Pulaski County is in the beginning stages of a multiyear project that will connect the New River Trail to Randolph Park in Dublin.
County Administrator Jonathan Sweet said the project is about more than extending the 57-mile trail that runs from Pulaski to Galax.
“We want more pedestrian opportunities for folks to traverse between Dublin and Pulaski,” he said. “It’s one of the most enjoyed state parks in the state, but it’s more than that. We truly want our locals to be able to travel by way of trail. It’s a quality of life issue.”
Not only would it give citizens without vehicles the chance to travel to the county’s population centers but also those who would like to choose riding a bike to work rather than driving, Sweet said.
“You see it a lot more in urban areas and it’s healthier and easier for many people than driving and that is something we’d like to bring here,” he said.
Sweet said the project has been talked about for years, but the board of supervisors reaffirmed the commitment to the project a little over a year ago.
County engineer Jared Linkous said that the extension isn’t something that will be completed overnight. It’s going to be a multiphase operation that will take multiple years to finish.
The first phase of the project is connecting the terminus of the trail near East Main Street in Pulaski by the Food Lion to behind Critzer Elementary School. The new section of the trail is roughly 1.5 miles, according to Linkous.
Sweet said a mix of federal and county funds is being used to pay for the project. The federal funds were dispersed by the state as part of a transportation improvement grant.
Linkous said approximately $1.3 million has been allocated to the entirety of the project with $1.1 million being used on the current phase.
He said he doesn’t know when the entire extension will be done, because there are still many moving parts such as land acquisitions and acquiring the remaining funds needed for the other phases.
Sweet also spoke about a project idea that has been floating around for some time: The “Valley to Valley Trail” proposal that would connect Roanoke to Galax.
The New River Trail extension to Dublin would be a step toward Pulaski completing its portion of that mega-trail, with it only needing to connect to Fairlawn after that, Sweet said. He acknowledged that connecting to the Huckleberry Trail and ultimately all the way to Roanoke is a sizable task — but said it’s a goal worth pursuing.
“We think that it would be a great asset for the entire New River Valley and the Roanoke Valley as well,” he said.
Construction on the first phase of the New River Trail extension is set to begin June 1 and hopefully completed by the end of August, Sweet said.
He said that depending on the route taken, anywhere from 6 to 8 more miles of trail will have to be constructed to reach Randolph Park.
Sweet estimates that another $6 milliont to $9 million is needed to complete the project. He said the county will continue to use the 80-20 funding approach it used to secure the initial funds. Eighty percent of the funds come from state or federal grants and 20 percent from the county, which can include things like manpower and supplies, he said.
“Whether the trail [Valley to Valley] happens or not, the county of Pulaski values trails and outdoor recreation and these types of assets add to the quality of life not only for the visitors …but for the locals as well and it’s worth investing in,” he said.