FOLAR Announces Plan for 20+ miles of Trails Along Appomattox River

After an intensive 12-month process that began with a $100,000 grant from The Cameron Foundation last spring, Friends of the Lower Appomattox River has released its Appomattox River Trail Master Plan. The document represents the combined efforts of FOLAR and two consulting design companies – Land Planning and Design Associates as well as AB Design – along with significant input from regional stakeholders and the public.

Entering the boardwalk at Appomattox Regional Riverfront Park. Credit: Leonard Adkins

The ART Master Plan is a guide to locating and prioritizing shared-use trails with a coordinated signage system through the six municipalities that border the lower Appomattox River. The area encompasses the counties of Chesterfield, Dinwiddie and Prince George, and the cities of Colonial Heights, Hopewell and Petersburg. The planned trail and signage offer walkers and cyclists safe, enjoyable connections to recreational opportunities, greenspace and nature, as well as connections to historic sites and structures, businesses, jobs, schools and transit.

“Our region is fortunate to have a designated state Scenic River with stunning natural beauty and incredible historic sites and structures as well as potential for premier recreational opportunities. The Appomattox River Trail will connect them and make them available for everyone,” said FOLAR Chair Ken Newman.

Since FOLAR was founded in 2001 with the support of the Crater Planning District Commission, a central part of the organization’s community-driven vision has been to create a trail connecting the six river municipalities. The ART master plan project builds on years of developing partnerships and community outreach by FOLAR to engage businesses, industry, government and thousands of volunteers, so far producing 10+ miles of trail and $3.5 million of investment in the region. Through these partnerships, and with significant capacity-building support from The Cameron Foundation to strengthen FOLAR’s operations, FOLAR has successfully led the completion of the ART Master Plan and moved the vision one step closer to reality.

The ART Master Plan comprises several components. It provides an inventory of existing trails and identifies the preferred routes. It presents information on trail types as well as corresponding wayfinding signage. It offers guidance to assist with plan implementation, including prioritization of more than 60 proposed trail segments and a summary of potential funding sources. The plan also includes an assessment report on the environmental impact of the proposed trail routes.

Through an additional grant from the Crater Health District under the Virginia Department of Health, the ART Master Plan incorporates recommendations for pedestrian amenities, walkable trail connections, and corresponding signage and mapping in both Hopewell and Petersburg to provide residents more opportunities to add exercise into their daily routines.


“This has been a huge effort on the part of the consultants and FOLAR, and it encompassed the entire community,” said Wendy Austin, executive director of FOLAR. “We feel that we now have a comprehensive and useful tool for communicating the vision of building the trail. Successful implementation will take time, cooperation, diligence, and of course, funding. Developing a unified body of support for the plan will be critical to acquiring funding for implementation.”

The implementation of the ART Master Plan will be an ongoing, coordinated effort involving each of the six municipalities, FOLAR, the Crater Planning District Commission, and key community stakeholders like The Cameron Foundation and the John Randolph Foundation, both of which recently awarded grants to FOLAR for operational support.

Links to the full plan can be found here:

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Get Shot by a Drone on T-Pot Tomorrow

Got a free lunch hour tomorrow from noon to 1 p.m. or so? Head down to Brown’s Island and the new T-Pot Bridge for an “RVA group photo” shot by drone organized by the Sports Backers.

From Bike Walk RVA (a program of the SBs): Rain and cold make it difficult if not impossible to fly a drone carrying a camera. And unfortunately, that’s the forecast for this coming week. Well, except for Tuesday.

Therefore, we have decided to reschedule the RVA group photo on the Potterfield Bridge for this Tuesday, Dec. 13 at the same time (12:30 PM).

If we are going to get this done before the holidays, this is our best bet. We apologize for the short notice and any inconvenience. If you could please help spread the word, we would be very appreciative.

