Bike trail extended

Published 9:11 pm Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A popular new trail in Suffolk is 1.1 miles closer to completion following the opening of its second leg recently.

The Suffolk Parks and Recreation Department has extended the Seaboard Coastline Trail, moving it one step closer to its 11.1-mile completed length.

This second phase added to the previous 2.3 miles completed in October. The trail now goes from Driver to the Chesapeake/Suffolk border at Bromay Road.

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The next phase will extend the trail another 1.3 miles, ending at Nansemond River High School.

Helen Gabriel, the assistant director for Suffolk’s Parks and Recreation Department and the project’s manager, said this will require more funding.

“It typically costs $700,000 to $1 million for one mile of a nice, paved trail, and the cost goes up and down depending on amenities,” Gabriel said.

The Seaboard trail is a 10-foot-wide path that accommodates any non-motorized form of transportation, but the most common are cyclists, runners and walkers. Amenities on the Driver end include parking, a bicycle service station, maps and a pet waste station.

Susan Turner works at the Suffolk Humane Society office right next to the Driver end. She said you can find families on the trail with their kids, strollers and bicycles when the weather is warm, along with your “hardcore runners.”

“It’s certainly being well used,” Turner said.

Gabriel inspected the trail on Tuesday, and said she saw “15-24 people” in the afternoon, and that staff members inform her “it’s getting a lot of use.”

“It’s been such a positive amenity and attraction for Suffolk in general,” Gabriel said. “There’s plenty of usage for this trail.”

But this is just the beginning for this attraction. The bigger plan is to finish the 11.1-mile trail as part of the South Hampton Roads Trail, a project that will allow non-motorists to travel 41 miles from downtown Suffolk to the Virginia Beach oceanfront.

Other cities in Hampton Roads are facing their own obstacles as they attempt to make their part of the trail a reality. One part of this grand design is about 2.5 miles of unpaved and unfinished trail in Western Branch, under Chesapeake supervision.

The issue is negotiating the transfer of ownership between Commonwealth Railway and Chesapeake for an abandoned railroad line needed for the Western Branch trail’s completion. The negotiations are ongoing.

“We’re working on getting the project complete as part of the overall regional effort,” Assistant Director of Chesapeake Public Works Earl Sorey said Wednesday. “We can accelerate our schedule accordingly when the transfer is done.”

This large, sprawling undertaking still has a long way to go before Hampton Roads citizens can walk, run or bike between the cities with ease. But people are still working towards that goal.

“It’s been a vision for years, and it’s starting to come to fruition,” Sorey said.