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Long stretch of Tobacco Trail opens

South Boston News / April 16, 2014
With the April 22 opening of a ten-mile segment of the Tobacco Heritage Trail (THT) between the towns of Brodnax and Lawrenceville, the completed stretch of trail will grow to 22 miles.

It’s still just a portion of the envisioned scenic greenway that one day will link Brunswick, Mecklenburg and Halifax counties, but the new segment does create a 17-mile continuous trail from South Hill to Lawrenceville.

To mark the occasion, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held Tuesday, April 22 at 2 p.m. at the Lawrenceville trailhead. A reception will follow at Elm Acres in Lawrenceville.

Heather Susee, coordinator for the Tobacco Heritage Trail, called THT “a path to outdoor recreation and relaxation, surrounded by unspoiled woods, tobacco farms that have been passed from one generation to the next and homey little towns.”

Phase III, the Lawrenceville to Brodnax extension, brings several new additions to the trail, including Crepe Myrtle trees, interpretive signs, four restrooms, and a 300-foot bridge across the Meherrin River, Susee noted.

Trail builders are currently working with a Boy Scout troop in Kenbridge to create a launch site under the Meherrin Bridge so that canoeists and kayakers have a point where they can stop to enjoy the trail or have a picnic.

“This is a great stride forward in trail development,” said Susee.

Once the ribbon is cut next Tuesday afternoon, Susee said she hopes attendees will tour the new trail on bike, foot or horse. The Brunswick County Friends of the Tobacco Heritage Trail is organizing trail tours with staggered releases to accommodate the different types of trail users. Volunteers from local civic organizations will have water stations along the route.

“Explore the natural resources of this Southern Virginia rail-trail on horse, bicycle, or foot and journey back to the history and culture of a simpler time. Our trail is your trail; come on in and make yourself at home,” said Susee.

The idea to create a system of off-road trails originated in 2003 with a group of citizens and local officials who were meeting to create a regional bicycle plan. The group named the route Tobacco Heritage Trail to reflect the area’s long agrarian history and the region’s principal industry for centuries. A segment of abandoned right-of-way between the towns of La Crosse and Brodnax was targeted as the initial leg of the Tobacco Heritage Trail, as the local governments had acquired this property in the 1970s for public use.

Work has already begun on Phase IV, a 1.1 mile stretch in Boydton. It is an off-road nature trail from Prison Road to Washington Street in downtown Boydton.

Aside from the South Hill-to-Lawrenceville stretch, the other completed trail segment is located in South Boston, near The Prizery performing arts center.

The East Coast Greenway initiative will leverage 55 miles of the Tobacco Heritage Trail, from Lawrenceville to Clarksville, in its effort to create a single trail system from Maine to Florida. The East Coast Greenway Alliance is a national non-profit membership organization whose goal is to create an urban, multi-modal alternative to the Appalachian Trail.

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