GRAFTON—Because of the continued work to better the community, the City of Grafton was named as a recipient of a grant that will be used to continue upgrades in a recent project.
After years of suggestions from residents, in April work began to increase the overall appearance and safety along Front Street in Grafton, efforts that would complete what community members have come to call the Three Bridges Loop.
The Loop, that connects Main Street to the West Side of Grafton through the Memorial City (previously the St. Mary’s Bridge), Clair Bee and the Frank Burdett Warder Memorial Bridges, has been a popular walking and running path for residents for numerous years.
For many years, those using the path were forced to travel alongside the roadway, without much lighting along the Front Street portion of the route.
However, this spring, that changed when the City of Grafton, Taylor County Commission and West Virginia Division of Highways came together to have new sidewalks, lighting and benches installed to make the area safer for foot travel and more inviting to residents and visitors alike.
The work was completed by local contractor R&R Services.
Following the completion of the project, John Taylor, a member of the West Virginia AARP and the Taylor County Board of Education, made the suggestion that the city apply for the 2022 AARP Community Challenge grant.
“Since I volunteer with the AARPWV state Advocacy Team, I was aware that they have small grants called Community Challenge grants to help encourage projects that can make communities become more livable for people of all ages,” Taylor disclosed. “I frequently walk the Three Bridges Loop and knew the city and county were working on a project together. I am glad to see AARP take an interest in our community”
Recently, the City of Grafton learned that they were named as a recipient of this year’s award. According to officials, the grant will be used to install three additional benches and directional signs along the Loop, as well as a sign on Main Street.
“We are incredibly excited to support these organizations and local governmental, civic and volunteer leaders as they work to make immediate improvements, encourage promising ideas and jumpstart long-term change in the Mountain State,” shared AARP West Virginia State Director Gaylene Miller. “Our goal at AARP West Virginia is to support the efforts of our communities to be great places for people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities.”
Grafton, just one of four grantees in West Virginia, is part of the largest group of grantees to date with $3.2 million awarded among 244 organizations nationwide.
The Community Challenge grant program is part of AARP’s nationwide Livable Communities initiative that helps communities become great places to live, no matter the age of the resident.
Through the funding, cities, towns, neighborhoods and rural areas are able to make immediate improvements within the community. Such projects can include improving housing, transportation, public spaces, civic engagement and connection with family, friends and neighbors with an emphasis on the needs of the 50-plus, according to AARP.
Since the inception of the program in 2017, $9.3 million has been awarded through more than 800 grants all across the nation, in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as way to help invest in livable communities.
Locally, AARP West Virginia has awarded 16 grants totaling nearly $150,000 through the program to nonprofit organizations and government entities across the state.
According to the organization, a livable community is one that is safe and secure for individuals of all ages, ability levels, incomes, races, ethnicities and other backgrounds. It offers choices and where to live and how to get around, enhances personal independence and allows residents to engage fully in civic, economic and social life.
AARP has long recognized the importance of walking paths for creating livable communities. For older residents and citizens with limited mobility in particular, a safe walking path provides an accessible means of exercise.
The improvements that are made from the Community Challenge grant funding will make the Three Bridges Loop more visible and raise awareness of the recreation opportunities it offers.
“We are so very excited to have received the 2022 AARP Community Challenge grant,” voiced Grafton City Council member Sheila Westfall. “We hope that the community will get much use out of the enhancements it will bring to the Three Bridges Loop.”
The Three Bridges Loop project is set to be completed by November 30, 2022.
View the full list of grantees and their project descriptions at www.aarp.org/communitychallenge.
Learn more about AARP’s livable communities work at www.aarp.org/livable.