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Tobacco trail segments coming together / June 20, 2012
Virginia’s Tobacco Heritage Trail, years in the making, is steadily coming together in southern Virginia.

With the near-completion of a 2.4 mile stretch in South Boston (see accompanying story), attention has turned to Phase 3 of the project, which ties together existing trails in Brodnax and Lawrenceville to create a 17-mile segment suitable for trail biking through scenic rural Southside.

The contract for the project has been awarded to Virginia-Carolina Paving of South Boston, providing employment for a local contractor, Moody noted. Following a pre-construction conference to iron out the details, “we’re hoping to have construction begin pretty quickly.”

The South Boston trail extension — from the town’s Cotton Mill park to historic Berry Hill Mansion, winding along the banks of the Dan River — marked Phase 2 of the project. The first phase involved the construction of a short stretch between Brodnax and La Crosse and a second trail jutting west of the Town of Lawrenceville.

After Phase 3 comes Phase 4, the Tobacco Heritage Trail’s foray into the heart of Mecklenburg County.

This part of the project involves the construction of trail from Washington Avenue in downtown Boydton all the out to Prison Road several miles away. Now in the design phase, the trail segment is due to come up for discussion this week at a meeting of the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which allocates federal grant funds for trail construction.

The question before planners is whether the CTB will allocate the earmarked funds piecemeal or all at once; the latter option would speed up completion of the project. One complication: the trail must cross U.S. 58, giving rise to several different ways to handle the flow of pedestrian traffic. “That one has a bit of a design dilemma,” said Moody.

She is hopeful the transportation board will go ahead and green light the requested funding: “If they award everything on the tentative schedule, we’ll be able to totally complete the Boydton project without breaking it up.”

The project gained momentum with the recent award of federal stimulus funds. Eventually, the tobacco trail will spread east from Halifax to Brunswick and loop through Charlotte and Lunenburg counties, creating a regional network spanning more than 160 miles of abandoned railroad right-of-way. Touted for its natural and cultural appeal, as well as its tourist potential, the Tobacco Heritage Trail “should be a trail system to leave for future generations of Virginians,” proclaims the master plan.

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