An old-fashioned town clock may symbolize what Dumfries hopes to become — a historic town with a friendly, welcoming feel.
The new clock resembles a man’s pocket watch and was erected this week. It stands near the entrance of the town hall and will be lit at night.
“We want it to be a beacon that people are attracted to,” said Dumfries Town Manager John Barkley.
In the four months that Barkley has been on the job, he said he has been trying to find ways to revitalize the town, to make it more attractive with more of a hometown appeal.
“We are trying to create a nice sort of place that has been lost,” Barkley said.
One of the first places he is focusing on is the town hall property.
“It is envisioned that the town hall and the town hall park will be an anchor to the Main Street project,” Barkley said.
A renovation of the town hall building got underway earlier this year. Employees of the town’s public works department were doing the construction work on weekends and after the offices closed in the evenings.
It had since stalled.
“It was a great plan but it didn’t work out the way it was supposed to,” Barkley said.
Instead, Barkley approached the Dumfries Town Council with an alternative idea. He proposed using a portion of the new town cigarette tax to hire a professional contractor to do the work.
Like many other towns and cities in the region, Dumfries passed a 20-cent tax on cigarettes last summer. The town projects it will garner $200,000 from the tax this fiscal year and will use $75,000 of that money on renovations of the town hall and the Cecil W. Garrison Park behind town hall.
“We’d like to enhance the park,” Barkley said. He envisions a new playground, a brick walkway leading down to the Quantico Creek, a gazebo, picnic area and lighting.
“I’ll bet there are people who have never been behind town hall to see the creek,” Barkley said.
Barkley wants that to change so that town hall and the park become a meeting place, a destination for residents.
Other aspects of creating a small town Main Street feel are really out of the town officials hands, he said.
“That will be driven by the private sector,” Barkley said.
The opening of the Marine Corps Heritage Center near the Quantico Marine Corps base with its projected 500,000 visitors a year could draw new businesses to Dumfries.
“The [visitors] will need to eat, sleep and spend money with their families,” Barkley said. “That’s a niche we can start with.”
There are ways, however, that the town can prepare for such growth and change, Barkley said.
Providing infrastructure such as sidewalks, crosswalks, old-fashioned lantern lighting and benches all are things the town can do.
“That’s what I’m heading for,” Barkley said.
“There are a handful of things I want to get done and some of them are simple and easy to do,” Barkley said.
Others are not. Town officials are in the process of writing their application for inclusion into the Virginia Main Street Program. If accepted, the town would have access to a lot of technical assistance, grants and loan programs to help it grow strong.