Governor Terry McAuliffe gathered with city and county officials at the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Shockoe Bottom last month to celebrate the grand opening of the Virginia Capital Trail.
Before a crowd of more than 300 people, keynote speaker Gov. McAuliffe touted the 52-mile trail as yet another attractions drawing business to Virginia.
“Standing here today, I think most of us can agree that building this trail is a no-brainer,” McAuliffe said, adding that regional trails are “assets that drive tourism and sustain economic development.”
Beth Weisbrod, executive director of the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation, agreed with the governor.
Weisbrod called the trail “the first of its kind here in Richmond,” and said it has the potential to generate tax revenue, incomes and jobs — as long as businesses plan accordingly.
As an example, Weisbrod cited an area along the trail where Stone Brewery’s bistro, Shiplock Park and Chapel Island are all located within a very close distance of each other.
“When you link things like that, it just explodes,” Weisbrod said. She said she predicts certain stretches in the city could soon mirror those areas. “The downtown riverfront section of Richmond is going to look very different in a short amount of time.”
Weisbrod also noted Virginia is playing catch-up with other states that already have expansive bike trails has its perks, adding the only nice thing about being behind the curve is that based on research her foundation can look at what other places have done on trails.
To track trail usage and help create an economic report, Weisbrod said the Virginia Capital Trail — which cost $74 million and took 12 years to build — will feature counters along the path, combined with surveys asking people where they’re from, what activities they did and where they stayed.
Prior to the completion of the trail, people would often walk or bike along Route 5.
Now, Weisbrod said the trail acts as a safer alternative. Such is the case for Richmond local William Harris, who bikes as far as he can on the trail everyday.
“I think it’s better than riding the street and not on the edge,” Harris said. “I mean it’s just fun, you know, relaxing.”
In addition to cutting through Richmond, the Virginia Capital Trail stretches across Henrico County, Charles City County and James City County. Trail users should also be able to catch glimpses of a myriad of Virginia wildlife, including bald eagles, horses, deer and, along the river areas, a rebounding sturgeon population.
Article by: Pilar Curtis, Contributing Writer