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Experience RVA’s Human-Friendly Bridge from your Laptop (or Phone)

By now you’ve probably seen the news about the brand spanking new human friendly (as opposed to car friendly) bridge over the James River in downtown Richmond. The T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge — a.k.a. the T Pot — was officially opened just over a week ago to much fanfare.

As Jackie Kruszewski wrote in a piece for Style Weekly, “the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge is named in honor of a senior planner for the city who died in 2014 at 55. Potterfield advocated for the bridge, which was built on top of a 1901 dam from Brown’s Island to the south bank of the James.”

The bridge, which connects Manchester to Brown’s Island cost the city $11.3M and includes Colorado-based Josh Weiner’s art installation of eight 17-foot steel rings at its southern terminus.

If you haven’t seen the bridge yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. Park at the Belle Isle parking lot on Tredegar Street and walk back up Tredegar Street to Brown’s Island. In the meantime, though, Ryan Abrahamsen with has brought us the next best thing. He created a 360-degree panoramic image map of the bridge, so you can walk it from the comfort of your laptop or phone. Check it out by clicking here. That should wet your whistle and get you planning an actual trip down to the river.

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25 Miles of New Bike Lanes Could Look Like This…

Plastic posts separating car from bicycle traffic.

Plastic posts separating car from bicycle traffic.

Blogging on the Sports Backers’ website, Bike Walk RVA Director Max Hepp-Buchanan offers a summary of Tuesday’s big bike lane meeting, where city planners presented designs for 25 total miles of new bike lanes in 10 or so different corridors.

Hepp-Buchanan described some those designs as being “in the near-final stages and others in earlier, more conceptual stages.”

It’s been over a year since the City striped a new bike lane on our streets, and people are eager to see more. The excitement was palpable, radiating from the packed room of around 140 attendees…While people were excited about the new mileage, not everyone was as excited about the actual designs. The big takeaway: people want physical protection from traffic. Only one corridor (Franklin Street) provided physical separation in the form of plastic posts, and even that protection was sacrificed for a couple of blocks to make room for on-street parking.

Click here to read more from Hepp-Buchanan and here to check out the designs on the city’s website. Comments on the new designs will be accepted through mid-December.

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Pushing Richmond for 20 (More) Miles of Bike Lanes

I wanted to pass along this email from BikeWalk RVA because I think it’s hugely important in moving us forward as a city that’s friendly to bicyclists and incentivizes bicycle travel.

rvabikelanesmeeting_emailheaderThe City of Richmond hasn’t striped a new bike lane in over a year, but that’s about to change. On November 22 from 5 to 7 p.m., the city is hosting a big meeting at the Main Library on Franklin Street to publicly vet plans for OVER 20 MILES of new bike lanes. These include 90% plans for a two-way protected bike lane on Franklin St. between Monroe Park and the Capitol at 9th St and 30% plans for seven other bikeway corridors in the city that would combine to make 20 new miles of bike lanes in Richmond!

The consultants and City of Richmond staff need you to be there to provide support and evaluate the bikeway designs! They need to know that you support building bikeways that are safe, comfortable, and intuitive for families, those new to riding, and visitors to Richmond. Bike lanes should be protected with flex posts, planters, parked cars, or other barriers whenever possible. If not, as we have learned from other bike lane projects, people will drive and/or park in them.

The plans being presented will be in different stages of completion, so your feedback is going to be super important in informing what the final products look like.

Here are a couple of questions to consider going into the meeting: 

What makes you feel most comfortable when riding in a bike lane? Would you prefer physical protection separating you from traffic (plastic posts, curb, planter boxes, parked cars), or are painted stripes enough? What is most likely to get more people riding?What would it take for an 80-year-old grandmother to feel safe riding to the store? Or for her to feel confident allowing her 8-year-old grandchild to bike to school?


Click here to let BikeWalk RVA know that you’ll be there in support of more bike lanes in Richmond.

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Voting for Green Spaces in Henrico

A boardwalk in Henrico's Cheswick Park.

