Richmond City Councilman Doug Conner of the South Central 9th District held a Richmond Greenway and Trail Cleanup Friday morning on a former CSX railroad bed that runs between Belt Boulevard and Hopkins Road.
“The area had been abandoned for 40 years and it had become a dumping ground,” Conner said, adding that when he was elected to city council in 2006, he made it a focus of his to get CSX — the owner — to clean the area. CSX cleared the area, but there was plenty of vegetation and dumped material again on the site.
The plans for this 2.5 mile “ecological corridor” are for a future public bike and pedestrian trail that will serve as a scenic recreational greenway area, providing neighborhoods a safe alternative way to connect without automobiles and away from busy streets.
“So we can help some people get off the couch,” said Jennifer Wampler of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Richmond is considered a pilot project for attempts to create a interconnected system of long-distance trails in Virginia, Wampler said.
The property has not been purchased from CSX yet, but the hope is that it will soon. Several landscaping firms have donated designs for the project.
A larger goal is that it could be linked to the United States of America East Coast Greenway, which is being built in sections from Main to Florida, and to the Virginia Capital Trail, which would link Richmond to Williamsburg and Jamestown.
The plan for the area depends on federal funding, according to Champ Burnley of the Virginia Bicycling Federation. Private donations for the project could be matched in quadruple by federal “transportation enhancement funds” that are designated only for bicycle and pedestrian facilities.
The community volunteer cleanup focused on the area next to Southside Plaza at Hull Street. Volunteers from the Richmond Outreach Center and the Southside Baptist Christian School helped remove unwanted trash and debris from the areas, including a couple of discarded couches.