MARTINSVILLE – The Dick & Willie Passage Rail Trail is close to completion with support from The Harvest Foundation to finalize “6A,” a 2.96-mile section located from the Spruce Street Trailhead to the end of the existing trail at Mulberry Creek.
Henry County will receive a Harvest grant award of $320,600 over two years, encompassing 20 percent of the total budget for the capital project.
Allyson Rothrock, president of The Harvest Foundation, said trails provide considerable economic growth for communities in which they reside.
“The trail system is not only a community gem but an economic driver,” Rothrock said. “Trails bring job growth in construction and maintenance as well as tourism-related opportunities, like rafting on the Smith River, bike purchases, food and lodging purchases and more. Trails provide the tools to turn geographic resources into community trademarks that become focal points of civic pride and key attractors of new residents and businesses. This asset truly is one of the key pieces of our community’s economic rebuilding efforts.”
Henry County Administrator Tim Hall added, “the Dick & Willie Trail is one of the best amenities we have, and we are particularly excited about the 6A project. When it’s finished we will have more than 10 contiguous miles of trail through this community, and that opens up a lot of possibilities moving forward.”
According to statistics from the Virginia Creeper Trail, tourists spend around $1.2 million annually in the two-county community surrounding the trail.
Sarah Hodges, director of tourism and talent development at the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., said with this expansion and the possibility of future additions, it is likely that the Dick & Willie can have a similar impact on Martinsville and Henry County.
“It’s wonderful when local residents take advantage of the beautiful asset that is the Dick & Willie Trail,” she said. “We’re also thrilled when visitors come to our community for the sole purpose of enjoying the trail. Many visitors decide to plan trips around it making their stay an experience, enjoying other area walking trails and amenities in Martinsville-Henry County. In turn, we’re seeing increases in sales and meals tax collections, as well as lodging tax that supports our entire community.”
Having 20 miles of available trail round-trip opens up the doors for additional sporting and recreational events like bike rides and foot races, according to the grant application.
The trail already hosts a variety of events throughout the year including the Turkey Day 5K and Family Run, the Martinsville Half Marathon & 5K and others, organized by Miles in Martinsville.
In addition to support from Henry County and Harvest, the Virginia Department of Transportation TAP (Transportation Alternatives Programs) grants program and the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Revenue Sharing Program will support the project.
Funding from Harvest primarily will be used for trail construction, and a portion of that funding is earmarked to purchase a trail counter system that will provide reliable usage data needed for future grants or funding opportunities.
The trail is part of the former Danville and Western Railroad. Phases one through five of the trail were completed in 2010 bringing 4.5 miles one way.
In November, phase 6B of the trail officially opened to much fanfare, adding an additional 2.5-mile section stretching from the Smith River Sports Complex to the Spruce Street Trailhead.
Design work for 6A already is underway.
Officials hope to open this portion of the trail by the summer of 2021.