Great rail-trail news out of southern Virginia with a once overgrown and unused (below) section of rail corridor opened this week as a new section of the Tobacco Heritage Trail.
Thanks to the hard work and commitment of the nonprofit Roanoke River Rails-to-Trails, Inc., and the 15 towns, cities and counties pursuing their rail-trail plans in the region, the town of South Boston is this week celebrating a new 2.6-mile segment of rail-trail in their community. The rail-trail features picnic tables, benches, animal-proof garbage cans and platforms for mounting horses. Already, bike riders, equestrians, hikers, geocachers, bird watchers, dog walkers and many others have flocked to the new recreational trail made of aggregate compacted stone.
And the Roanoke coalition is thinking big. The new path, along a disused section of the old Norfolk Southern rail system, is a step toward a planned 150-mile network of trails throughout southern Virginia.
With a broad cross-section of support, from former Governor, now Senator Mark Warner, to land and recreation agencies and local municipalities, the vision for a signature rail-trail network for Virginia has been made possible by numerous grants through the federal Transportation Enhancements (TE) and Recreational Trails(RTP) programs.
Unfortunately for the people of Virginia, Congress' decision this year to weaken dedicated funding sources for trails, biking and walking through changes to the TE program jeopardizes the construction of future phases of the Tobacco Heritage Trail.
A Friends of the Tobacco Heritage Trail group has been formed to raise funds, make improvements and increase awareness of the trail. Their facebook page is www.facebook.com/TobaccoHeritageTrail. If you are interested in volunteering for the trail, or want to know more, contact Heather Susee at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 434.447.7101.