Can a public-private partnership ever succeed?
The answer is, yes, at least for tightly focused projects, when there are a handful of people committed to their success.
Proof of that stands proudly today along Prospect Road, aka the “old road” up Mill Mountain.
Four months ago, that steep and snaking road’s historic stone and wood tollgate was a mess.
Rot had eaten through the eaves above the proud arch.
The wood-shingled roof of the long-ago boarded up tollbooth was a splintered mess, the victim of a tree that crashed into it during a windstorm more than two years ago.
It was a sorry sight on a majestic mountain byway, now a Roanoke greenway.
Few cities in this country have anything like that gorgeous road, especially within a birds eye view of their downtowns. And it seemed like we were taking ours for granted.
Today the tollgate fixed, thanks mostly to privately raised money, a bit a jawboning and some people who wanted to see it restored.
Roofers laid the structure’s final faux slate shingles two weeks ago. And people already are noticing. (Using a can of spray paint, one wiseacre graffiti artist recently dubbed it the “troll gate.”)
“When you have a target project, such as the tollbooth, it’s very easy to raise the attention of people who care about it,” said Liz Belcher, the Roanoke Valley greenways coordinator.
The lesson here is, “the people in Roanoke are willing to support the things they care about.”
A small band of people deserve credit for this.
One is the new city manager, Chris Morrill, who encouraged Roanoke’s Parks and Recreation department to facilitate the tollgate’s repairs.
The stretched Roanoke City budget didn’t have enough money to cover the roughly $30,000 cost, however. So the task of raising money was left to some others.
One of them was Nancy Dye, who with her husband, Kevin Dye, owns and lives in Rockledge Mansion. That beautiful greenway doubles as their driveway.
The Dyes raised more than $3,500 toward the $30,000 or so in repairs during a function at the Taubman Museum of Art last winter.
In April they also made their home available for a $50 per head fundraiser that drew 120 people from this community.
Another person who deserves credit is Sen. Ralph Smith, R-Botetourt.
The former Roanoke mayor and Rockledge owner (he sold it to the Dyes in 2005) twisted the arms of some friends and kicked in some of his own money too.
Here’s a list of the major contributors:
- Carilion Clinic, $10,000
- Pathfinders for Greenways, $1,000
- Breakell, Inc., $500
- Betty Carr Muse, $500
- Ralph Smith, $500
- Chick Pace, $500
- Blue Ridge Marathon Steering Committee, $500
- Mark and Beth Finkler, $500
- Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation, $500
- Fishburn Fund/Foundation for the Roanoke Valley, $500
- Larry Bly, $500
- Valley Beautiful, $250.
Excepting the tollgate’s roof, the project was largely complete prior to the inaugural Blue Ridge Marathon in May – part of that race’s route was along Prospect Road.
The only remaining work was the shingles. The city of Roanoke kicked in the final $2,400 for those.
The city is now planning to erect a plaque on the tollbooth listing the donors, said Michael Clark, the city’s recreation superintendent.
It’ll be a fitting reminder to the scores of valley residents who regularly walk, run or bike along that wonderful and wooded mountain road.
Well done, Roanoke.