Virginia is taking the first step toward creating a 100-mile hiking trail that would run from Galax to Greenfield in Botetourt County.
The Virginia Department of Transportation is now taking public comment on a proposal to link together four existing trails: the Roanoke River Greenway, the Huckleberry Trail in the New River Valley, the Riverway Trail in Radford and the New River Trail State Park, which runs 57.7 miles from Pulaski to Galax.
If this were to happen – and if the Roanoke River Greenway gets built out all the way to Greenfield as some envision – it would allow someone to hike 100 or so miles without leaving a trail.
This idea originated in 2018 when Montgomery County Supervisor Steve Fijalkowski floated the idea of connecting the trail system in the New River Valley with the trail system in the Roanoke Valley. Soon after, Chris Tuck, then chairman of the Montgomery board, organized a summit of local governments from the two valleys to talk about the idea. The next year, those governments, plus the planning commissions for the two valleys and the Roanoke Valley Greenway Commission, formally requested a VDOT study. VDOT allocated $218,053 for the study.
The first part of that is now done: VDOT has put together some maps identifying possible connection routes between the existing trail systems. Now VDOT is inviting public comment. The deadline is Dec. 1. Comments can be filed through the department’s online site or by mailing them to: Michael Gray, Virginia Department of Transportation, 731 Harrison Ave., Salem VA 24153.
There is no cost estimate for the connector routes or timeline – that depends on which routes are selected and, ultimately, on funding. VDOT spokesman Jason Bond says “the next step will be to secure funding for the detailed design, acquisition of right of way, and construction of trail segments. To do so, the localities or regional groups within the study area will need to apply for funding through one or several funding programs, including but not limited to, SMART SCALE, Revenue Sharing, Transportation Alternatives, Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) and the Recreational Trails Program.”
In 2018, when the idea of connecting the existing trails was first proposed, Montgomery County Supervisor April DeMotts said: “It could be 20 years before we see this realized, but if we don’t start working on it now, it will never happen.” That first stage – identifying routes – is now underway.
Other close-up maps of the routes being studied are below: