Construction starts this month on a new segment of greenway along the Roanoke River in Roanoke County. Photo courtesy of Roanoke County.
Construction starts this month on a new segment of greenway along the Roanoke River in Roanoke County. Photo courtesy of Roanoke County.

Here’s a roundup of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

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Map courtesy of Roanoke County.

Construction begins on new greenway segment in Roanoke County

Construction starts this month on a 0.6-mile section of the West Roanoke River Greenway in Roanoke County.

The new section of greenway will run along the south side of the Roanoke River and will connect to an existing section of greenway located along West Riverside Drive west of Mill Lane in Salem, according to a news release from Roanoke County.

The project will include a 10-foot-wide asphalt greenway, a 26-space trailhead parking lot, a crosswalk across West Riverside Drive, retaining walls, and signs and fencing. The work is financed by $12.6 million in federal and state funds, the release said.

Construction is anticipated to be complete by March 2025.

A second phase of the project would create an 0.8-mile section of greenway with two bridges across the Roanoke River and a crossing underneath Diuguids Lane, the county said. Roanoke County and Salem are working to acquire the rights of way needed to complete the entire project, the county said.

For more information, visit

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Fire forces closure of Appalachian Trail in Bedford County

A forest fire in Bedford County has led to the closing of a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

The Matts Creek Fire covers 150 acres within the Jefferson National Forest, 5 miles southeast of Glasgow and 5 miles northwest of Big Island, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The entire fire is on National Forest lands and no structures are threatened.

The James River Face Wilderness and all associated trails, including a section of Appalachian Trail, are closed to the public.  

Closed trails include:

  • Appalachian Trail from James River foot bridge to Petite’s Gap Road
  • James River foot bridge parking lot
  • Matts Creek Trail
  • Piney Ridge Trail
  • Balcony Falls Trail
  • Gunther Ridge Trail
  • Belfast Trail
  • Sulphur Springs Trail

For fire updates, visit

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$5 million gift will support residence hall work at Sweet Briar

Sweet Briar College has received a $5 million gift to support the rehabilitation of Gray Hall.

Keenan Colton Kelsey, a 1966 alumna of the college, made the donation through the Where Women Lead campaign, the school announced.

Gray Hall was one of the first residence halls designed for Sweet Briar by architect Ralph Adams Cram and was constructed in 1906. A century later, it was transformed into an administrative and academic building.

As enrollment at the college has increased over the last eight years, the need for additional student housing has emerged, and Gray Hall will be returned to its original purpose as a residence hall, according to the release.

“I am a fierce believer in same sex education, particularly women’s education,” Keenan said in the release. “We need the information, the confidence, the critical thinking, and the moral compass to make maximum contributions to the world. Sweet Briar gives women options to have choices in life.”

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Conservation and recreation projects receive $14.7 million funding

Conservation and recreation projects in Floyd, Buchanan and Franklin counties are among 29 such efforts that received $14.7 million in funding from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation.

Grants were awarded in five categories: farmland preservation, forest preservation, historic preservation, natural area protection, and open spaces and parks, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

“We’re excited that this year’s grant round will protect a record 55,575 acres,” Matthew Wells, director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, said in the release. “In addition to preserving Virginia’s scenic byways and river frontage, these strategically targeted land conservation projects will help improve our water quality, protect biodiversity and enhance public access to the outdoors.”

Virginia Land Conservation Foundation board members are appointed by the governor, the Senate and the House of Delegates. The board includes the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry.

Projects awarded funding include:

  • Highlands-Lonesome Pine (Wise, Buchanan and Dickenson Counties), $1 million for a conservation easement to protect 44,327 acres.
  • Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve (Floyd County), $3.6 million to acquire 1,000 acres adjacent to Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve.
  • Grassy Hill Natural Area Preserve (Franklin County), $250,000 to acquire 48 acres adjacent to the preserve.
  • Difficult Creek Natural Area Preserve/Browne Farm Easement (Halifax County), $250,000 for a 45-acre conservation easement.
  • East West Creek Farms LLC (Mecklenburg County), $610,000 for a conservation easement on 720 acres of active farmland that is part of a multi-generational family operation.
  • Pedlar Hills Addition (Montgomery County), additional funding to complete the acquisition of 156 acres adjacent to Pedlar Hills Glades Natural Area Preserve, which is currently 1,177 acres.
  • Clinch Mountain, Pinnacle Rock (Washington County), $567,250 to acquire 680 acres of mostly Appalachian hardwood forests, with a riparian buffer protecting 4.7 miles of the Brumley Creek headwaters.
  • Abrams Creek Property Addition to Mendota Trail (Washington County), $241,000 for a conservation easement and acquisition to protect 220 acres of Appalachian hardwood forestland and ridgetops.
  • Huff Rock (Wise County), $182,000 for a conservation easement to protect 661 acres on Powell Mountain, including mountaintop rock formations such as Huff Rock and cave portals.