WYTHEVILLE, Va. – Wythe County planning officials are in the process of forming the county’s five-year comprehensive plan and are asking for the public’s input in formulating the details of the document.

Virginia law requires localities to publish a comprehensive plan every five years, which serves to provide direction for county officials in decision making and setting the county’s long-term policies.

The 20-question survey covers a variety of issues, including order of importance regarding certain county services, quality of life and residents’ opinions pertaining to best practices at spurring economic development.

“The survey is one of the most important components of this year’s five-year plan, as it will give local citizens a substantial voice in shaping future county policy,” said Michelle Cassell of the Wythe County Planning Department.

The Mount Rogers Planning District Commission, a Virginia organization that promotes regional cooperation and planning, is assisting the county in completing the document.

Citizens interested in participating in the countywide survey can CLICK HERE to be taken to the online questionnaire.  Residents who do not have access to a personal computer are encouraged to use the free computers provided at the Wythe-Grayson Libraries in Rural Retreat and Wytheville. A limited number of paper copies will also be available at the county administrator’s office.

In addition to urging residents to complete the 20-question county survey, local leaders will also be hosting three separate town halls throughout the county, in an effort to log the specific ideas of citizens.  The community input meetings will be held inside the Board of Supervisors Meeting Room in Wytheville on Monday, July 14; Rural Retreat Town Hall, Monday, July 21; and Max Meadows Ruritan Building, Monday, July 28.  All meetings will begin at 7 p.m.

Local residents with additional questions regarding the survey are asked to contact the Wythe County Planning Department at 276-223-4508.

Local officials say they plan to have the project published by early next year.

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Rural Retreat Lake Pool to Host Aqua Zumba Classes Through July

RURAL RETREAT, Va. — The Wythe County Department of Parks & Recreation will be hosting four aqua Zumba sessions throughout the month of July at the Rural Retreat Lake Pool.

The one-hour long sessions will be held on each Tuesday of the month and instructed by Infinity Fitness’ Derek Ogle, a certified aqua Zumba instructor.

Aqua Zumba is Zumba in a swimming pool. The instructor leads the class from poolside while participants follow the shallow water workout. Moves have been specially adapted to combine the same dance movements used in a Zumba Fitness class with those used in aqua fitness classes, creating a fun and effective total body workout.

Participation in the class is open to all local residents ages 13 and over.

A $12 per session participation fee will be charged to each person participating in the weekly event in order to cover the program’s costs.

“Aqua Zumba provides a unique and fun way to promote health and fitness. We’re excited to see the new program launched and hope to have a large turn out for each of the sessions,” said Kevin Williams, Wythe County Parks & Recreation Director.

Local residents wishing to participate in any one of the four sessions are encouraged to pre-register, either by calling 223-4519 or by filling out the form on the Rural Retreat Lake’s official website ( CLICK HERE to view the online registration form.

The four aqua Zumba classes are just a handful of summer activities scheduled at the Rural Retreat Lake Park & Campground. A full list of events can be viewed at the Rural Retreat Lake Park & Campground’s website.

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Click HERE to sign-up to receive emergency alerts.

WYTHEVILLE, Va. – Wythe County officials are just days away from implementing a citizen notification system that will enable the county’s communications team to instantly alert citizens via landline, cell phone and email of severe emergencies.

The software for the system is being provided by Everbridge, a California based company that specializes in sending mass notification alerts. In addition to being used around the globe, Everbridge’s emergency alert system has been credited for playing a vital role in the days following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Though emergency communications staff members say they only expect to use the software on “a very limited basis,” they do acknowledge that the program has the potential to save many lives in the days to come.

“The software will give us the ability to instantly send a mass notification to the entire county – on their landlines, emails and mobile devices – in the event of an impending storm, such as a hurricane or severe snow,” said James Copeland, director of emergency communications.

“We’ll also be able to target a specific neighborhood or even road and send alerts that way. Something that might be very helpful should we face specific localized threats, such as a HAZMAT incident or tornado,” Copeland added.

Though the Wythe County Consolidated E-911 Center will already have access to all landlines registered in the county, local officials are encouraging residents who wish to receive emergency alerts on their mobile devices or via email to sign-up for the program either online (a link is provided at or by filling out a form at the county administrator’s office. The system is slated to go live July 1, 2014.

Another benefit of opting in to receive emergency notifications on one’s mobile device will be the option to receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service.

Citizens who have questions concerning implementation of the new program are encouraged to contact James Copeland, 276-223-4533.

The citizen notification is made possible by grant funding provided by the Wythe-Bland Foundation and is a cooperative effort between Wythe County and the towns of Wytheville and Rural Retreat.

Click HERE to sign-up to receive emergency alerts.

