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Foster home, water park proposed for mill site

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The old Fries mill property could have unexpected buyer, a local woman whose idea has town council’s support.

By Patrick Smith

FRIES — After being on the market as a potential business location for years, the old Washington Mill property in Fries is now being considered as a potential location for a children’s foster home and water park, after a citizen approached Fries Town Council with the building plans last Tuesday.
Catrinna Shupe, a resident of Fries who takes care of foster children, asked for the council’s blessing and support to proceed with her vision of creating “Kiddie Cats Cove.”

While showing council and citizens in attendance the floor plans, Shupe said that the 10 acres of property overlooking the town would be the perfect location to construct the main building to house the children and a water park would be in the back yard, right beside the New River.
For income to support the nonprofit operation, Shupe said Kiddie Cats Cove would double as a daycare center, where children could stay if they missed school or if their parents went out of town and could not take them along. She said the water park would also be open to the public, giving Fries a new pool and another place for family activities.
“I know this is not going to happen overnight for me, but I will be seeking grants, I will be seeking assistance from the community and from churches,” said Shupe.
Shupe explained that the primary reason she is proceeding with her idea is to save children from parents with drug addictions.
She said that she had already spoken with state Sen. Bill Carrico of Fries, who introduced a bill in the Virginia General Assembly on the matter, which she said was “shot down.”
Shupe said that she wants life at Kiddie Cat Cove to be faith-based, but beliefs of no particular religion or denomination would be forced upon the children.
“My hope is, once it’s built, the state can pass a law that if someone on drugs has a baby, the baby can come live at Kiddie Cats Cove — at least until the parent gets treatment or other help,” she said.
Shupe said that with the help of a local lawyer, she had already filed her business plan paperwork with the state for consideration, and her next step will be to speak with Blue Ridge Crossroads Economic Development Authority director Ken McFadyen, as BRCEDA owns the old cotton mill property and will have the final say in who the property will be awarded to.
BRCEDA has welcomed offers for the property for years, hoping to sell it to a business that would best benefit the area.
“It would offer jobs and be giving back to the community, which should meet the criteria,” Shupe said.
After lengthy discussion and giving Shupe words of encouragement and praise for her ambition, Fries Town Council members agreed to support her and encouraged her to proceed by meeting with McFadyen.
Mayor Gary Sumner advised Shupe return to the council after talking with McFadyen for further discussion and planning for the project, either in a special session or during the next monthly meeting Jan. 6, 2014.
Council told Shupe that should BRCEDA deny her request, there are several other potential locations in Fries to construct the home.
Sumner explained that, while Shupe had his support, an attempt to obtain almost any other location in the area would have fewer strings attached than the mill property. He also advised she learn how much funding would be needed in grants for the construction of the home and its surrounding structures.
On Monday, Shupe told the newspaper that she had not yet been able to schedule a meeting with BRCEDA officials.