A boardwalk in Henrico’s Cheswick Park.

In the Op/Ed section of Tuesday’s Times-Dispatch, Sports Backers Executive Director Jon Lugbill clues us in to something all Henrico voters should keep an eye out for in the ballot box next Tuesday.

“A bond referendum package for parks projects would include an 87.1 million investment over six years, without an increase in the tax rate,” Lugbill writes.

Among the natural areas in the county that would see improvements: Greenwood Park, Tuckahoe Park, Taylor Park, Cheswick Park, Tuckahoe Creek Park, Dorey Park, Deep Run Park, and Three Lakes Nature Center.

I’ve hiked at Cheswick and Deep Run parks, fished at Three Lakes, mountain biked at Dorey and bird watched at Tuckahoe Creek. The idea of those green spaces getting even more TLC is an exciting one.

“Henrico’s bond referendum elevates its support of active-living infrastructure for its residents and maximizes the benefits of sports tourism,” Lugbill adds.

Give Lugbill’s column a read, Henrico voters, then do yourself a favor and vote for increased resources for Henrico’s nature parks.

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High Bridge Trail State Park Offers Variety of Great Ways to Explore Farmville

High Bridge Trail State Park in Farmville

This past weekend I spent the day hiking and biking the High Bridge Trail State Park in and around Farmville. The weather was perfect and the trip wound up being a rewarding physical challenge.

High Bridge Trail State ParkThe trail is a former rail bed and the surface is crushed and compacted limestone, suitable for whatever bike style you prefer. At 31 miles long, it’s primarily programmed for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding. It is approximately 10-12 feet wide (think double track) and there are no steep climbs or downhills – remember, trains once ran this hills and trains don’t like steep climbs and descents.

It is easy to know where you are at all times as the trail is well-marked, with distance markers every half mile. Most of the entire corridor is at least partially shaded and there are few road crossings due to the power that railroad companies have always had in limiting interruptions to safe passage for their trains.

The most significant feature of the park is the High Bridge itself. It is more than 2,400 feet long and 125 feet above the Appomattox River. It is the longest recreational bridge in Virginia and among the longest in the United States, according to the Virginia State Parks.

If you are hiking, most visitors park at the River Road trailhead and walk about a mile to the bridge. The view of the valley below and the Appomattox from the bridge is fantastic and certainly the highlight for most visitors.

High Bridge Trail State Park in Farmville

In my handful of previous visits to High Bridge, I had only biked the trail. I usually park in Farmville and bike the 10-mile round-trip to the bridge and back. This trip, I had more time (and my family didn’t come with me), so I decided to hike 4.5 miles from Farmville, after leaving my bike at River Road for the return trip.

I was ambitious, hoping to bike the entire trail (62 miles, out and back) after hiking 8 miles. I fell short, calling it quits after biking 37 miles. It was a lot hotter than I expected and I ran out of water (dumb) and energy (I shouldn’t have skimped on lunch). I never made it east of the High Bridge, missing out on the towns of Rice, Moran and the east end of the trail, which is located just shy of Burkeville.

Because the trail is a former railway line, it is a better match for the speed of a cyclist or on horseback. Other than the bridge, there just isn’t as much to see for hikers and the distances are too great, but Virginia State Parks is working on that.

Under the bridge at High Bridge Trail State Park in FarmvilleThis summer, they opened a spur trail (not bikeable) on the south end of the bridge at Camp Paradise, an earthen fortification from the Civil War. The loop trail offers a chance to see the structure from underneath the bridge and to walk along the banks of the Appomattox.

Seeing the massive bridge from below was amazing. It was originally built in 1853 and has been through many upgrades and repairs and has obviously seen its share of history. The steel girders and ancient brick piers are so much more impressive up close from underneath.