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WYTHEVILLE, Va. – The Rural Retreat Lake Park & Campground got a new online home this week, with the unveiling of the public park’s new website,

County officials say the new site will prove to be far more user-friendly than the park’s previous webpages, which were scattered throughout the county’s general information website.

“Having a website dedicated exclusively to the Rural Retreat Lake will provide prospective visitors to the campground an easy way to access all the information available pertaining to the park; including hours of operation, rates and rules, reservation instructions and a list of upcoming events,” said Wythe County Parks & Recreation Director Kevin Williams.

The website was created in-house by the county’s public information officer, tallying to a final cost of just under $15.

“Had we bid out this project, the county would have been forced to pay thousands of dollars,” Williams added.

Over the past several decades, the lake park and campground has become a favorite destination for outdoor enthusiasts, including anglers, hikers, campers and picnicking families.

Several Northern Pike were stocked in the lake, between 1997 and 1999, which have provided breathtaking photos of catches through the years.

In addition to the lake’s great fishing opportunities, the county managed park has become a favorite destination for local residents, who receive a 10% discount when renting any of the campground’s +70 primitive and water / electric sites.

Individuals interested in camping at the Rural Retreat Lake Park & Campground can contact the lake directly at 276-686-4331 or visit the campground’s new website,

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ROANOKE, Va. – Earlier today, members of Wythe County’s emergency management team participated in a railway safety program sponsored by Norfolk Southern. The program is part of a national effort known as “Operation Lifesaver” and is aimed at decreasing annual railway fatalities.

Representing Wythe County were the county’s emergency manager, information officer, emergency communications director and sheriff.

As part of the educational seminar, participants traveled by rail from Radford to the railway yard in Roanoke. Along the route, safety officials from Norfolk Southern spoke to local representatives about activities localities can do in order to encourage railway safety.

“I was shocked to learn that in 2013, 251 people were killed by trains,” said Jeremy Farley, Wythe County’s public information officer.

Farley added, “In the coming days, we will be doing our part to ensure county residents are reminded of just how dangerous train crossings can be.”

James Copeland, who serves as Wythe County’s director of emergency communications, said the training event allowed a great opportunity for county officials to form closer working relationships with Norfolk Southern safety officers.

According to Norfolk Southern, the safety train that hosted Thursday’s seminar has been in service all week, hosting similar events throughout the Appalachian region. The train left Cleveland, Tennessee, Monday morning and is set to reach its final destination in Lynchburg, Friday afternoon.

Operation Lifesaver’s mission is to end collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and on rail property. Their efforts have been attributed to playing a primary role in reducing the number of railway fatalities from 728 in 1981, to 251 in 2013.

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Virginia Seeks Citizens’ Input for Energy Plan

The Commonwealth is asking state residents for their input, as part of the process to develop Virginia’s 2014 energy plan.

Wythe County residents will have three primary ways to provide input, suggestions, and recommendations to be considered as part of the Energy Plan.

  1. Public Listening Sessions – Six public listening sessions will be held throughout Virginia during June and early July.  Southwestern Virginia’s will be held on June 24, 2014, at the Highlands Community College Student Center (100 VHCC Drive, Abingdon, VA), from 6 – 8 p.m.
  2. Online Submission – A web page has been created to allow input to be submitted online at any time.  The web page address is . This page also has the listening session dates and locations listed.  There is no limit on submissions, but each submission is limited to three attachments. 
  3. Direct outreach – Residents may directly contact Hayes Framme, advisor for Infrastructure and Development in the Office of the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, and/or Al Christopher, Director of the Division of Energy with the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.  Hayes would be happy to meet with any stakeholders who would like to provide in-person feedback about the Energy Plan.  Hayes and Al’s contact information is below.

B. Hayes Framme

Advisor for Infrastructure and Development

Secretary of Commerce and Trade

1111 E. Broad St., Richmond, VA 23219

P: (804) 225-4517 C: (804) 201-6971

[email protected]


Al Christopher

Director, Division of Energy

Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy

1100 Bank Street, 8th Floor

Richmond VA 23219

804-692-3216 office

[email protected]

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RURAL RETREAT, Va. – Patrons to the Rural Retreat Lake Pool will find a new activity on the park’s calendar this summer, monthly dive-in movies.

Set to begin this Saturday, Wythe County Parks & Recreation leaders say they plan to showcase one movie each month at what they are referring to as a series of “communitywide pool parties.”

Once the pool closes at its regular time of 6 p.m. this Saturday, pool staff will immediately get to work transforming the pool into a pirate themed, swimmable movie theatre.

The gates will then reopen at 8 p.m. and thirty minutes later the 1985 hit movie, The Goonies, will be presented inside the pool area for a new generation to enjoy.

