As it continues to rebound from the darkest days of the pandemic, Maymont just landed a windfall from a federal stimulus package.
The nonprofit, which oversees the city’s historic estate, last month received an $8 million grant from the US Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. The money will be used to expand the park’s wildlife habitats and upgrade the Maymont Mansion.
The funding, which is part of the American Rescue Plan Travel, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation program, is intended to facilitate the recovery of tourism across the country. The national program is a $750 million project, with $240 million allocated to competitive grants, according to the EDA’s website.
“I think Maymont’s continued ranking as a top tourist attraction in Richmond has really helped our cause, as have many local and state officials and tourism authorities who have sent letters of support,” said Melissa Abernathy. , Head of Communications at Maymont.
The nonprofit status of the foundation made it eligible for the competitive grant. As required by the program, he will have to raise an additional $2 million usually raised through donations and fundraising events.
Although details will be decided in the coming months, Abernathy said much of the funding will be used to develop the habitat section of the park. The foundation supports 400 animals, housed at its sanctuaries, farm and the Robins Nature Center, according to a three-year-old Form 990.
The animals residing in the park are rescues that cannot be released into the wild and are instead cared for by professional staff.
Meanwhile, the estate’s 12,000 square foot mansion will also undergo a facelift. Abernathy said the funds will pay for a new roof as the foundation seeks to restore its original appearance. HVAC and fire safety systems will also be upgraded inside.
Although the mansion is once again open to the public for a fee, it and the Robin Nature Center had to close during the pandemic. The organization was unable to hold its regular events, which made fundraising efforts difficult. Maymont saw its revenue drop 80% in the first quarter of the pandemic and laid off 28% of its staff during that time, according to a June Richmond Times Dispatch article.
“Although (the mansion and the center) were closed, it really impacted our budget. But you know, on the other hand, we are a public space, “said Abernathy. “We were able to stay open and keep enough staff to maintain the garden and take care of the animals.”
Two years later, the organization’s recovery is well underway. Abernathy said the park saw a peak in visitors last year, reaching 850,000. Likewise, record numbers of people attended its recent events, such as the Dominion Energy Family Easter Party in April, with 10,000 visitors, she said.
Maymont is now back to a workforce of 53, she said, just shy of its pre-pandemic full-time workforce of 56. Likewise, its current part-time staff of 24 is approaching pre-pandemic levels, when there were 33 part-time workers.
In 2020, Maymont received a $1 million grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia, investing it in developing six new audio tours and renovating the Stone Barn, a 1908 structure that will house the visitor center for the park and a new classroom. , come September.
Abernathy says the expansion will provide new school programs for students.
According to the foundation’s website, the estate began in 1893 as a 100-acre property owned by James and Sally Dooley and was given to the city upon their deaths.