From a cycling standpoint, one thing I’ll say about trying to bike the entire trail – it is mentally tougher to tame than I expected. I’ve biked that distance before, but not after first hiking 8 miles. That wasn’t it. Maybe it was the lack of cold water or hunger messing with me, but the trail west of Farmville has a monotonous sameness to it. And it seemed like it was uphill both ways.

Headed west from Farmville, as I rounded each bend, I continually expected some downhill. When I reached the end of the trail in Pamplin City, I figured I’d turn around and coast back into have a beer once I got back to Farmville. Didn’t happen. Even after looking at the topography after my ride, I’m still not convinced the trail isn’t uphill in each direction.

Enough about me. I witnessed lots of families out for perhaps their first distance bike ride. One such family said they made it about halfway from Farmville, decided it was too long and turned around. The mother promised they would be back, saying that they were working on improving their endurance.

If you go, Farmville is about 60 miles from Richmond. Expect a parking fee at the state park trailheads ($2 to $3 depending on the day of the week). Parking at the trailhead in Farmville was free.

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Sculptor’s Vision for South End of Potterfield Bridge Emerges

Credit: Joshua Weiner

Credit: Joshua Weiner


Back in the spring, Riverside Outfitters owner, Matt Perry, and I had the pleasure of showing Boulder, Colo. resident Josh Weiner around RVA on mountain bikes. Who’s Josh Weiner? He’s the artist Richmond commissioned to create a sculpture at the southern terminus of the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge.

Weiner was in town to scope out the area where the sculpture would sit, get the lay of the land and learn about the city and its relationship to the river. Well, yesterday he released what he calls “The Path Untraveled,” a series of 17-foot-tall rings that cut along the landscape at the base of the bridge (which is under construction and will offer a bike/ped pathway from Brown’s Island to Manchester).

In his proposal, Weiner writes that he hopes his vision of 10 rings, “an artwork of new paths, uncharted territory and flow will honor this legacy of pathways,” he writes. “The artwork laces through the transition zone from civilization to nature, riding the edge of nature, dancing between the built and the wild. I was drawn to create a playful connection between nature and our civilized world.”

Weiner’s proposal will go before the full Public Art Commission next month.

Like most public art, Weiner’s vision has already generated much discussion. Take a look at the pictures he included with his proposal and see what you think.

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The Kickstand — Bike Rental, Sales, Service Shop — Now Open on Va. Capital Trail

IMG_0382Man, it’s hot out there. Maybe not the best day for a ride on the Virginia Capital Trail, at least not midday. But when it cools down — maybe in September? — there are great options for riding Virginia’s newest greenway.

Back in late May I wrote about Richmond Cycling Corps unveiling The Kickstand, a bicycle rental, sales and service shop right on the Cap Trail (as it’s affectionately known). Well, the Kickstand opened in July, and it’s even cooler than I imagined.

It’s located in the grassy parking area just west of the Intermediate Terminal Building, next to where Gillies Creek enters the James River. You can’t miss the repurposed shipping container, now that it’s painted teal and has dozens of bikes arrayed around it. It’s soft opening was July 16, and the shop hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Weekday hours will be Wednesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to noon and 4 to 8 p.m.

The Kickstand also sells basic bike gear, like tubes and chain lube, and offers an on-site mechanic for tune-ups and tweaks. Maybe the coolest aspect of the venture is that it offers jobs staffing the shop for the RCC youth. Part of that job description is trail patrol. Every day the Kickstand is open, the kids, who have been trained in first aid and basic bike maintenance, head out for a 20-mile round trip on the trail offering mechanical assistance, first aid, water, and other aid to any trail users who might need it. They will also be available by calling a designated number, with the Kickstand serving as dispatch.

If you need to rent a bike, the Kickstand is now your place in downtown Richmond. To learn more, click here.

