Proposed state trail funding could put the Shenandoah Rail Trail
on track to becoming a reality
Today Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced funding for multi-use trails that will make the vision of a Shenandoah Rail Trail connecting the towns from Broadway to Front Royal a step closer to reality.
“A Shenandoah Rail Trail would be a game changer for our region. It would connect communities along the 48-mile route in a way they haven’t been since the trains ran. And converting the unused corridor into a trail will preserve an integral part of our history as rail towns and give local folks and visitors alike a safe way to travel and recreate,” says Brandon Davis, Chair of the Shenandoah Rail Trail Partnership, an unincorporated coalition of public, private and non-profit organizations along the proposed route.
The idea of a Shenandoah Rail trail is broadly supported by the community. Resolutions of support have been adopted by all three counties and nine incorporated towns along the rail corridor, in addition to local non-profits and community organizations. Additionally, regional legislators, both state and federal, whose districts include parts of the trail, have expressed support for the project.
“Outdoor recreation provides an important boost to local economies,” said Senator Emmett Hanger who spoke at the Governors announcement in Richmond. “When a community has a multi-use trail, or a state park or forest, it is not only a draw for visitors, it improves the quality of life for those who live there. These investments will ensure more access to Virginia’s beautiful landscape for generations to come.”
A recently completed economic impact analysis predicts that a Shenandoah Rail Trail will generate $32.3 million per year in new spending in the region when fully opened. Those dollars will support 319 new jobs and another $10 million in labor income for existing and new main-street businesses. The expanded economy created by the trail will generate additional tax revenue each year—$1.7 million for counties, $0.2 million for towns, and $0.6 million for the state.
The Governor’s outgoing budget includes $245 million for outdoor recreation, a portion of which will support development of destination trails. In addition to the Shenandoah Rail Trail, there are two other similar trails in the works across the state that could benefit from the state’s investment, the proposed 43-mile Fall Line Trail from Ashland to Petersburg and the Eastern Shore Trail from Cape Charles to Haywood.
“I appreciate that the administration will leave a legacy of expanded trails and parks in response to the need for more access to outdoor recreation opportunities revealed by the COVID pandemic over the past 18 months. Not only will these projects result in broad state-wide benefits, they’ll re-energize and re-connect the neighboring trail communities in an accessible way,” says Don Hindman of Woodstock, Project Manager of the Shenandoah Rail Trail Partnership.