Proposed trail system to connect Galax and Roanoke

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Galax, Carroll and Grayson localities invited to join trail system project

By Brian Funk

Galax, Carroll and Grayson are among more than a dozen Southwest Virginia localities being invited to join an effort to create a new trail system that would connect Galax to Roanoke.
The idea was originally conceived to connect the Huckleberry Trail in Montgomery County to the Roanoke River Greenway, but organizers recently expanded their vision with a plan to create the Valley to Valley Trail, which that would also incorporate the New River Trail State Park.
The Roanoke Times reported that the project could create 100 miles of linked trails, connecting the Roanoke Valley’s greenways system to the Huckleberry Trail in Christiansburg and Blacksburt, which would then — via the Radford area — link to the New River Trail from Pulaski to Galax.
When complete, it would be one of Virginia’s largest trail systems.
The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors and the Christiansburg Town Council held a joint meeting in June to discuss the project, but from that initial discussion grew a larger plan to collaborate with several localities to create a biking/walking trail from Galax to Roanoke, according to Jennifer T. Harris, public information director for Montgomery County.
Earlier this month, Montgomery County Supervisors Chairman Chris Tuck sent a letter to 14 localities, the New Rive Valley Regional Commission, the Rural Transportation Advisory Committee and the Friends of the Huckleberry, asking whether they wanted to join in a forming committee to explore the Valley to Valley Trail.
“The idea is that such a trail will promote regional tourism and economic development, all while expanding alternative transportation options for citizens,” Harris said.
Localities invited to join the committee include the cities of Radford, Salem and Galax; the counties of Roanoke, Montgomery, Pulaski, Wythe, Carroll and Grayson; and the towns of Christiansburg, Blacksburg, Pulaski and Dublin.
Tuck told The Roanoke Times he received positive correspondences from Galax and Carroll County.
In his letter, Tuck said the committee, once formed, would seek federal and state funding and private donations to create the trail system. Localities would support each other in seeking funding, he said.
“Matching funds, when required, would come from the locality in which the construction or purchase of land is occurring,” Tuck said. “For example, if Radford requests funds to build a bridge over the rail yard in Radford, then they would need to come up with matching funds. If Pulaski and Radford were seeking funds for a bridge over the New River, then both would provide matching funds. If the request effects the entire trail, then all members could be asked to contribute.”
The goal is for each locality to utilize current employees, such as parks and recreation and planning staff, to assist with requesting money from state and federal agencies. “No locality would be required to provide funding to the committee,” Tuck said.
The committee would recommend the location of the trail to the localities, and types of construction.
“We know this is a long-term project,” said April DeMotts, Montgomery supervisors’ vice chairwoman, told The Roanoke Times last week. “It could be 20 years before we see this realized, but if we don’t start working on it now, it will never happen.”
DeMotts will be spearheading the effort, along with Montgomery County Supervisor Steve Fijalkowski.
Two obstacles stand in the way of the trail system — the potential cost and acquiring rights-of-way from citizens along whatever route it eventually takes.
“Right-of-way is actually a bigger hurdle than money,” Liz Belcher, coordinator for the Roanoke Valley Greenways Commission, told The Roanoke Times. “You’ve got to have some willing landowners, and you’ve got to piece together a corridor.”
Organizers said citizen involvement would be a critical component to seeing this goal achieved. Already signed on is Montgomery County developer Bill Ellenbogen, one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Huckleberry Trail, who has volunteered his time and abilities to the project.
Tuck said the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors “believes that this Valley to Valley Trail can provide economic benefits, as well as contribute to our quality of life here in Southwest Virginia.”
Once Montgomery County receives responses from the involved localities, an initial committee meeting could be held later this summer or in early fall.