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  • Writer's pictureJohn Martin

CREATING RURAL CONNECTIONS IN VIRGINIA

Updated: Oct 25, 2023






“Surrounded by unspoiled woods, tobacco farms that have been passed from one generation to the next and friendly little towns,” Virginia's Tobacco Heritage Trail aims to create rural connections, while linking large metropolitan areas in both Virginia and North Carolina, along the East Coast Greenway.

The trail is housed in Virginia’s Southside region, which stretches from the James River south to the North Carolina border and is historically known for its production of tobacco and cotton. The railroad line being used to house the Tobacco Heritage Trail today once connected the small towns in the area to move both cargo and people.


With its centralized location between two metropolitan areas, the in-development Tobacco Heritage Trail is poised to become the bridge system linking Virginia and North Carolina, connecting the Fall Line Trail, Virginia Capital Trail and Appomattox River Trail on the Virginia side to the North Carolina Triangle’s extensive trail network, as well as the two state capitals of Richmond and Raleigh.


With these connections in place, the Tobacco Heritage Trail and its adjacent communities can become a rural hub along the East Coast Greenway, helping the towns along the trail thrive with an increase in visitors and expanded tourism in the region.


Currently, the East Coast Greenway section of the Tobacco Heritage Trail is a 16-mile primarily natural surface trail connecting Lawrenceville and La Crosse/South Hill used by people biking, walking and rolling - and by equestrian trail-goers. But there is potential for an expanded and impactful trail network for local residents and visitors alike.

East Coast Greenway Alliance partners Roanoke River Rails-to-Trails and Southside Planning District Commission are leading the local and regional efforts to expand the Tobacco Heritage Trail.


Momentum is on the side of the Tobacco Heritage Trail, as the Virginia Legislature named the trail one of its five priority trails when it created the Virginia State Trails Office within the Virginia Department of Transportation and dedicated funding to trails in the state budget.


The funding priority from that process is a section trail that will help connect Boydton and Clarksville, a border town close to North Carolina that aims to become a trail- and outdoor-focused destination due to its location on the Roanoke River and Kerr Reservoir.

Clarksville also could be the northern end of a rail-to-trail starting in Oxford, North Carolina, and providing cross-border connectivity to the Tobacco Heritage Trail, as well as a direct link to North Carolina’s Triangle region.


Efforts are underway to extend the Tobacco Heritage Trail in Lawrenceville to create connections to local schools and underserved communities. Plans are also in place to connect South Hill with Boydton, the county seat of Mecklenburg County, where a 1-mile section of trail already exists.


This potential section in Lawrenceville would add transportation and recreation options for communities that currently lack any connection to the current trail, while improving safety for the people biking, walking and rolling in the area.

In addition to completing Greenways for All for local residents, expanding and connecting sections of the Tobacco Heritage Trail will help draw more trail-oriented tourists to the area and increase the usage of the trail, while encouraging the continued support of local elected officials, business owners and residents.

Together, we can make greenways and trails accessible to all Americans, no matter their income level, race, ethnicity or ability. Everyone deserves the physical fitness, peace of mind and community connection that trail time provides.


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