BECKLEY, W.Va. — A ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house took place in Beckley on Friday for the grand opening of the city’s new visitor center and bike sharing service.
The site on the corner of West Prince Street and Robert C. Byrd Drive originally was a Studebaker shop in the 1930’s and had been vacant for several years.
In addition to information and brochures about the Beckley area, the facility will provide a bike rental hub, beginning next spring, for visitors and residents who want to ride nearby McManus Trail, which has an access point directly across the street from the welcome center.
Mayor Rob Rappold said the opening of the center goes hand in hand with the city’s ongoing downtown revitalization effort, which includes the recent opening of a state-of-the-art police headquarters and construction work currently taking place at a nearby vacant lot that, over the years, has become known as “the hole.”
“Our Board of Public Works did a beautiful job. We totally rewired the building to make it safe, and it’s ADA (Americans with Disablities) compliant,” Rappold told MetroNews. “I wish I could take credit for it but this is (Beckley Welcome Center Volunteer Director) Vickie Webb’s vision. All the colors and all the decorations that you see were because of her efforts.”
For the time being, the center will be staffed by community volunteers but Rappold said a city employee may be part of the mix by next spring, when the number of visitors and the frequency of bike rentals for the trail are expected to increase.
The access street adjacent to the property has been renamed Naff Lane, in honor of the building’s original owner.
Among those partnering in the development and operation of the welcome center are the Downtown Beckley Business Association, the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, Active Southern WV, the Beckley Art Center, Visit WV and Piney Creek Watershed.