Richmond Times-Dispatch: Powhatan County could receive state funds to extend Village trails

RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, LAURA MCFARLAND

The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to pass legislation that could provide $150,173 for the construction of a new walking and running trail in Powhatan County.

If signed into law, the funding for a new “Education Connection Trail” — which U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger successfully secured as part of a House-passed fiscal year (FY) 2022 appropriations package — would support a new trail connecting Powhatan Middle School and Powhatan Elementary School with key points in Powhatan, including the public library, YMCA, Fighting Creek Park, and the county’s existing 3-mile trail network.

The new half-mile walking/running trail would provide walkable connections to important amenities, increase access and mobility for Powhatan residents, and create new opportunities for fitness and recreation.

“As we rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic and look to make our communities healthier and more resilient, we should be seeking smart and responsible places to invest in recreational opportunities. After hearing directly from Powhatan leaders, I am proud to have successfully secured funding for the Education Connection Trail in this appropriations package,” said Spanberger. “Today, I would like to thank the Powhatan County Board of Supervisors for their commitment to their community and their recognition of the importance of accessible outdoors spaces, fitness opportunities, and making travel easier and safer for Powhatan students. I will keep working to move this funding through Congress, and I look forward to finding additional, innovative ways to make sure more Virginians can enjoy our region’s trail systems and parks.”

The FY 2022 appropriations package now goes to the U.S. Senate for further consideration.

Powhatan County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Karin Carmack said the Education Connection Trail project will help link several of Powhatan’s greatest assets, notably the county’s outdoor public spaces and the school system.

“With this project, Fighting Creek Park, including its trails and playgrounds, as well as the YMCA and Powhatan Library, will be connected to Powhatan Elementary and Middle Schools. The citizens of Powhatan County have said outdoor recreation, and trails specifically are a top priority, so we welcome this investment in our community to help further expand the public’s access to our natural outdoors,” she said.

County administrator Ned Smither said the trail project has been a vision for the county since 2019. Staff developed it and applied to the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Recreational Trails Program, but the project was turned down as it was a highly competitive program with relatively little funding.

This year, the U.S. House of Representatives implemented a new effort as part of its annual appropriations process, which allowed for specific community project funding requests — like the Education Connection Trail. Spanberger worked directly with community leaders in all 10 counties of the Seventh District to gather community-focused requests for her submissions.

The Community Project Funding process was created to ensure that members of Congress, in concert with the communities they represent, may submit direct applications for federal funding to support locally planned projects as part of the yearly appropriations process. To be eligible, projects must be sponsored by local or state government entities or nonprofit organizations and must be projects that would otherwise meet the qualifications to apply for federal grant funding. The purpose of Community Project Funding is to ensure direct, local engagement as part of the federal appropriations process. In line with this goal, funding applications must demonstrate significant local support for the projects.

The public has made it clear that expanding the walking trails is a priority in the area of parks and recreation, so suggesting this trail project was a logical choice for Powhatan’s entry, Smither said.

The project would be half a mile long and 8 feet wide and have a life expectancy of 25 years. It would be constructed of compacted gravel that would be 6 inches deep.

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