October 27, 2009
More than 15 people and a few pets gathered Monday to enjoy the fall foliage and get a sneak preview of three miles of the future Dick and Willie Passage.
When it is complete, the passage will be a paved trail, four and half miles long and 10 feet wide. It will run from Mulberry Creek to an end point by the El Parral Mexican restaurant near the intersection of Commonwealth Boulevard and Virginia Avenue.
Along its route, the trail will meet the Uptown Spur Trail in Martinsville, which will provide access to it. The passage also will connect with trails at the Smith River Sports Complex and the Fieldale Trail.
Funded by $300,000 in federal funds, it is scheduled to be completed by the spring of 2010.
Until then, the trail is not open to the public, said Henry County Administrator Benny Summerlin.
On Monday, participants took a guided walk from Fisher Street in Martinsville to El Parral in Henry County, about a three-mile stretch. Vans provided by Henry County Parks and Recreation carried participants back to their vehicles when the walk was done.
Construction of the paved trail has not yet begun, but all the railroad tracks and ties have been removed from the route, Summerlin said. Officials are awaiting the Virginia Department of Transportation’s approval to request bids for the construction, which likely will begin this fall, he said.
Roger Adams, Henry County Parks and Recreation director, said the Parks and Recreation Department will oversee the maintenance of the trail once it is constructed. Currently, he said, Parks and Recreation oversees 21 park facilities in Henry County. He was present Monday to walk the gravel trail, along with officials from the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) and others.
Jennifer Doss, rivers and trails project manager for DRBA, was promoting the future Dick and Willie Passage by holding a drawing for T-shirts designed with the trail’s name and logo. Doss said DRBA promotes projects such as the Dick and Willie Passage that encourage enjoyment of the area’s natural resources.
DRBA is promoting the creation of a 45-mile-long trail system along the Smith River. Eventually, Doss said, all of the local trails will connect, beginning at Philpott Dam and ending in Eden, N.C. The Dick and Willie Passage will be part of that trail system.
There are already 18 miles of trails in Henry County, which are maintained by Henry County Parks and Recreation and volunteer Adopt-A-Trail groups, Doss said. People interested in joining an Adopt-A-Trail group for the Dick and Willie Passage are being recruited.
A couple of members from the Fieldale Trail’s Adopt-A-Trail program took part in the Dick and Willie Passage preview Monday.
Nancy Kennet of Fieldale, a member of that group, said being part of a team for a trail is great.
“If you like the outdoors,” she said, “you will love it.”
Judith Winston of Martinsville, who was on the walk Monday, said she would consider joining the Dick and Willie Passage’s Adopt-A-Trail group in the future. She said she enjoys the outdoors, and it would be fun.
Joan Ragland, also of Martinsville, brought her dog, Sydney, along for Monday’s walk. An advocate of the trail system, Ragland said she has been seeing more and more people walking on the Fieldale Trail.
Doss said that when it is complete, the passage will provide a pathway to connect different parts of the community. Eventually, she said, there will be signs about the history of the Danville and Western Railway — after which the trail is named — as well as public rest rooms and picnic tables.
The trail also will be monitored for safety, she said.
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