WASHINGTON CO., Va. (WJHL) — Local attractions are hoping to utilize state funding to enhance visitors’ experience and encourage economic development.

Leaders for places like the Creeper and Mendota trails and Barter Theatre applied for state funds from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin has recommended 16 projects throughout the state to receive the funds, totaling $7.3 million.

$700,000 was recommended to Barter Theatre for their first phase of renovations, as well as $100,000 for broadband extensions on the Creeper and Mendota trails.

Leaders at Barter Theatre say this funding will help the historical venue keep its charm.

“We want the theater to feel as world-class as it is every time people come,” said Producing Artistic Director for Barter Theatre, Katy Brown.

Brown says she hopes this funding can be the beginning of facility updates in their theatres. First, she says they plan to use the funding to make front-facing updates like seating; then they will move to working on the stage area and making floor and equipment updates.

Brown says a majority of this funding will go towards their smaller theater, Smith Theatre with some going to the main theater as well. She says local businesses rely on the theater to bring people to the Town of Abingdon.

“We want to make sure that we are bringing more and more people to the area,” said Brown. “And no matter how good your shows are, if your seats aren’t comfortable, if people don’t have a good experience on the way in, they can’t enjoy that art and keep coming back.”

County administrator Jason Berry says ARC funding for the Creeper and Mendota trails is just the beginning of a larger project to bring internet to the area.

The ultimate project to put cell phone towers and broadband along the trails will cost an estimated $4.8 million. Berry says the $100,000 will be used as planning funds.

“So, these capabilities will enhance the businesses capabilities for communication, sales receipts, commerce and trade,” said Berry.

Above are maps of the Creeper and Mendota trails’ broadband. The black dots represent businesses, with the blue areas showing the underserved areas.

Berry says there are about 74 businesses on the Creeper Trail, with only about 5 businesses on the Mendota Trail. He says Mendota is a newer trail and the county will officially own it at the end of August.

“In today’s modern world, you need communication,” said Berry. “So, if you don’t have a cell phone connection, heaven forbid you have a bike accident. You need to call 911. So, public safety’s number one but commerce is also important.”

Funding for Barter Theatre and the two trails are currently just recommendations, but leaders hope to know if their amount is official and approved in October.

You can find out more information on the ARC here.