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Communities will connect through new trail uptown
Cari Zimmer (left) and Brian Williams stand where, once construction is completed, the Silverbell Spur Trail and the Uptown Spur Trail will connect. The spot is just to the west of the Pine Street access point on the Uptown Spur Trail. (Bulletin photos by Ashley Jackson)
The Silverbell Spur Trail is expected to be completed by the end of the year, and it will be "a gateway to uptown," said Brian Williams, program manager with the Dan River Basin Association.
Williams said this trail is an important location because it "connects communities" and attractions.
"We wanted to connect the uptown area to the Dick and Willie trail," said Cari Zimmer, education and outreach coordinator for Activate Martinsville Henry County. She is working on the project.
The Silverbell trail will begin where the Dick and Willie Passage and the Uptown Spur Trail intersect and will end at the intersection of Oakdale and Church streets. It will allow easy access to the Martinsville YMCA, Virginia Museum of Natural History, J. Frank Wilson Park and Patrick Henry Elementary School, Zimmer said.
The trail will allow the more than 700 YMCA members easy access to an additional way to stay fit, said Brad Kinkema, director of the Martinsville YMCA.
"The YMCA is very excited to be a part of the project," he said.
Jennifer Doss, director of tourism for the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., said the Silverbell Spur Trail has an economic development value.
"Families are seeking vacation opportunities that are affordable," Doss said, adding that the trails throughout the area provide those opportunities.
With the new Silverbell Spur Trail connecting to uptown, it will provide additional tourism opportunities for the museum and other places uptown, Doss said.
Zimmer noted that there have been more than 1,200 different cyclists who have borrowed bikes from Activate on the Dick and Willie Passage and Uptown Spur trail since March.
Zimmer added that some of the riders are tourists. People from England, California, Chicago and several other areas have visited the trails, she said.
The trails already have helped create some jobs because an outdoor recreation store and a bed and breakfast recently opened up along the existing trails, Doss said.
"People can also connect with alternative forms of transportation. ... It creates a vibrant community," Williams said.
All of the trails in the area are inexpensive ways for residents to stay healthy. "People are getting active, and they are enjoying the trails," Zimmer said.
"It's gotten people out who may not have gotten on a trail before," Williams said.
The Silverbell Spur Trail will include several points of interest such as a rare tree called a Carolina Silverbell - hence the name of the trail. There also is an unusually large beech tree that had a heart carved into the bark years ago, a small stream, natural decayed wood with associated mosses and lichens and many natural woodland ferns and wild flowers, according to Zimmer.
"There is nature all around you in the middle of the city," she said.
According to Zimmer, the new 1,230-foot paved trail will include a picnic area and trees in front of the trail corridor on Church Street; crosswalk with flashing lights at the intersection of Church Street, Oakdale and Church Street Extension; gazebo, informational kiosk and large iron flowers intermingled with living plants at the crosswalk corner; iron leaves and interpretive signs to mark items of interest; eight to 10 small bronze animal sculptures for children to locate and identify; natural stacked rock bridge over a stream; three benches to match other benches along the passage; and additional grass and landscaping, including the addition of native trees and perennial flowers.
The estimated cost of the project is $95,000, Zimmer said.
Martinsville Parks and Recreation will maintain the new trail, according to Gary Cody, director of Martinsville Parks and Recreation.
The Dick and Willie Passage starts at Mulberry Creek and ends at the El Parral Mexican Restaurant on Commonwealth Boulevard. The Uptown Spur Trail begins at the clock tower and ends six-tenths of a mile later.