Published On: Fri, Nov 22nd, 2013

Montwell Park plans begin to take shape

A project update for Montwell Park was presented to the Lewisburg City Council Tuesday by Appalachian Mountain Advocates member Joe Lovett. He said the first order of business is to begin construction of the farmers market stalls and pavillion. Lovett said about 40 sites for farmers and craftspeople will be in place by the 2014 market season. Lewisburg Farmers Market members have agreed to relocate from the Lewisburg United Methodist Church parking lot to sell their products at Montwell Park. Lovett said they welcome any other vendors who would like to sell their produce there as well. The pavillion, a 6,000 to 7,000 square foot space situated behind the log building, is designed to serve the community at large to hold meetings, lectures, weddings and other such functions.

Enthusiastic supporters of the enterprise, Paul and Ann Lindquist, have donated over four acres of their adjoining property where a hillside amphitheater, terraced walkways and gardens together with a small pond are planned.

Appalachian Mountain Advocates, currently comprised of Lovett, Brandon Johnson and Florian Schleiff, is committed to community service and in particular, advocacy for youth activities which serve to generate the idea that our youth are a vital part of our community.

Devin Preston, as coordinator of youth activities with High Rocks, was on hand to discuss the youth education and after-school programs on the agenda for the Youth Center, located in the lower floor of the log building. The Youth Center will be available to middle and high school students five days a week from 3 to 6 p.m. primarily as a drop-in center on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays structured educational enrichment activities will be added to the mix. The Youth Center will also have Saturday hours from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There are plans for extending the hours on First Fridays so young people around town can have a place to go at the Center. An open mic and access to musical instruments will offer diverting entertainment opportunities.

At last month’s council meeting City Council members were “blind-sided and surprised” by AMA’s proposal to request an alcoholic beverage license for the restaurant. Since the Youth Center was accessible to the dining areas, they felt there were areas of conflict they had not been prepared for.

“This is not a bar,” Lovett emphasized. Just as Food & Friends serves wine and other drinks and children are allowed inside, so too will the Montwell Park restaurant. Additionally, he urged council not to think of the log building as a restaurant but as a space for lectures, films, educational events, musical performances as well as a place where locally grown produce is prepared and served for the enjoyment of the public. The restaurant, which will seat about 80 people, is scheduled to open early 2014.

Council was also concerned about the profits the restaurant might garner. They were unclear what a nonprofit org. planned to do with the money. Lovett said all the “profit” from the restaurant will go back into the plans for the property.

He further explained that the overall intent of the park is to benefit the community. A second nonprofit, Greenbrier Valley Restoration, in the process of gaining its nonprofit status, will also be an active participant of the management of the park. Appalachian Mountain Advocates owns the log building solely and Greenbrier Valley Restoration has control over all the rest of the property. Together they act to ensure that the property remain a communal piece of Lewisburg by enforcing the easements placed on the property. Lovett said, “There never will be a commercial enterprise constructed here; no gas station, or apartment complex, nor convenience store, etc. There can only be local involvement with the enforcement and control by the two nonprofits.”

AMA has been by far the biggest funding resource for the development of the property, Lovett said. None of the monies donated by the City of Lewisburg to tear down the motel structures were applied to the log building, but, having donated those funds, AMA will be able to finance the farmers market construction in the spring. He said Florian Schleiff’s construction work has all been done at cost. No profit to Schleiff or his workers. In this way, Lovett said, “We hope to carry on into the future as a community resource for Lewisburg.”

In other business:

• Lewisburg is beginning the process of updating the city’s comprehensive plan required of all cities and counties of the state of West Virginia to be completed by June 30, 2014. The Planning Commission will be the vehicle in addressing the comp plan in monthly workshop meetings on the first week of each month. The public is invited to attend and participate. The first meeting will be held at 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4 at City Hall in the Paul R. Cooley Council Chamber.