The Nicest Place in Virginia: Colonial Beach
NICEST PLACES IN AMERICA 2019 FINALIST
"Not Just a Beach Town - A Community!"
When young people in a small town need a place to play, residents do what it takes to give to them.
In small towns, the way things get done, is people come together to identify and address needs. In Colonial Beach, Virginia, a lovely resort town of 3,500 on the banks of the Potomac, that’s exactly what happened.
“The best things about Colonial Beach are actually run by the volunteers who live here,” says Caryn Sullivan, who moved to the area six years ago.
To wit, the Beach Arts Music Mentoring organization regularly raises thousands of dollars to help plug school budget holes. Colonial Beach Rivah Dogs, dedicated to making Colonial Beach more dog-friendly, recently put pet-waste stations all over town. And the far-from-rich town is now building its first rec center and park on land donated by the town and with the sweat of its residents—and the sweat of a famous local.
The rec center has a celebrity twist, as NFL star Torrey Smith holds a special place in his heart for this small town. The Carolina Panthers receiver credits the community and its coaches for helping him through his childhood adversities and guiding him on his road to two Super Bowl championships. So when he heard the town lacked outdoor recreational areas for teens to play sports or hang after school, he challenged the community to match his grant of $185,000.
Within a year the town raised nearly $200,000. “People are donating out of their wazoo, selling crabs, putting on dances and raffles,” says high-school coach Steve Swope. The park broke ground just this month.
The DIY mentality came in especially handy when a vicious windstorm pummeled the town, causing damage to trees, houses, and boats.
“People were out in no time lending generators, chain saws, and their time to help people get their properties cleaned up,” says Katrina Price, a resident of 25 years.
“It’s just one of those communities that you don’t think exists anymore,” says Sullivan.
We are a small, but diverse community where kids (and adults) can ride their bikes from one end of town to the other. Neighbors watch out for neighbors and visitors, too!
We are a walking, bike riding, and golf cart community. Almost everyone you pass waves or waves back! Our Town Beaches are open and welcoming to visitors from all over the state. But, the best things about Colonial Beach are actually run by volunteers who live here. We abound with individuals and organizations that focus on kids, arts, health & safety, and the environment.
For example, members of BAMM (Beach Arts, Music, and Mentoring) raise thousands of dollars each year to ensure art teachers in the CB School System have the funds and supplies they need to enrich our children’s lives. Pat Fitzgerald and members of the CB Humane Society run a TNR program helping neighbors trap and spay or neuter feral cats. Members of CB Rivah Dogs raise funds to install and manage Pet Waste Stations all over town and are in the process of funding our first dog park. Retired Coach Steve Swope lead a fundraiser over the past year, raising almost $200,000 from local people and businesses to match funds pledged by WR Torrey Smith (of the Carolina Panthers, who grew up here and attributes his success to being raised by a village) to build a recreation park with tennis and basketball courts.
Dr. Peter Fahrney started the CB Community Foundation over a decade ago and it continues to provide seed money to new volunteer driven projects, and funds scholarships for local students. Volunteers from St. Mary’s Church provide a free lunch on the first Saturday of each Month at their Fellowship Hall. Thom Savage hosts a Croquet Tournament each year to support the CB Fire Department. Sher Lee organizes events and programs for lower income kids including providing Easter Baskets, and Christmas Presents, Coats & Shoes, and Backpacks with school supplies year-end and year-out. The Chamber hosts over a dozen events each year including Santa’s Winter Wonderland, Easter Egg Hunt, Father’s Day Car Show, Potomac River Festival, Water Fest, Bike Fest. The Town hosts one of the best Free Fireworks Displays on the Potomac on the 4th of July. Karen & Doug Grisevich help coordinate free outdoor activities through Colonial Beach Outfitters, the Hard to Tell Rockabilly and Blues Band, and the Medicare Boys play music for free at charity events.
People really pull together here to help out. One instance that comes to mind is the vicious straight line wind storm on April 21, 2017, which caused a ton of damage to trees, houses and boats. People were out in no time lending generators, chainsaws and their time to help people get their properties straightened out and cleaned up.
This nomination came through ourpartnership with Nextdoor, the world’s largest social network for neighborhoods.