Shenandoah Rail Trail funding secured, to inject $32.3M per year into local economy
Economy, Virginia

Shenandoah Rail Trail funding secured, to inject $32.3M per year into local economy

Crystal Graham
shenandoah rail trail partnership
Image courtesy Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley website

Mayors along the future Shenandoah Rail Trail corridor applaud state legislators for funding the Shenandoah Rail Trail in the budget amendments passed on Sept. 6.

The Shenandoah Rail Trail will transform an unused single-track railroad corridor from Broadway to Front Royal into a multi-use trail reconnecting communities, businesses, schools and cultural and historic resources.

A completed economic impact analysis predicts trail visitors, spending money at local businesses and the creation of new jobs, will inject $32.3 million per year into the local economy, and the expanded economy in the region is projected to generate higher tax revenue each year for the state and local government.

“We are eager to celebrate the groundbreaking for the new trail in Broadway. I would like to thank our state legislators for including budget language to initiate this process. In my 10 years as mayor, there’s never been a project with as much local support as the Shenandoah Rail Trail,” said Broadway Mayor Timothy S. Proctor.

The almost 50-mile trail enjoys formal support of all nine towns (Front Royal, Strasburg, Toms Brook, Woodstock, Edinburg, Mount Jackson, New Market, Timberville and Broadway) and three counties (Warren, Shenandoah and Rockingham) along the corridor.

In addition to the support of local governments, Civil War Trails, Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce, Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce, Shenandoah Valley Partnership for economic development, Shenandoah Valley Tourism Partnership and Virginia Tourism Corporation are all on record in support of the Shenandoah Rail Trail.

“We are so grateful to the state for recognizing the importance of outdoor recreation. Front Royal, because of its close proximity to the Appalachian Trail, knows firsthand how valuable a trail can be for a community,” said Front Royal Mayor Lori Cockrell. “Access to trails not only positively impacts the local economies, but it improves the quality of life for those who live there.”

The newly released budget amendments also enable the Commonwealth to preserve rail corridors for the highest and best public use. According to the Shenandoah Rail Trail Exploratory Partnership, this will be accomplished through railbanking, a federal program that keeps the corridor intact in case economic conditions change and Norfolk Southern or another railroad want to reclaim the corridor and reactivate rail service.

“We agree that the corridor should be railbanked in case freight or passenger rail service becomes viable again,” said Edinburg Mayor Dan Harshman. “In the meantime, let’s start building the trail.

“The reawakening of this unused corridor will be a game changer for our region by connecting communities along the 48-mile route in a way they haven’t seen since the trains did run. Converting the corridor into a trail will preserve an integral part of our history as rail towns and give local folks and visitors alike a safe way to travel and enjoy the outdoors, while allowing the corridor to serve our communities once again in a very positive way,” said Harshman.

The budget amendment inclusion of investments in trail systems across the Commonwealth will expand access to trails and parks across the state. Multi-use trails are not only a draw for visitors but improve the quality of life for those who live there and ensure more access to Virginia’s beautiful landscape for generations to come.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.