Trail system to get funds

August 5, 2009

Fifth District U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello on Tuesday announced that $300,000 in federal funding has been approved to help build a 4.5-mile section of trail known as the Dick & Willie Passage in Henry County/Martinsville.

The Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) Martinsville-Henry County Rivers & Trails Group also received $8,095 from The Harvest Foundation to help promote the Uptown Spur Trail, which will provide access to the Dick & Willie Passage. Those funds are earmarked to enhance rest areas and provide other amenities “that will help make the Uptown Spur Trail even more inviting and accessible,” according to a news release from Harvest.

Henry County Administrator Benny Summerlin said engineers estimate it will cost about $950,000 to build the 4.5-mile Dick & Willie Passage, which will run 1.5 miles to Mulberry Creek in one direction off the uptown trail and about 3 miles to a location near Commonwealth Boulevard and U.S. 220 off the other end of the trail.

About 50 residents gathered for Perriello’s announcement at a gazebo decorated like a rail car on the trail at Franklin Street. Many joined Perriello, D-Albemarle County, as he biked on the trail to its end at Pine Street before walking a portion of what will be the new Dick & Willie Passage.

Speaking near the building that once housed the former Martinsville-Henry County Rescue Squad, Perriello said the 4.5-mile project will be a welcome addition to the existing 14 miles of trails available in the Smith River Trail System.

It not only will add to the quality of life by providing recreation and promoting a healthy lifestyle, but it also will become a destination for outdoor enthusiasts, the congressman said.

The trail project is a cooperative effort with Martinsville, The Harvest Foundation, DRBA and others, Summerlin said.

Tapping leftover funds from an enhancement project, Martinsville is contributing $300,000 to the project, according to Summerlin and City Manager Clarence Monday.

The DRBA will install signs along the trail, Summerlin said.

“This is an amazing partnership. I’ve never seen anything like it before,” said Allyson Rothrock, executive director of The Harvest Foundation. When coordinating Tuesday’s event, she said everyone contacted to help was cooperative.

Perriello said the broad community support for the project did not go unnoticed by members of Congress. It “is a sign of how much this means to the community.”

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is reviewing 90 percent of the plans for the new trail, which will feature a 10-foot-wide paved path, Summerlin said. He expects the project will be ready to go out for bids in October or November.

The DRBA will use historical information discovered during deed searches to coordinate the interpretive signs, Summerlin said.

“We are only the second owner of this right-of-way since 1880,” Summerlin said. “There is a lot of neat stuff to be learned” along the trail slated to open next spring.

When completed, the Smith River Trail System will follow the 45-mile corridor of the Smith River from the base of Philpott Dam to the Dan River in Eden, N.C., according to a release from the trails group.

It will include four trail heads, Summerlin said of locations at Commonwealth Boulevard/U.S. 220, Liberty Street, the former Prillaman Chemical Co. and an overlook at Mulberry Creek.

The site on Liberty Street will have permanent rest room facilities located near the former Martinsville-Henry County Rescue Squad Building, Summerlin said.

The trail system also will bridge two congressional districts — the 9th and the 5th, Summerlin said. The route will meander along the Smith River, from Philpott Dam through areas of Bassett, Fieldale and Martinsville to the Smith River Sports Complex.

Funding is not yet available for some portions of the project, Summerlin said.

The trail system also includes the 75-acre Richard P. Gravely Jr. Nature Preserve, the county’s first interpretive park.

When completed, residents and visitors can use the trails to travel “from the soccer complex to Fieldale. Whether walking or biking, it will give families the opportunity” to spend quality time together, Monday said.


Select News Year: