At the instigation of President Mark D. La Branche, Louisburg College initiated the Tar River Center for History and Culture (TRCHC) in May 2013, envisioning a partnership between the college and the community that will bring diverse individuals and groups together around a sense of shared history. The TRCHC plans to work with local governments, private organizations, educational institutions, and individuals to develop the region's historical and cultural assets, to foster economic development, and to promote knowledge of the past. Initial efforts will focus on Franklin County, but it is expected that the Center ultimately will also serve the following counties in the Upper Tar River region: Granville, Vance, Warren, Halifax, Nash, and Edgecombe.
Under the leadership of the TRCHC's director, Maury York, initial activities have included the development of a Web site (http://www.louisburg.edu/tarrivercenter/index.html), a lecture series, and a bi-monthly column, "Tar River Roots," in The Franklin Times. In the spring of 2014 the Center will erect on the Louisburg College campus a Civil War Trails marker commemorating the encampment of Union troops there between May 1 and July 27, 1865.
From the beginning, however, college officials wished to seek from individuals and organizations their views concerning the mission of the TRCHC. To this end, on Thursday, September 19, 2103, the Center sponsored a strategic planning session at the Louisburg Training Center. The meeting, which began at 7:30 p.m., was attended by more than sixty persons, including residents of Granville, Vance, and Wake Counties and the communities of Bunn, Centerville, Franklinton, Louisburg, Rocky Ford, and Youngsville in Franklin County. Also in attendance was Matthew Butler, Environmental Projects Manager of the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation in Washington. Local officials included Louisburg Councilwoman Emma Stewart and Franklin County Manager Angela Harris. After introductory remarks by President Mark La Branche, the meeting was facilitated by Maury York and volunteers Adair Werner and Dru York.
Attendees sat at rectangular tables that accommodated six persons. At the beginning of the session, Maury York asked participants to adhere to these ground rules:
Keep in mind the importance of all groups working together to achieve positive outcomes.
Be positive and respect the ideas of all.
When speaking, introduce yourself, speak slowly, and project your voice so that all can hear.
Avoid such negative statements as "we've tried that before," "it won't work here," and "that would cost too much." During the small group period, do not sit with anyone from your organization.
Stay focused and use time wisely.
For the first forty-five minutes, participants stood and expressed their ideas. Adair Werner recorded these points on a large white board at the front of the room. Then Mr. York asked everyone to change their seats, if necessary, to avoid sitting with anyone from the organization to which they belong. Participants at each table were asked to discuss the ideas that had been recorded on the white board and to reach a consensus as to their top four priorities. A representative of each table stood and reported the priorities agreed upon by his or her group. Dru York and Adair Werner recorded these priorities on large sheets of paper and attached them to a wall. Finally, each attendee was given the opportunity to cast votes for his or her top three priorities, using three colored stickers distributed at the registration desk. They did this by placing colored stickers underneath the priorities listed on the large sheets. The stickers had these point values: blue = 3; red = 2; yellow = 1.
The meeting organizers thanked everyone for their participation and said that follow-up steps would be announced in the near future. The meeting was adjourned shortly after 9 p.m.
Suggestions Made During Comment Period
Felix Allen, Louisburg, suggested establishing a research center with computer facilities and staff for assisting the public in conducting genealogical research. He recommended the Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury State University in Maryland as a model.
Dewey Botts, Bunn, stressed the importance of undertaking a survey of the historic architecture and sites of Franklin County and suggested that tourist brochures be developed to promote interest in these historic buildings and sites.
Charles Powell, Gill, suggested that the old movie theater in downtown Louisburg could be purchased and repurposed as a performing arts center. He also said that a community art gallery and a building for the Franklin County Arts Council are needed.
Brian Miller, Louisburg, said that work needs to be done to revitalize downtown Louisburg. He mentioned Selma, where many antiques stores are located, as an example of how a downtown area can be brought back to life.
Mark Pace, Oxford, recommended that a center for local history studies and genealogical research be established for Franklin County, perhaps with a local museum component.
Bill Harris, Henderson, stressed the importance of downtown revitalization such as has taken place in Warrenton. Restaurants and antiques shops, as well as other attractions, are needed. He echoed suggestions concerning the need for a museum and research center.
Ray Alexander, Louisburg, asked why the old jail on Nash Street in Louisburg is vacant. He said it was supposed to be a museum and thinks it should be. He said that the widening of U.S. 401 should help the area economically.
Joanne Carpenter, Franklin County, spoke in favor of restoring the old jail in Louisburg and reminded attendees that inspiring individuals such as Betty McKinne, who was instrumental in starting the movement to restore the Person Place, can make a big difference.
Mary Jo Buffaloe, Youngsville, said that an organization in Youngsville needs help in writing grants to fund a museum being developed in Youngsville.
Patricia Leonard, Louisburg, asked where the Tar River Center for History and Culture will be located.
