JEFFERSON — On March 31, the Ashe County Board of Commissioners took a tour of Family Central, once the old Ashe Central High School, and discussed the current state of the building and its residents, including Parks & Recreation and High Country Commercial Kitchen.
Organized by Commissioner Todd McNeill and County Manager Adam Stumb, fellow commissioners Chuck Olive, William Sands, Jerry Powers and Jonathan Jordan got an all-inclusive tour of the building, now renovated into a free gym, a daycare, counseling centers, DSS and a commercial kitchen, all used greatly by the Ashe community.
The tour began with Parks & Recreation Director Kevin Anderson showing the commissioners around the renovated athletic spaces.
Beginning in the gym, Anderson explained that it is often used for volleyball, pickleball and basketball. With new hardwood flooring, the gym had turned into a modern athletic space for the community which has been much appreciated by Anderson.
The free gym includes a weight room, a room with treadmills and bike equipment and a boxing and wrestling training room.
“We have enough room and spacing to play three courts of pickleball, basketball and volleyball,” said Anderson in speaking about the new line spacing on the floor.
Anderson said that the turnout for the facilities have been steady despite the ongoing pandemic. The rooms have set capacity limits and cleaning has increased throughout the past year. He hopes that the free gym can continue to grow as well as the ball fields during the summer. Parks & Recreation is looking into acquiring the old middle school building after the new one is finished, something Anderson thinks would do well for the county as the pool attracts tourism and locals searching for aquatics.
The staff at the Family Central free gym have been able to create a cross fit training program now at Ashe Cross Fit. The organization began in the very halls of the old school when the free gym was first established.
County Manager Stumb then led the group on a tour of the remainder of the building, stopping by Mt. Jefferson Child Development, Jody Province counseling center and VAYA. Stumb explained that the county leases the units of the school to these organizations.
DSS also resides in the building along with AppHealthCare’s environmental portion.
County Extension Director and Extension Agent of Agriculture Travis Birdsell then brought the commissioners to the High Country Commercial Kitchen, a hidden gem according to Birdsell.
“This is one of the largest commercial kitchens in Western North Carolina,” said Birdsell.
The Kitchen is offered to caterers, rising businesses and those who are simply in need of kitchen space. To rent is $15 an hour, something Birdsell explained was lessened due to COVID-19. The school system has been allowed access to the kitchen for food storage and training for the cooking class at the high school.
A garlic and potato peeler is offered along with a popsicle machine, full running ovens and refrigerators, sinks, fried pie makers and bottle fillers.
The commissioners then toured the ball fields, now holding 4 softball/baseball fields and a soccer and football field. Stumb is hoping to fully convert the system to natural gas, having already succeeded with the Parks & Recreation occupancy of the building.
McNeill and the fellow commissioners said they hope to see more business and traffic within the halls in the upcoming months.