May 11, 2016

Cameron Foundation awards $100,000 planning grant to FOLAR

The Cameron Foundation’s Board of Directors has approved a proactive grant of $100,000 to the Friends of the Lower Appomattox River (FOLAR) to undertake a master planning process that will guide the organization in linking and enhancing the parks and trails along the Appomattox River. The entire length of the lower 23 miles is designated a Virginia Scenic River.

The project will generate two detailed and interconnected regional planning documents, one to guide completion of linear park and trail development, and the other to guide development of branding and interpretive signage along the Lower Appomattox River. Together, the documents will serve as tools for securing further funding to implement the work needed to complete the 23-mile Lower Appomattox River Heritage Trail. FOLAR already has secured other commitments to begin implementation of trail improvements once the master plans have been finalized.

The master planning effort will engage local communities along the river, including the counties of Chesterfield, Dinwiddie and Prince George, and the cities of Colonial Heights, Hopewell and Petersburg. The project builds on years of partnerships and community outreach by FOLAR to engage businesses, government, and thousands of volunteers to enhance access to riverside parks and trails for recreation, education, and transportation while promoting environmental sustainability.

“We are undertaking this major initiative out of a shared recognition by the localities, Crater Planning District Commission, and FOLAR that we have the ability to develop a publicly-accessible, multi-use trail along the river corridor that will create tremendous benefit for the entire region,” said FOLAR Chair K. Wayne Walton. As a result of two earlier plans conceived by these partners, FOLAR has delivered $2+ million in public parks and trail infrastructure through private funding.

Wendy M. Austin, executive director of FOLAR, explained that the organization and jurisdictional partners will work with a consultant team that brings experience in engineering, planning, transportation, trail design, branding, and signage design to prepare the plans. The process will be conducted through the next six months and will involve community input and outreach. “This is an informed, comprehensive undertaking,” said Austin. “The Appomattox River is a major tributary of the James River and is an important regional asset that is unique and irreplaceable. We really want to encourage public input and involvement at the public meetings that are very much a part of this planning process,” she added.

The Cameron Foundation’s President J. Todd Graham noted that the Foundation has had a role in supporting FOLAR’s growth over the years, and this most recent commitment is helping to take the organization to a new level in creating community impact. “This work is important to us because it addresses many of our funding interests to foster a culture of health across the region. Having access to recreational resources such as walking and biking trails is part of the equation for a healthier community,” Graham explained, adding, “This project also enhances a regional community asset that has been underutilized for years.”

Research available through organizations such as American Trails shows that communities benefit from accessible trails and linear parks that give people of all skills and abilities the option to be active and to incorporate exercise into their daily routines, whether for recreation or non-motorized transportation. Trails are safe places for walking and jogging, bicycling, horseback riding, family and social outings, and access to river recreation. Trails offer an opportunity to provide a highly valued amenity for residents, employees and visitors as well as connect people to places they want to go, such as schools, transit centers, businesses and neighborhoods. Linear parks and trails are community assets that can serve a catalytic role in economic development. Further, a multi-use trail also brings increased awareness of the river while improving water quality, increasing habitat for native species, and protecting areas of historical, cultural and ecological significance.

This commitment by The Cameron Foundation is considered a part of its proactive grantmaking portfolio. While the majority of the Foundation’s funding is still directed to its responsive grants program, its proactive work provides a supplemental strategy to improve the Foundation’s impact through increased collaboration with community partners. In these proactive commitments, priority is given to visible, high impact projects that transform the community and/or address the social determinants of health. Graham explains that this shift enables the Foundation to look at health through a broader lens beyond health care interventions, as research shows that health starts in people’s homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, and the larger community – long before the point where a person needs health care.

Friends of the Lower Appomattox River (FOLAR) is the only organization in the Tri-Cities and surrounding counties dedicated to conserving and protecting the natural, cultural and recreational resources along the Lower Appomattox River. FOLAR has served the region as a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization since 2001 working to develop river stewardship, improve parks, establish trails, access the river, and protect special places. It has earned a number of awards, including The Cameron Foundation’s 2015 Cleveland A. Wright Award for Outstanding Community Service, and most recently, the James River Advisory Council’s 2016 Stewards of the River Community Partnership Award. Additional information can be found on the FOLAR website,, or by contacting FOLAR’s Executive Director Wendy Austin at; 804 861 1666 office; or 804 543 0325 cell.

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