Share your thoughts about trails

Published 10:05 pm Friday, May 19, 2017

Picture a network of trails for walkers, joggers and bikers connecting North Suffolk to downtown Suffolk, or downtown all the way to the Virginia Beach oceanfront. Or maybe you would like to be able to ride to and from a mountain-bike route that could be built at a park like Lone Star Lakes.

City planners like Michael Kelly and parks and recreation officials like Helen Gabriel are imagining all of this and more, and they want your help and input.

In a few years, you may be able to walk around a more revitalized downtown, and instead of driving you can choose to walk or ride there from a few blocks away, the other end of Suffolk, or someplace in between.


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City officials are primarily interested in Suffolk, but our trails could be part of bigger regional system as well.

For those with the endurance and a sense of adventure, there is a proposal for a Birthplace of America Trail that could loop around the James River. If built, it could connect Hampton with Jamestown, and riders could use the ferry to get to Surry County. From there it could make its way through Smithfield and into Suffolk.

That trail could even link up with the Virginia Capitol Trail, which already makes its way from Williamsburg to Richmond. In Suffolk, it might link up with the Seaboard Coastline Trail.

You can’t discuss trails around Suffolk without mentioning the Seaboard Coastline Trail. Readers know the vision for this trail is to have a route that runs from the train station museum downtown all the way to the Virginia Beach oceanfront.

You probably also know a good stretch of it between Driver and Pughsville is open now. It is also a good example of the challenges that need to be overcome to achieve what might seem like a simple idea: converting abandoned rail lines into trails for foot traffic and cyclists.

It would be a mistake to think the upcoming meeting is just about completing the SCT, though. Ultimately, that may be just one of the trails and paths around Suffolk. Officials would like to consider how to weave together the two main growth areas of northern and central Suffolk.

The city is getting help from the consulting firm of Rhodeside and Harwell, whose website has examples of work in Newport News, Greenville, N.C., and Alexandria. Looking at some of those projects could easily cause you to get excited about what is possible in Suffolk.

It is still early enough in the planning phase where community input can make a real difference in the final outcome. As the city’s Michael Kelly notes, “planning is preparation for the activity.”

The bicycle and pedestrian planning process was funded by a grant, and there is the potential for federal and other funding sources to supplement local spending when a plan is ready.

To learn more about the city’s first Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, mark your calendar for this Thursday’s meeting at the Creekside Recreation Center on Bennetts Creek Park Road. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

John Carr is the publisher of the Suffolk News-Herald and a recent addition to the board of the Suffolk Crime Line. Email him at