Bike riders, horseback riders, dog walkers and hikers will have a new recreation trail by fall. A 2.5-mile segment of the Tobacco Heritage Trail is scheduled to open in the next few months from Berry Hill Resort almost to the Dan River at the site of an old cotton mill.
At the old Halifax Cotton Mill, owned by the town of South Boston, a botanical garden will be installed at what will be Cotton Mill Park, at the end of Edmunds Street. At the other end, near Berry Hill, there will be a duck impoundment habitat area created in memory of Biggie Hunt and funded by the Game Commission. Eventually, it may have a pavilion and picnic tables.
“I foresee guests of the plantation spending a day bike riding our trail, enjoying spotting wildlife, having a picnic and getting a lesson in history,” says Heather Susee, trails and tourism coordinator for the Southside Planning District Commission/Virginia Tourism Corporation, based in South Hill. “When the botanical garden is completed in Cotton Mill Park, I envision people throwing a Frisbee or tossing a baseball.”
Construction is under way now, funded by the Virginia Department of Transportation, along a former right of way of the Richmond Danville Spur Trail. The surface of the trail will be aggregate compacted stone. The site is not open to the public during the construction phase.
Susee is working on creating a Friends of the Tobacco Heritage Trail Group, made up of volunteers responsible for maintaining the trail with weed eaters, mowing, limb removal, etc. She is also seeking volunteers for the Friends group to help with publicity, fund raising and trail improvements such as the addition of picnic tables, birdhouses, flowers, etc. She can be reached at 434-447-7101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The new trail is part of a system that advocates hope will be a 150-mile trail in Southside Virginia. Phase one of the trail, already completed, is a four-mile section from La Crosse to Brodnax in Mecklenburg County and a segment in Lawrenceville in Brunswick County. Construction begins soon on Phase 3, which will connect the Brodnax and Lawrenceville sections and create an extension from La Crosse to South Hill, making it a 17-mile trail.
Besides abandoned railroad beds, the Tobacco Heritage Trail will include utility and private land easements obtained through negotiation with local landowners. There is already a trail in Pittsylvania County: the Richmond and Danville Rail Trail. Details at www.tobaccoheritagetrail.org. To the north, another major recreational trail opened in April with rebuilding of the 2,400-foot High Bridge across the Appomattox River.
Now it is possible to bike or hike 31 miles through Cumberland, Nottoway and Prince Edward counties and the towns of Burkeville, Farmville, Pamplin City, Prospect and Rice. On a rail bed once owned by the Norfolk Southern railroad, the flat path is made of limestone.
Details at http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/hig.shtml.