“We’re really excited about the dive-in parties and believe it will provide families with a low-cost and fun activity throughout the summer,” said Kevin Williams, director of Wythe County Parks & Recreation.

Children ages two and under will be allowed into the event free of charge, however, there is a $4 admission price for everyone else. The charges will help offset the costs associated with purchasing the rights to publicly display the movie, as well as compensate the park staff required to work the event.

Williams said that as a way to encourage swimmers to dress for the themed events, the county’s parks and recreation department will be offering a free bag of popcorn to all those who come dressed as pirates.

Park officials say that chairs will be limited and that visitors to the pool should consider bringing one from home.

Sponsors for this weekend’s movie are Forest Family Care, Rural Retreat Florist and Dr. Spraker DDS of Rural Retreat.

In case of inclement weather the movie will be played the following evening, June 15th at the sameime.

The Wythe County Department of Parks & Recreation plans to host two more dive-in pool parties this summer. One in July that will showcase the movie Lelo & Stitch and another the last Saturday in August which will present the movie Frozen. The dress theme for those nights will be Hawaiian and cartoon characters, respectively.

The pool’s regular hours will continue to be noon to 6 p.m. on Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

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RURAL RETREAT, Va. – Wythe County’s Parks & Recreation officials had hoped to have the Rural Retreat Lake Pool opened to the public by Friday, June 6. The date was selected to coincide with the last day of school in the county.

Unfortunately, multiple problems with the pool’s water pump have delayed its opening for one week.

With a new pump now installed, crews are working to filter the water inside the pool and bring all readings to acceptable levels.

“It’s a long process, but this is something we have to do,” said Kevin Williams, director of the Wythe County Department of Parks & Recreation.

According to Williams, the pool will undergo continuous filtering and heating throughout the weekend and into early next week.

“Once we’re finished, health inspectors will come out and inspect the pool for use and then we’ll be ready for the public.”

Williams says the popular pool is scheduled to reopen at noon on Friday, June 13 and that a community-wide dive-in pool party is slated for the following night.

The dive-in pool party will feature the movie The Goonies and is set to begin at 8:30 p.m. Patrons entering through the gates – which reopen at 8 p.m. – dressed as a pirate will be given a free bag of popcorn.

As of Friday morning, two Rural Retreat businesses have signed on as sponsors for the June 14 dive-in pool party, Dr. Michael Spraker DDS and Rural Retreat Florist.

The Wythe County Department of Parks & Recreation plans to host two more dive-in pool parties this summer. One in July that will showcase the movie Lelo & Stitch and another the last Saturday in August which will present the movie Frozen. The dress theme for those nights will be Hawaiian and cartoon characters, respectively.

The pool’s regular hours will be noon to 6 p.m. on Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

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SPEEDWELL, Va. – A group of spelunkers entered a cave just south of the community of Speedwell, Tuesday morning. The cavers were part of a summer camp from North Carolina, taking part in a training exercise inside the popular cave.

Sometime that afternoon, a nineteen year old female found herself wedged in a narrow crevice inside the cave. Members of the group initially attempted to pull her free, but were unsuccessful in their efforts.

At 3:32 p.m. the Wythe County E-911 Center received a call from members of the group, requesting emergency assistance in rescuing one of the cavers pinned between the crevices of two rocks.

Members of the Speedwell Volunteer Fire Department and Wythe County Rescue were first on the scene, followed by Wythe County Emergency Management and Rural Retreat Emergency Services & Volunteer Fire Department.

Serving as commander inside the cave, Wythe County Rescue’s Mike Davis led a group to the trapped caver shortly upon arriving at the scene.

“It was very tight and damp inside. The patient was really calm and cooperative throughout the duration of the rescue; anything we asked her to do, she did it without any complaint,” said Davis.

According to Davis, the operation – which involved at least ten different agencies – was one of the better coordinated operations in which he had ever been a participant.

Ikey Davidson, Director of Wythe County Emergency Management and incident commander, agreed, echoing Davis’ sentiments.

“We had so many departments and agencies cooperating together. It was great to see all the people working toward the common goal of freeing this woman. We’re just glad that it ended well.”

Later that evening, members from Black Diamond Search & Rescue, a Virginia Department of Emergency Management rescue team arrived on the scene.

Members from Black Diamond Search & Rescue, along with local first responders, were finally successful in freeing the trapped woman around 7:30 p.m.

Though the nineteen year old female showed no signs of critical injuries, she was airlifted to Bristol as a precaution.

The underground network of caves south of the Cripple Creek stream has multiple entrances. Over the past several years, local emergency responders have been called to the cave on several occasions to rescue trapped or lost spelunkers.

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