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Richmond Cycling Corps to Open Bike Rental Shop on Va. Capital Trail

On May 14th, I wrote about how Richmond Cycling Corps is moving its headquarters to a formerly vacant building much closer to the kids the group serves (mostly in Fairfield Court). As I said in that post, RCC always seems to be up to something big. Now comes more evidence. This summer they’ll launch a new venture — a bike rental shop on the Virginia Capital Trail in Richmond called The Kickstand. I recently caught up with RCC Director of Development Matt Crane to find out more about it. Here’s our interview.
An aerial view of the Sugar Pad (water front concrete structure) RCC's "Kickstand" bike rental shop will be located.

An aerial view of the area where RCC’s “Kickstand” bike rental shop will be located.

RO: How long has this been in the works? Who’s idea was it? How did it come together?

MC: The Kickstand came about from an idea hatched by Richmond Cycling Corps Executive Director Craig Dodson in late summer of 2015. He was spending significant time on the Virginia Capital Trail, especially the section by Rockett’s Landing, and was struck by the incredible volume of trail users. He immediately realized the potential for a bicycle rental service there. Through the Richmond Bicycle Studio, our full-service bike shop, we’ve received a significant number of queries about bicycle rental over the past few years. A rental service had always been in the back of our minds as an expansion of earned income for RCC; seeing the potential on the Capital Trail put it all together.
The last piece to fall into place, and which truly made the whole thing click, was the realization that The Kickstand project would not only serve as earned income for RCC, but would provide a means of creating employment for the youth in Richmond’s East End public housing that RCC serves.
Putting all of this into place was only possible because of the support of the City of Richmond, which has been a steadfast supporter from the inception of the project. Seed funding from The Robins Foundation has allowed us to get started on this right away, and we are incredibly grateful for that.
RO: Can you give me some of the basic details for the Kickstand? Where will it be located exactly? When does it open? Hours of operation? How many kids will staff it? Will it offer anything besides bike rentals? What kinds of will be available bikes? Open all year? Seasonal?
MC: Location: Grassy parking area just west of the Intermediate Terminal Building next to where Gillies Creek enters the James River
Opens: TBD. Looking at mid-June.
Hours: 8am-12pm, 4pm-8pm. Open Spring, Summer, Fall.
Staff: 3-5 youth
Rentals: Fleet of Kona bicycles, including hybrids of all sizes and a tandem.
Offers: Mechanical assistance and repairs, basic supplies, cold drinks
Also: Bicycle Patrol of RCC youth! In the style of a ski patrol, these youth will be equipped with first aid training, and will be prepared to offer mechanical assistance, first aid, water, and other assistance to trail users. They will be available by calling a designated number; The Kickstand will serve as dispatch.
The Va. Capital Trail near the Richmond/Henrico line. Credit: VDOT

The Va. Capital Trail near the Richmond/Henrico line. Credit: VDOT

RO: What do you hope the kids get out of this?

MC: Our youth will gain summer employment, interaction with the community, on-the-job training, and a chance to offer their experience and value as cyclists toward helping other riders.
RO: What do you hope the Richmond community gets from the rental shop?
MC: Richmond stands to gain significantly by opening up the beautiful Virginia Capital Trail to more users. Anyone in the community will now have access to the trail — both those without bicycles, or those who do not have the ability to ride or drive their bike down to the trail. This will also open up tourist use of the trail — currently there is no bicycle rental available on the trail itself. Visitors to Richmond will have the ability to use the Va. Capital Trail on bicycles.
RO: How does this fit with the RCC mission?
MC: The RCC mission is about so much more that bicycles; at heart, we are an empowerment program for youth in poverty. We choose the bicycle as our tool for the momentous task of breaking youth free from systemic poverty. Providing employment, and connections to the community, is essential to this. The Kickstand will open up new paths to employment.
RCC believes not just in empowering youth, but in creating a sustainable non-profit operation through empowered income generation. By creating self-sufficient funding through earned income, we are able to more solidly position ourselves to be of maximum service to our youth. We have made a commitment to never let them down, and by taking care of our financial future, we are ensuring that the opportunities we provide will be available for years to come.
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