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Clarksville, Boydton eye extension of tobacco trail west

SoVaNow.com / November 29, 2017
Officials in the Town of Boydton are looking to team up with Clarksville to extend the Tobacco Heritage Trail westward through Mecklenburg County.

Jimmy Walters, Boydton’s representative on the Roanoke Rails to Trails board of directors, met with Clarksville town leaders Tuesday night to discuss future plans for the Tobacco Heritage Trail. At the conclusion of his presentation, members of Clarksville Town Council voted to support a plan to bring the tobacco trail west from Boydton to Clarksville.

Currently, Boydton has 1.1 miles of trail that are not linked to any other portion. Clarksville has no trail. Walters says leaders in Boydton see the benefit of extending the trail westward toward Clarksville across U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property and down to and across Buggs Island Lake. He said this new section would draw more tourists to the area.

Already, Walters said he’s met with Corps officials, and they are willing work with the towns on this project, although funding remains an issue.

The towns would be responsible for raising the funds needed to pay for the construction of bridges, an underpass and work on the trail. Walters believes he’s found ways to reduce the expenses associated with what he calls construction of Phase 4 of the Tobacco Heritage Trail.

Phase 4, according to Walters would extend Boydton’s existing trail across U.S. 58, over Rudds and Butchers Creeks, and back under the highway and into Clarksville along the existing railroad trestle bridge. An offshoot of the trail would run on haul roads created by the Corps down to the Robert Munford Trail, a seven-mile walkway in Boydton near Buggs Island Lake.

To create this extension, there would need to be a U.S. 58 underpass installed near Boydton. Also, bridges would have to be built across Rudds and Butchers Creeks, a second underpass on U.S. 58 near Rudds Creek installed, and improvements made to the existing Corps haul roads that run between the Robert Munford Trail and the Tobacco Heritage Trail.

One way to cut down the cost associated with this work, Walters said, is to delay the purchase of three rights-of-way in the Boydton area, as contemplated by the original plan for the tobacco trail. Instead, he called for rerouting the trail along Washington Street to Hull and Monroe Streets in Boydton.

Walters also said a new estimate would have to be obtained for the cost of building the U.S. 58 underpass in Boydton. In 2011, when Walters first joined the Roanoke Rails To Trails board of directors, he said he looked into the cost of an underpass. At that time, he was told it would be about $225,000. More recently, the board was told it would take nearly $690,000 to install the underpass.

“It’s obvious, we need to seek additional estimates,” Walters told Council members. He also said the town of Boydton has committed to finding the funds for the underpass project.

VDOT is dismantling bridges across Virginia. Walters proposed that the Tobacco Heritage Trail acquire these bridges and reconstruct them across Rudds and Butchers Creeks. The Corps has agreed to store the materials on their land near each construction site. Walters said he’s spoken with leaders of the U.S. Army Engineer Construction Battalion located at Ft. Bragg, N.C. and the Virginia National Guard about using their manpower to rebuild the bridges.

Members of these units are building bridges in areas around the world and need training, Walters said. Building bridges for the THT would provide that experience; the only caveat, Walters added, is that the Army requires one-year advance notice to participate in such a project.

Walters said he did not see that time constraint as a problem.

Connecting the Tobacco Heritage Trail to the existing Robert Munford Trail is a no-brainer, according to Walters. He said the Corps has already spent considerable time and money improving that walkway. Additionally, there are existing Corps haul roads that run from the tobacco trail to the Robert Munford Trail that could be incorporated into the THT, and he said the Corps is amenable to this idea.

When It comes to crossing Buggs Island Lake, Walters suggested that Clarksville work with the Norfolk and Southern Railroad to install a cantilevered walkway on the existing railroad bridge.

“That bridge is old and in need of upgrades and repairs,” he said, adding that the railroad might be willing to participate in cost sharing for the walkway if the work coincides with improvements to the current trestle bridge.

There are several action steps Clarksville and Boydton should take to strengthen their position for gaining new trail portions, he continued.

Walters discussed the need for town officials from Clarksville and Boydton to shore up and build on Corps support for the project. Walters said he already extracted commitments from the Corps to help with environmental assessments and to allow THT to incorporate future logging trails into their route.

The towns would need to push both the Southside Planning District Commission and the other THT stakeholders to help procure funding for tunnels, bridges and other similar work.

“We will need regional support as well,” said Walters. “Partners are like magnets, they seldom remain neutral.”

Finally, but equally important, both Clarksville and Boydton must be willing and able to show how they will maintain the trails in their areas, he said.

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Comments

I enjoy the News and Record The print is my favorite. It has been a staple of the household for as long as I Can Remember. I hope to see it carry-on into the future.
Sometimes there has to be questions asked, That answers are hard to find, but questions still must be answered.
I want to know how myself and many others will benefit, from the Tobacco Heritage Trail?
Is it going to employ "out of work" tobacco workers? This is what funds were set aside to do, when the settlement was drafted.The Heritage Trail, is only one small item There are many more projects funded, that should be questioned.

Comments

There was a poorly-written news piece (as usual) in the Brunswick Times-Disgrace where the town manager in Lawrenceville commented on how maintenance was problematic. So, by all means, let's build MORE of something that already can't be maintained.


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