Diane Torrent, Louisburg, suggested that an effort should be made to publicize and promote the use of the Franklin County flag.
Peter Andrews, Franklin County, expressed interest in a walking trail along the Tar River. He stressed that Louisburg should be viewed as the "Queen City of the Tar." He said that the Tar River Festival needs to be upgraded. He said also that a streetscapes program needs to be undertaken.
Sharon Billings, Louisburg, said that Louisburg College should develop an adult education program; participants could stay in the college dormitories during the summer.
County Manager Angela Harris thanked Dr. La Branche for his initiative in starting the Tar River Center for History and Culture. She stressed the importance of blending art, culture, and history together. She said that Warrenton is a historic town that towns in Franklin County should emulate; in addition to historic homes and sites, Warrenton's downtown also has restaurants and antiques shops that tourists enjoy patronizing. She stressed the importance of heritage tourism and of involving young people in learning about history.
Walter Hurst, Louisburg, stressed the importance of theater as a component of a well-rounded program of cultural activities. He noted the efforts of Louisburg College to revive its theater program and said that restoration of the old movie theater in downtown Louisburg would be a worthwhile endeavor. He said that citizens should be provided with the means to study local history and genealogy.
Margaret Hilpert, Louisburg, said that it is important to consider all demographic groups when establishing cultural programs.
Debra Brodie, Bunn, said she would love to see one facility that housed all cultural groups. Such a facility should have computers and support the study of genealogy and local history.
Emma Stewart, Louisburg, reminded the audience that "history happened here" and that we need to promote knowledge of it. She suggested a lecture series as a way of doing this and stressed the importance of reaching out to school children, to help them learn about local history as they study state and national history.
Billy Lumpkin, Louisburg, suggested that a comprehensive database be developed to assist citizens with historical and genealogical research. He noted that important information can be found in unexpected places, but that if entered into a database, it can be easily discovered.
Holt Kornegay, Louisburg, seconded Ms. Brodie's idea of one center that could house all cultural organizations. He said that emphasis should be placed on the Tar River, as it is an integral part of our history and culture. He recommended Tar River paddle trails and a perimeter trail around the county as worthwhile objectives. He stressed that the county library system is available to all citizens for the exploration of local history and genealogy.
Tabulation of Votes
Individuals at each table then conferred and chose four of these ideas as their top priorities. These priorities were reported to the entire group. There was some duplication. Event organizers posted the priorities on large sheets of paper, and each participant was given the opportunity to vote on his or her top, second, and third priority. The results are given below:
Heritage Tourism - 20 votes; 30 points
Tar River (recreation/natural sites) - 21 votes; 43 points
Cultural Facilities - 45 votes; 106 points
Arts - 6 votes; 11 points
Downtown Revitalization - 30 votes; 54 points Conclusion This report captures the substance of what took place at the meeting, but does not reflect the palpable excitement of
the participants. Everyone seemed to enjoy working together to consider ideas that will improve the cultural and historical
opportunities available to the citizens of Franklin County and the Upper Tar River region. Matthew Butler, Environmental Projects
Manager of the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation in Washington, was pleased with the ideas related to the Tar River and told the facilitators
that the PTRF is working on related ideas; Franklin County can "tap into" these plans without having to "reinvent the wheel." The Tar River Center for History and Culture will carefully consider the ideas expressed at the September 19
planning meeting as it develops a strategic plan for its work. In the fall of 2013, the TRCHC will assemble an advisory group to refine
the suggestions and to help the director develop a draft strategic plan. Once this work has been accomplished, another public meeting
will be called to discuss the plan and to seek guidance from citizens and public officials as to how the TRCHC, other non-profit
organizations, local governments, economic development officials, and citizens can work together to provide the historical and cultural
facilities and programs that people want and deserve.
Downtown Revitalization - 30 votes; 54 points
This report captures the substance of what took place at the meeting, but does not reflect the palpable excitement of the participants. Everyone seemed to enjoy working together to consider ideas that will improve the cultural and historical opportunities available to the citizens of Franklin County and the Upper Tar River region. Matthew Butler, Environmental Projects Manager of the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation in Washington, was pleased with the ideas related to the Tar River and told the facilitators that the PTRF is working on related ideas; Franklin County can "tap into" these plans without having to "reinvent the wheel."
The Tar River Center for History and Culture will carefully consider the ideas expressed at the September 19 planning meeting as it develops a strategic plan for its work. In the fall of 2013, the TRCHC will assemble an advisory group to refine the suggestions and to help the director develop a draft strategic plan. Once this work has been accomplished, another public meeting will be called to discuss the plan and to seek guidance from citizens and public officials as to how the TRCHC, other non-profit organizations, local governments, economic development officials, and citizens can work together to provide the historical and cultural facilities and programs that people want and deserve.
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