August 29, 2018

Cameron Foundation approves $250,000 implementation grant to FOLAR for park and trail development

Building on its earlier proactive investment in Friends of the Lower Appomattox River (FOLAR) for a master planning process, The Cameron Foundation’s Board of Directors has approved its first implementation grant to the organization to improve a key section of the Appomattox River Trail. The $250,000 award supports design development, pre-construction engineering, and construction of this segment of the Appomattox River Trail as well as design and fabrication of wayfinding signage. The area to be developed, between University Boulevard and the Boulevard in Old Towne Petersburg, is rated as one of the highest priority trail segments for the entire trail system.

Existing conditions at Patton Park in Old Towne Petersburg show a dirt path that traces along the Appomattox River. Photo by Friends of the Lower Appomattox River (FOLAR)

The Cameron Foundation’s President, J. Todd Graham, noted that this most recent commitment to FOLAR is the next step in working together to expand the Appomattox River Trail’s benefit to the region. “At the same time that this project fulfills a priority in FOLAR’s master plan for the trail, it also supports Cameron’s strategy to create greater impact through increased collaboration with community partners. This area in particular is rife with history, recreational opportunities, and connectivity possibilities. And, more broadly, FOLAR’s focus on park and linear trail development along the Lower Appomattox River will help to improve the quality of life and increase the culture of health and active lifestyle in the region,” Graham said.

In 2017, FOLAR completed a 12-month planning process that included significant public input to produce the Appomattox River Trail Master Plan. Funded by The Cameron Foundation, this plan serves as a framework for the coordinated and phased building of trail sections and park improvements through six municipalities.

Colonial Heights Appomattox River Trail includes an area of improved, paved, shared-use path. Photo by John A. Rooney, Jr.

“The tremendous potential of this centrally located Patton Park-historic Petersburg section of the Appomattox River Trail, coupled with the demonstrated success of sections of trail in Colonial Heights and Hopewell, has made our community excited for the progress this funding provides,” said FOLAR chair Ken Newman.

The funding for the Patton Park-historic Petersburg section of the trail is intended to improve walking and biking paths in the area and also guide users through the historic Petersburg area, creating an approximately 5,500-foot linear pathway. It also will provide improved access to the park and river area. The park site is a popular location for fishing and other riverside recreational activities. It provides an area of green space and natural habitat which will be responsibly developed into a shared-use (pedestrian and bicycle) trail with minimal impact to the land and maximum opportunity for public enjoyment. Additionally, this work offers opportunities to integrate shoreline restoration and enhancement of the riparian buffer along the riverside to help protect the river and its water quality.

FOLAR board member and Appomattox River Trail project lead Heather Barrar says the framework plan represents “a delicate balance in an important multifaceted area which can serve as a sustainable model for developing sensitive riverfront areas.” The area along the river in Old Towne Petersburg offers both a public park and multi-modal trail, with additional considerations that include the need to respect the historic character of the area, the connection to Virginia State University, as well as the river and its natural surroundings. Barrar went on to say, “It’s imperative to work with the City’s Architectural Review Board and Virginia State University to ensure compatibility with their requirements.”

A sketch from the Appomattox River Trail Master Plan shows potential improvements at Grove Avenue (cross section) and Patton Park in Old Towne Petersburg. Illustrations by Land Planning and Design Associates.

As the final plan is developed, there will be opportunities for feedback and response between designers and the stakeholders and community in coming months. Once a final design plan is completed and necessary permits acquired, local contractors and volunteers also will play a role in building the trail over the next two years.

FOLAR Executive Director Wendy Austin reinforced that the overall objectives of the Appomattox River Trail are significant and meant to “connect contiguous miles of regional byway trails, improve river access, provide access to healthy activities for individuals and families in Petersburg and surrounding communities, improve the economic vitality of the region, and conserve and protect the natural river environment.”

FOLAR also is able to leverage $50,000 of the Cameron award as matching dollars towards a $100,000 challenge grant it recently secured from the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation, headquartered in Richmond. The Parsons grant will only be realized if FOLAR raises the full match by May 2019. The nonprofit is more than half way to achieving that goal.

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