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Construction set to begin in 2025 on Museum of Natural History Waynesboro campus

Crystal Graham
virginia museum natural history waynesboro campus
Aerial sketch provided by the City of Waynesboro

The Virginia Museum of Natural History’s Waynesboro campus is on schedule to begin construction as early as 2025.

Planning is expected to be completed early next year and complete construction funding for the museum has been requested in the Commonwealth’s fiscal year 2025 central capital planning fund.

At the Waynesboro City Council meeting on Oct. 11, members voted 5-0 to support the project with $1 million of real property and services. Previous councils in 2018 and 2015 had made the same resolution in support of the project.

At the meeting, Greg Hitchin, director of economic development and tourism for the city, said the project would also require $2 million in fundraising from local residents and businesses. The goal is for the state funding, city’s contribution and a public campaign to provide the necessary funding to construct the campus.

“We are grateful for the continued support of the Waynesboro City Council,” said Dr. Joe Keiper, executive director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History. “This branch campus is an excellent way for us to expand the reach of our Martinsville location and to utilize our collection of over 10 million artifacts.”

The 28,000 square foot Waynesboro campus could be open as early as 2026. The two-story museum will feature exhibits interpreting the unique attributes of the Shenandoah Valley, provide educational opportunities for the region and increase cultural and tourism opportunities for the city and region.

The Richmond-based Chmura Economics and Analytics estimates that the Waynesboro location will attract approximately 65,000 visitors a year and will have a regional economic impact of $4.2 million annually.

“There are roughly 62,000 K-12 students within an hour of Waynesboro that will utilize it as field trips and get exposure to science, science and technology, occupations and opportunities for them,” said Hitchin.

Hitchin said the museum will be a natural fit with the South River Greenway and South River Preserve project under construction in the city.

“We have one big nature opportunity so people will have an opportunity to experience natural history within the museum, take a few steps outside the door and experience the current natural beauty of the area and drive three miles up the road and experience national parks,” he said.

In an update to council, Hitchin said the city is looking at painting an outline of the proposed building on the parking lot where the museum will sit. He said they hope to do the outline “relatively soon.” Also, he said, an educational trailer was donated to the museum, and they are looking to park this trailer in the general area “as we build excitement for the museum.”

After some refurbishing and rebranding of the trailer, the museum is hoping it will be available for special events and fundraising events going forward.

For more information on the Waynesboro campus of VMNH, view the city project briefing or visit www.vmnh.net/projects/waynesboro-campus or www.waynesborobusiness.com/virginia-museum-of-natural-history/

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.