Amherst County leaders seek $1.3 million state grant to extend river trail

By  | 

MADISON HEIGHTS, Va. (WDBJ7) Over the past decade, Amherst County has invested millions of dollars to transform the banks of the James River in Madison Heights into Riveredge Park, a dynamic spot for families to enjoy the outdoors.

The current trail at Riveredge Park in Madison Heights is only 0.4 miles long and has no connections.

"It continues to be improved," Amherst County administrator, Dean Rodgers, said of the park. "We recently added playgrounds."

A few years ago the county spent money to clear bush and build a trail along the James, but the path ends after just four tenths of a mile.

"That is a huge asset that sits in waste, waiting for someone to do something with it," Rodgers said of the trail.

Since 2016 county leaders have been making plans to connect their trail with the Riverwalk, a path that carries pedestrians and bikers across a bridge onto Percival's Island and into Amherst County.

"It's just a matter of now waiting for some grant money, so that we can actually pay for construction," Rodgers explained.

Construction will be expensive. Including the preliminary engineering work, Rodgers expects the project to cost more than $2 million.

The county is preparing to apply for a $1.3 million dollar grant from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

"We're just pursuing every avenue that we can," said Rodgers. "Every form of funding that we can."

Leaders on the Lynchburg side of the river say they would welcome a new connection to their neighbor.

"Having that connection and any improvement project is really going to help grow the entire area," said Susan Brown, program director for the Downtown Lynchburg Association.

Amherst County leaders plan to submit their application for funding through VDOT's transportation alternatives program by the end of August. They hope to get an answer on whether their request will receive funding before the end of the year.

If approved, they would like to construct the trail extension in the next two to three years.