The Fall Line Trail. Whether you're a cycling superfan anxiously awaiting its completion or just hearing about it for the first time, we thought it was about time to provide an Ashland-focused overview of this exciting regional project, and perhaps most importantly, explain how it could benefit our beloved town, and by extension, all who live and work here.
So, what is the Fall Line Trail?
Once complete, the 43-mile multi-use Fall Line Trail will connect seven localities in the greater Richmond region, including Ashland, Hanover, Henrico, Richmond, Chesterfield, Colonial Heights, and Petersburg. Ashland will serve as the Fall Line Trail’s northern trailhead with Petersburg as the trailhead on the southern end.
Okay, but what is a “multi-use trail”?
A multi-use trail is designed for use by pedestrians, bicycles, and other non-motorized users. According to the Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation, multi-use trails are the most common and popular trails in Virginia State Parks as they offer a wide variety of uses for all ability and skill levels.
How did the idea for the trail come about?
According to Sports Backers (the organization tasked with promoting the project), the Fall Line Trail came together as an opportunity to "connect the dots" of active transportation networks taking shape in the greater Richmond region. As an added incentive, several sections of the trail already existed or were planned in localities’ comprehensive and special area plans, including Ashland’s Trolley Line Trail, which contributed greatly to the project’s feasibility.
What does the name “Fall Line” mean?
Named for its unique geography along the trail corridor, the Fall Line denotes the area where the Piedmont plateau and Atlantic Coastal Plain meet, resulting in several rapids and waterfalls.
How will the Fall Line Trail benefit Ashland?
In addition to providing increased outdoor recreation opportunities for our residents, the Fall Line Trail has the potential to dramatically increase Ashland’s appeal to outdoor recreation travelers and boost our tourism economy considerably.
The Virginia Capital Trail, which has proven to be a huge tourism, recreation, and economic development success for the localities it serves, is an example of what is possible. According to a recent economic impact study, the Virginia Capital Trail generated $8.9 million in economic activity and $5.3 million in value-added effects during the 2018-2019 fiscal year. More examples of how multi-use trails drive economic development, stimulate job creation, and increase tourism can be found here.
Where is Ashland’s portion of the trail and what is its status?
The Fall Line trail in Ashland makes use of the existing Ashland Trolley Line Trail, a 0.85-mile linear trail that extends from 11644 Gwathmey Church Road at the southern end to the intersection of Maple Street and Ashcake Road.
In 2021, the Town completed the construction of a raised boardwalk (see photo below) and other improvements to the portion of our trail that runs from Ashcake Road up to and along Walder Lane. The boardwalk is currently open for use by pedestrians and cyclists.
What is the estimated completion date for the entire 43-mile trail?
In 2019, the Virginia Department of Transportation launched a study to determine a preferred route and since then jurisdictions have been hard at work planning for and building out their portions of the trail. Each jurisdiction is responsible for completing its portion and once they do so, we expect the trail will open in parts as segments connect to one another.
In May 2022, VDOT hosted two community meetings to provide updates and gather public input. In addition, funding for a large portion of the cost of the trail has been secured at the state and regional levels. The Ashland and Hanover County portions of the trail are expected to be complete by 2024 with completion of the entire trail estimated to take 5-7 years, likely 2029-2031.
In the next one to two years, the Town will partner with Hanover County and VDOT to complete the remaining portion of Ashland’s trail and connect to Hanover’s portion, which will course through Hanover to the county's shared line with Henrico at the Chickahominy River. Further, over the next year, the Town will extend signage and pavement markings north along Maple Street all the way to the intersection with England Street, effectively extending the trail into Ashland’s historic downtown to guide and deliver trail users directly into our retail and hospitality corridor.
We look forward to continued progress on this regional project, both here in Ashland and in the other localities. Stay tuned to the Town’s communications channels for updates in the months to come!