Work begins on trail segment

Published 8:47 pm Friday, March 25, 2016

By October, folks in Suffolk will be able to walk, bike and run along a paved trail that stretches from Driver to Chesapeake.

Construction began this week on a 1-mile leg of the city’s Seaboard Coastline Trail, a series of connecting trails that is intended eventually to link downtown Suffolk and Chesapeake. The new trail will traverse an area from Shoulders Hill Road to Town Point Road, said Helen Gabriel, assistant director of Suffolk Parks and Recreation.

The new project will connect to a 2.3-mile stretch of trail between the village of Driver and Shoulders Hill Road that opened in October.

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Crews began clearing brush and trees along the old rail corridor off Shoulders Hill Road on March 22. Gabriel said. They will build a 10-foot-wide, paved trail that will be accessible to pedestrians, non-motorized vehicles and horses, she said.

Along the trail, there will be an occasional bench and a pet waste station, Gabriel said.

Most of the cost of the $536,000 project is being funded with federal grant funds, which require a 20-percent match from the city, according to Gabriel. Earlier this month, the Suffolk City Council voted to accept a $448,800 federal grant administered through the Virginia Department of Transportation for the project.

The Seaboard Coastline Trail is part of a regional, five-city plan for 41 miles of connecting trails that will run from downtown Suffolk to the oceanfront in Virginia Beach. Called the South Hampton Roads Regional Trail, it would also pass through Portsmouth, Norfolk and Chesapeake.

Since opening last fall, the Driver trail has been used by thousands of people, Gabriel said. The city doesn’t have exact numbers for that trail, she added.

“I think people are starting to make exercise a more important part of their lives,” Gabriel said. With the growing emphasis on health and wellness, more people — particularly families — are using the city’s parks and trails.

“As we begin to get more connectivity, I think we will see more people who want to commute to work on bicycles,” said Gabriel.

Gabriel hopes to acquire more grant funding over the next five to seven years to finish remaining segments of the trail. Other sections will run between Moore Avenue and Suburban Drive; Suburban Drive and Nansemond Parkway; and Nansemond Parkway and Driver.