Sprucing up downtown Palmyra

Contributed by Mike Feazel

 Photos by Kris Krechoweckyj, Jackie Bland, and Jan Pavlacka

There are many recent improvements in historic downtown Palmyra, and most of them are due to a group of volunteers who don’t even live there. Much of the work was done by the Palmyra Area Revitalization Committee (PARC), which recently completed its commission from the county board of supervisors.

   The improvements include creating a brochure with a guided walking tour of historic Palmyra, installation of signs on historic buildings, installing an information kiosk near Maggie’s House, new information posters outside the old county courthouse, installing five teak benches around the area, and providing a guide and markers for the Rail Trail.

“We’re very, very happy with what we accomplished in Palmyra,” said Kris Krechoweckyj, chair of PARC. “Most of us are really interested in history, and we saw something there. After all, it’s the county seat.  And the old courthouse is a historic treasure, really.”

Much of the work was done in partnership with county public works and parks & recreation, Krechoweckyj said. “I can’t say enough good things about Aaron (Spitzer)”, she said of the head of county parks and recreation. “He really helped us over the roadblocks.  He’s amazing.”

Spitzer called the work “a good partnership.” He said the PARC group “was very hands-on,” which made things go faster, and it was very willing to accept suggestions on ways to get things done. “They made it easy to keep things moving, because they had a goal they wanted to finish,” he said.

Work on downtown Palmyra is important to the future of Fluvanna, Spitzer said, because it can attract locals and tourists, who then would spend money in nearby businesses. “We are really trying to get the information out to the public about where they can see these historic sites,” he said. “If we were able to get the downtown area built up it will be important to bringing people into the center of our community.”

Krechoweckyj doesn’t find it odd that the entire five-member PARC committee lives outside of historic downtown Palmyra – several just outside Lake Monticello. “We’re history buffs, and we just wanted to make things better,” she said.

The idea that eventually became PARC originated with two class projects of the Fluvanna Leadership Development Program. The first class, in 2017, came up with some ideas and completed one project making walking in the area safer. The second class, in 2018, took it a step further.

“But when the class ended and we graduated, we realized there was still much to be done,” Krechoweckyj said. Class members worked with then County Administrator Steve Nichols to formalize a committee that was approved by the county board. County officials also found some funding for some of the projects, though PARC members raised donations for others.

PARC members – all FLDP graduates – worked two years on the various projects. Krechoweckyj did much of the writing, with important historical input from Kathleen Kilpatrick; her husband Kornel Krechoweckyj and Jan Pavlacka did much of the construction, with help from the county public works department and parks & recreation staff; and Jackie Bland took responsibility for funding and installing the benches which cost $600 each. The county historical society and Tricia Johnson also was a big resource.

There was still more they wanted to do when they ran out of time, Krechoweckyj said. For example, they wanted signage on Rt. 15 and elsewhere to direct people to historic downtown Palmyra. “We had lived in Fluvanna for 18 months before we even knew there was a downtown,” she said. “We need to work on getting people more aware of it.”

PARC also would have liked to work on the interior of the old courthouse, Krechoweckyj said, as well as other projects. For example, the group would have liked to create a “Four Miles, Four Museums and a Historic Courthouse” event, but that would have required about 20 volunteers to open all the museums at the same time.

“It was really easy to come up with a list of things to do,” she said. She said she hopes other groups – maybe another leadership program group – take up where PARC left off.

The county itself is working on plans to continue developing historic downtown Palmyra, Spitzer said. It’s working with the Virginia Department of Transportation on a “streetscape” plan that could include one-way streets through the downtown, some additional parking, and possibly new sidewalks.

Another big goal would be attracting some new businesses to the downtown, Spitzer said, but that would require both space for the businesses and more people moving through the downtown to become customers. The county Economic Development & Tourism Advisory Council is trying to follow up the PARC effort with things like “Food Truck Fridays” to get people into the downtown, Spitzer said.

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