There is exciting news coming out of southwest Virginia,
with energy building for a rail-trail to capture some of that region’s growing
outdoor recreation market.
In the town of Marion in the largely rural Smyth County,
local businessman Tom Graham is gathering support for utilizing an out-of-service section of the Marion and Rye Valley Railway, creating a multi-use pathway linking Marion to the slopes below Mount Rogers to the southwest.
The Marion and Rye Valley Railway was a logging railroad
that once ran from Marion south to Sugar Grove, where it connected with the
Virginia Southern Railroad across Iron Mountain, through Troutdale, then west
to the small community of Fairwood inside Jefferson National Forest.
“It’s a gem hidden in our backyard here in Smyth County,”
Graham was quoted as saying in a story published last week in the
Graham is asking the county’s board of supervisors to pass a
resolution of support for the project, which would aim to replicate some of the
success of the nearby Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail (below), which
attracts tens of thousands of visitors a year. The nearby New River Rail Trail State Park (above) has also proven itself to be a considerable draw for both visitors and residents. The potential of such a
destination rail-trail out of Marion has already drawn the enthusiastic backing
of Smyth County Tourism.
According to the Wytheville Enterprise, Smyth County Tourism
Director Ron Thomason said “I really believe this is a home run. I believe it
will bring people here,” adding that a rail-trail connecting Marion with the
myriad state parks and recreation areas in the region would complement the new
trail system in nearby Hungry Mother State Park, which the county is set to
unveil this spring.
Graham says the Virginia Creeper Trail is a good model for a
prospective Rye Valley Railway rail-trail, pointing to the economic injection
its many visitors bring to nearby communities.
“A fraction of that would change Teas and perhaps Smyth
County,” Graham told the board of supervisors. “I think it’s something that could
bring smiles to faces and work off some of the pounds we need to.”
Photos courtesy of TrailLink.com.
I love rail trails. I also love to ride rural ROADS, but drivers are often rude to cyclists, and now we are supposed to come spend our money in a place that, in my experience, treats cyclists badly. Go figure.
So, how long would this potential rail-to-trail be? Would it be an out-and-back, or would it link desinations?
Keep up the good work, Tom.
Trails are good for the health of your citizens, good for jobs and revitalize communities.
Here's what the Virginia Creeper Trail did for Damascus: www.greenway.org/.../va_creepertrail_study.pdf
while details about the trail's route and length are still being discussed, I understand proponents are keen to hook it up to the Appalachian Trail which passes nearby. That would be a great connection not only for local trail users, but also one that would bring long-distance hikers into town for R&R. Good trails, good business.
Love the Creeper tho I am 100 miles away in TN. A link to it and the NRT would be fantastic.
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