The Roanoke Valley is rightly proud of its greenways — how we’re this close to finishing a walking, hiking and biking trail that will stretch 16.1 miles from southeast Roanoke to Salem, how there’s talk of extending our greenways even farther, east to Explore Park, north into Botetourt County, west into Montgomery County.

This isn’t about that. This about another color of way — a blueway — a fancy way of saying let’s make use of the Roanoke River as a recreational resource in its own right.

If you’re skeptical of the possibilities, check out, which lists 16 access points from East Montgomery County Park near Elliston to Hardy Ford near the headwaters of Smith Mountain Lake.

Now there’s an effort under way to create a 17th access point — specifically, a kayak launch just off Jefferson Street, near The Bridges development, which would make a good exit point for those who start upriver, or an entry point for those headed downriver.

A lot of work has been quietly going on to make this particular launch happen. The land is owned by Carilion Clinic, which has worked out a deal with the city to build and maintain the launch.

Even better, this can be built without any tax dollars.

The price tag is $77,000. Boxley Materials Co. has donated $34,000 worth of concrete, which takes care of the biggest single expense. An as-yet-unidentified corporate sponsor donated $10,000. In-kind donations from MB Contractors, which is doing the work, and others, accounted for another $13,000.

All that adds up to $57,000, which means the project is still $20,000 short. There’s now a fund-raising campaign under way through the non-profit Roanoke Outside Foundation.

“The greenway has brought attention to the river, and now people are wanting access to it,” says Pete Eshelman, director of outdoor branding for the Roanoke Regional Partnership economic development agency, which has been eager to promote the blueway as part of the region’s “quality of life” lure.

Interested? Contact Eshelman at or call 540-343-1550 ext. 104. Or just send a check to the foundation at 111 Franklin Plaza, Suite 333, Roanoke, 24011.

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