In a small town like Brodnax, a nice park can be a big deal. So much so that more than half of the town’s 300 residents showed up at a recent kickoff event celebrating upgrades to the town park funded by a 2021 Virginia Outdoors Foundation Get Outdoors Fund grant.
The funding made the park more welcoming to parents and kids of all abilities, by increasing hardscaping that is easier for wheelchairs and strollers to navigate and adding a second picnic table that is ADA compliant. The town was also able to cover both tables with a pavilion to offer shade, install more playground equipment, and replace existing mulch with playground-certified mulch that better cushions falls and passes the “mommy test,” says the town’s mayor, Don Dugger, by not staining kids’ knees and clothes.
“The improvements were all about accessibility and comfort,” he explains. “The park was built in 2015, and we designed it to have more equipment, but at the time there wasn’t enough funding to do everything that we wanted to do.” The lack of shaded areas was also a problem, he adds. “The little kids could play in the sun for a while, but there was nowhere for them or their parents to go to escape it.”
The park is situated in the middle of town next to the post office and a day care center, within walking distance from most residents’ homes. It’s also a convenient rest stop for people hiking the Tobacco Heritage Trail, which runs alongside it. “We knew that the park had more to offer,” Dugger says, “if we could just muster up the ability to add the things that we needed for it to meet its potential. The Get Outdoors grant made that possible.”
Dugger says that the application process was easy, which was a big factor in the town’s ability to apply. “We’re so small it’s hard to compete with bigger places that have a lot of resources devoted to seeking funds. It’s super rewarding that projects like this can be funded through organizations like VOF.”
He adds that the Get Outdoors grant opened a gateway to other grants that will help the town complete their vision for the park. “Those funds have been a kick-starter for the whole program,” he states. “We got a grant from VDOT and the Tobacco Commission to renovate the old train depot as a trailhead with bathrooms.” The COVID-19 pandemic got in the way of the renovations, however. “Costs went up, so we were only able to get engineering and plansdone. Now we are reapplying to the same grant, asking them look at the project again.”
In the meantime, the town is planning more ways to bring families out to the park. Businesses that donated supplies to the June kickoff event
are already offering to help with future events, Dugger states. “When we said we wanted to have a day for the kids, everyone came through. It’s important to the entire town.”
For more scenes from the celebration, watch the video below: