According to the Washington Post, there is a “proposal from Gov. Robert F. McDonnell to spend $150 million in surplus cash on state roads this year.” From what I understand, that’s just to repair the crumbling pothole-ridden asphalt and concrete surfaces which carry our gas-guzzling cars and trucks. Probably before that money’s even allocated, if it is, the infrastructure need will be three times that amount. A spiral, which seems impossible to control.
What if just a portion of those funds were allocated to funding the proposed Virginia portion of the East Coast Greenway? What a message that would send to the nation about the priorities of Virginian. When pigs fly, you say. In all probability, you’re correct. Not in this state, home to a portion of the 3rd worst congested highway system–Capitol Beltway–in the nation.
So what is a greenway in the first place. According to our own Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation,
“Greenways are open space corridors that can be managed for conservation, recreation, and/or alternative transportation. Greenways often follow natural or existing land or water features (like the James River) such as ridgelines, stream valleys, rivers, canals, utility corridors, abandoned rail lines and others….greenways are designed for people to use for recreation and non-motorized transportation, while others are designed for wildlife, biodiversity, and scenic beauty.”
And the East Coast Greenway? Imagine a mostly flat, 3000 mile Appalachian Trail system from the Maine-Canadian border all the way south to Key West Florida, but through the Eastern urban sector–a city-to-city connecting trail provided by a combination of 80% paved or crushed gravel off road paths, with some on-road parts in sparsely populated rural areas and a few urban sections–a green corridor for everyone to hike, bike, accessed by wheelchairs, in-line skates, and horseback riders in certain sections.
Virginia is on board though, in a major way, as its portion is one of the key links. See the trail map of the Greenway system in Virginia, all 270 miles–starting south out of DC on the Mount Vernon Trail, the largest completed sector in the state. Continue down to Fredericksburg and on to Ashland and the Ashland Trolley Trail. Then into Richmond along the Cannon Creek Greenway to the James River where the trail splits: one link heads east –The Historic Coastal Route–on the Virginia Capital Trail to Williamsburg where it would follow the Seaboard Coastline to the Suffolk Seaboard Coastline Trail and on to the Dismal Swamp Trail, ultimately continuing along the North Carolina coast to Wilmington.
The main spine would keep south into Richmond’s James River Park, across Belle Isle, along numerous proposed local greenways to Petersburg and to the Lower Appomatox River Trail. Then on to the Tobacco Heritage Trail and into North Carolina following the Norfolk Southern corridor and 60 miles south. Exciting stuff!
Check out the websites below for more information on what’s happening in your locale, how you can help, and the many Virginia organizations which are partners and supporters of the East Coast Greenway in Virginia.