By ANN ALI ∙ firstname.lastname@example.org
Whether you've never heard of Grand Vue Park, you visited several years ago or even if you visited last week, the sprawling facility featuring days' worth of activities is worth another look.
While a lot of the park's shine had faded through the years, targeted renovations and upgrades have put the park in a new light for residents who may have discounted it as well as tourists looking for an outdoor playground in the heart of Marshall County.
"Back in '03, the county commission decided to really start to invest in Grand Vue Park again," explained Grand Vue Park Manager Craig White. "They went out, got some grants and were able to build a new banquet facility, add three new cabins to the park and they built a new playground and miniature golf course."
White said that was just the start of renovations big and small at the place he started managing in 2008.
White, who grew up in the South Hills section of Pittsburgh, said his background is in sports management, so he looks at the park as a big outdoor fitness center.
"We're known to take yoga out on the hillside, and the Zumba classes in the summer have given way to paint and sip classes," he said.
Grand Vue offers a playground, miniature golf course, disc golf course, a par-3 golf course, ampitheater, bird feeder station, a snack and gift shop, pool and splash ground park, 12 miles of multi-use trails as well as shelters and cabins for rent.
Its newest crown jewel is a zip line ride and tour and a bus to expand visitors' options.
"We have so many good people in this area, it's just a matter of giving them a venue to do things and letting them know that we have the interest in doing new programs and we'd love to use your expertise to do that at this beautiful facility," White said. "What I'm finding is when I drove through Grand Vue Park for my interviews back in early '08, I didn't see a lot of activity here.
"Today when you come up here, any time of the day, you're going to see people walking, whether it's through the trails, out in the parking lots, golfing — we added disc golf, so there's always somebody out throwing discs in the park."
White said one of the park's challenges has been letting people know what it offers, but word of mouth works best for the locals, and the free movies and concerts the park offers for families throughout the summer is a way to give back to the community.
"I've had nothing but support from every organization I've come in contact with, and I think that's why Grand Vue is doing some pretty cool things, because of these partnerships and people that are willing to help to be sure this community thrives," White said.
The new 12-passenger bus was initially to get zip line riders back to their vehicles, but White said it also will help the park build on its partnerships, taking visitors into Marshall County for shopping or a stroll through area museums. And it also could take visitors to other hotels to the park for a quick zip.
It's one of the many ideas White has to keep building on Grand Vue Park — the place that's more than just a park, the tagline he gave it.
"It's not a resort. It's still that county park, but we want to be your type of park," he said. "It's nice that we are becoming more recognized. I sit and stare at an article on my wall done in 1978 about Grand Vue Park being the best kept secret in West Virginia.
"We are getting more recognition, and that's one of the very good things about what we're doing at this point. There are so many neat things I want to do and accomplish yet, and the area's ripe for it."