By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
An enthusiastic crowd turned out Saturday for the grand opening of a new 1.2-mile hiking/biking trail in Fieldale.“It’s great to be here,” State Sen. Roscoe Reynolds told the 25 to 30 people gathered for the event. Reynolds, D-Ridgeway, praised the Henry County Board of Supervisors, Jennifer Doss of the Dan River Basin Association and Roger Adams, director of the Henry County Parks & Recreation Department. “This is a beautiful pathway,” Reynolds said of the new portion of the trail that connects to a 1.1-mile section adjacent to the Smith River. That section opened in July 2007. Like the earlier trail, the new portion of trail was heralded not only as a path to a healthier lifestyle but also an economic development tool. Jim Adams, the Blackberry representative on the Henry County Board of Supervisors, said he went online and did a “Google search of rivers and trails. I was pleasantly surprised to find” that Henry County was referenced in half in the first 10 topics. “This is of a possible 437,000 topics,” Adams said. “One can easily see the attention that this brings to the area and helps not only promote us as a destination, but can help promote and drive us economically.”
Like several other speakers, Adams praised the Dan River Basin Association and the Martinsville-Henry County Rivers and Trail Group, which exists “to protect, promote and enhance the natural resources of our area. ... We are very fortunate to have” them. The group not only provides opportunities for outdoor recreation, but also participates in local schools “with many educational opportunities for our children,” Adams said. Group members also “are the extra set of eyes that helps monitor our rivers and streams” while looking for ways to improve the access to and quality of waterways, Adams said.
Doss said the goal “was to create a trail having a minimum impact on the environment while having a maximum level of interest.” Frith Construction made that happen, she said. “By using small equipment and sustainable building techniques the trail was constructed with conservation of the land, flora, fauna, and water in mind,” she added. Doss said there have been many supporters of the project, including the Dominion Foundation “which has been a major supporter since the demonstration trail” (the first phase of the project) was built. Dominion’s investment “helped create a tangible resource that will be used by generations to come,” Doss said. Bryant Brooks Sr., manager of state and local affairs for Dominion, said in creating “this special place,” DRBA and others involved in the project did “a yeoman’s job. There were so many folks involved in this effort.” Sometimes, Brooks said “the easiest part” of a project is “writing checks” to help to pay for it. “The real heroes are you folks” who actually did the work and saw the project to completion. In tough economic times, he said those involved are building a heritage for future generations, and “that’s something to be said.”
In addition to Dominion and other agencies, Frith Construction, Boxley Materials and Patrick Henry Correctional Unit 28 also were involved with the project, along with George Lester, James Stone, the Henry County Public Service Authority, Ellen and Joe Jessee, Dave Wilson, Kay Slaughter and the agriculture of Magna Vista High School, Doss said. “This trail is more than just a walking path, it is part of a greater vision consisting of competing the 45-mile long Smith River Trail System, the Virginia Beaches to Bluegrass Trail, and the goal of a healthier and more active community,” she added.