

“As use of the property continues to increase each year, this building will be particularly advantageous during the eight weeks of 4-H summer camps that currently have no activity space during inclement weather,” the justification says.

Funding would provide:

Indoor courts for basketball, pickleball and volleyball

Group exercise class areas

Changing areas with restrooms and showers

The building would include an open activity-meeting area, commercial kitchen, kitchenette, storage rooms and would be able to serve as a facility for team-building retreats and other community events.

In the other matter related to the center, commissioners approved in the consent agenda a letter of support for a $104,000 Environmental Enhancement Grant to allow construction of a gravel walking trail which would connect environmental education sites while providing a level of protection to the center’s topography from foot traffic.

That grant requires no county match.