New path opens at PHCC

March 18, 2011

By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer

A ribbon was cut Thursday to open the area’s newest trail at Patrick Henry Community College and the Martinsville Reservoir.

But the PHCC Loop Trail, part of the Beaver Creek Reservoir Trails, is more than just a pretty path. It is an outdoor classroom for PHCC students and others; an exercise venue for PHCC students and staff as well as employees at nearby industries and area residents; an addition to the area’s quality of life; and a partnership between government and several groups, speakers said at the ribbon cutting.

The 0.9 of a mile trail begins in the parking lot above the Frith Building on the PHCC campus. It is in the shape of a lollipop — one path is a straight line from the trailhead to the end of a peninsula jutting into the Martinsville Reservoir, and the other is a loop that follows the shoreline.

It begins with crushed rock but quickly changes to a natural surface, with enough slopes and rises to be interesting for hikers and mountain bikers. It generally is level, except for the steeper final leg back to the trailhead.

The trail winds through a wooded area, and the loop offers views of the reservoir at every turn. There are three benches and two picnic tables, built by Boy Scout Troop 63, along the way.

The trail is the first phase of the Beaver Creek Reservoir Trails, which eventually are planned to encompass the north, east and south sides of the reservoir.

The first phase cost about $22,000 to build, and about $23,000 to $24,000 is available for phases two and three, according to Brian Williams of the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA). The money was a Harvest Foundation grant to DRBA to develop the trails, Williams added.

The project grew through the Harvest Foundation’s and Dan River Basin Association’s interest in seeing areas around the reservoir used for trails, according to Martinsville Parks and Recreation Director Gary Cody and information distributed at Thursday’s event.

The effort began about 18 months ago, Cody said. He and Jennifer Doss, formerly of DRBA and now the director of tourism with the Martinsville-Henry Economic Development Corp., determined the location for the trail, and they worked with Patrick Henry Community College, especially Vice President Ron Epperly, to get needed easements and permissions.

The Virginia Community College System (VCCS) also was supportive of the project, Cody said.

Frith Construction was awarded a contract to build the trail. Jim Frith, president and chief operating officer of the company, was present at Thursday’s event and explained afterward how a trail is built.

First, he said, flags were placed along the chosen path, and spray paint was used to mark all trees and brush that must be removed. At the PHCC trail, inmates knocked down and removed those items.

Frith used his Ditch Witch mini bulldozer and a subcontractor brought in a Bobcat mini bulldozer on tracks to push materials out of the path and shape it. Then, the path was cleaned by hand-raking, and people ran along the trail to make sure all brush and limbs were out of the way and there was no standing water, he said.

At PHCC, the project took a couple of weeks, Frith said.

The symbolism of the trail’s location next to the building that bears his family’s name was not lost on Frith or Martinsville Mayor Kim Adkins. She said the J. Burness Frith Economic Development Center was built through a private donation by the Frith family to a public entity — the community college.

“It was appropriate that this (private-public) collaboration is at the entrance of the trail” that also is a private-public effort, she added. The late Burness Frith founded Frith Construction, and Jim Frith is his son.

She and others thanked the partners who worked on the trail — DRBA, Harvest, Martinsville and its Parks and Recreation and PHCC. Williams said DRBA and parks and recreation provided in-kind services for the project, and PHCC provided the easements and permissions.

Brian Williams of DRBA and others said the trail improves the area’s quality of life and adds to the amenities that companies and tourists look for in an area.

Jeff Mansour of the Harvest Foundation said the trail will help people enjoy the outdoors, whether it is children enjoying nature or others getting exercise.

The proximity of the reservoir to industrial parks also will help people thinking about coming here see the area’s natural amenities, he added.

“We have a lot to be thankful for here,” Mansour said.

Nolen Browning of PHCC added that the trail will be a safe exercise option for the college’s staff, and it also will be used as an outdoor classroom for biology and other students.

The trail is open during the daylight hours and will close at sundown.

“Leave No Trace” concepts (leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures, as Cody put it) should be implemented, and users should stay to the right so others can pass safely.

Martinsville Parks and Recreation is maintaining the trail, and trail damage should be reported to it at 403-5140.


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