“I didn’t expect to see so many people using it!” Even on cooler days you might pass several folks walking, running, or cycling on the first segment of the South River Greenway in Waynesboro.
Phase 1 has two trail heads, starting near YMCA on Arch Avenue and following the river to the Constitution Park trailhead. Outdoor gym equipment, fishing nooks, a natural spring, and historic vistas of the city’s industrial past create a highly desirable asset for the unpretentious city to impress visitors and citizens.
“I’ve never walked it, but I’ve heard about it. I have a friend that goes there every day, and she’ll be excited about any improvements made to it,” said Penny Sager of Fishersville, a former employee of the DuPont Community Credit Union.
“It originated for DuPont employees only, for their families to have gatherings and if they wanted to sign up for events like birthday parties and weddings, reunions and stuff like that.
As the community grew, DuPont allowed more opportunities for Waynesboro to be involved in DuPont’s growth, so they can expand their industrial assets,” Sager said.
The community can now use the small park on the DuPont side of the river that is bordered by Rockfish Run. The creek is visible to the Greenway and spills into the South River near the Dominion pavilion trailhead.
The city expanded the idea in 2001 to include plans for a full citywide system with future trails that branch off of the South River segments and a series of connected phases that circle the city cutting through the northern, western and southern sections back unto the South River Greenway.
Jim Nichols was a forefather in the master-plan process that Dwayne Jones of Waynesboro Parks and Recreation personally worked with and in some ways carried the torch for Nichols as he now consults with the city in a more passive capacity.
“We hope to have (Phase 2) usable in summer of 2015, if possible. I don’t anticipate it being pushed back into 2016,” Jones said. “We remain confident that well have it finished by the end of summer, but again we have some hoops to jump through with VDOT and finalizing some of the easements from property owners.”
Phase 2 will be split into two segments. Phase 2-A is .3 miles in length and was awarded $320,000 from VDOT transportation enhancement funds; the city will match 20 percent for the project. Starting from the Dominion Pavilion, Phase 2-A follows the river underneath the Main and Broad Street bridges to avoid heavy car traffic.
A small 10-foot-wide bridge over a stormwater swale will be constructed at the rescue station. The trail then goes underneath the CSX railroad bridge, and 2-A ends at Abbey Place just before the Shiloh Baptist Church, a historical African-American church that is a National Historic Landmark.
A canoe launch will be aligned with Abbey Place so vehicles can back their canoe from the small traffic lane straight into the river.
Phase 2-B will be started shortly after 2-A is complete, and will continue from the canoe launch through the most wooded section of the system so far. Wayne Hills can be seen on your left as you’re walking north, with a 20- to 30-foot escarpment is providing a geographical lesson. With the sound of the rapids in the South River, you momentarily forget you’re in the city. That is until you smell the polarizing aroma of fresh-cut wood at the Augusta Lumber facility that is across the river indicated by the stacked pallets on the eastern river bank. A fishing pier will be constructed somewhere in the vicinity.
The trail finally starts opening up in a V-shaped clearing in the start of North Park, and you’re greeted by views of the southern face of Turk Mountain several miles off in the distance.
After .85 miles past Abbey Place, the trail ends at the North Park trailhead.
The city is still in the easement process with property owners in Phase 2-B. Phase 2-A is 95 percent complete and is just about ready to be finalized and go out to bid for contractors to bid on the job.
The countdown has begun for the shovel to hit dirt. The city received a total of $822,574 with construction of segment 2-A slated to begin in spring 2015, if all goes according to plan. The total length of Phase 2 will be 1.2 miles, roughly a half mile longer than Phase I’s .88 miles.
After completion, the South River Greenway will be a total of 2.08 miles from the YMCA trailhead to North Park.
Looking ahead to the next projects that will add to the South River Greenway making it an even longer system, most folks would think the next logical step will be to take the greenway from the YMCA trailhead to Ridgeview Park, undisputably Waynesboro’s primary public park, even though Coyner Springs Park is the largest in terms of acreage.
Jones says that’s not the case.
“We’re looking at the segment between North Park and Basic City Park on Genicom Drive. We’ve had some more landowner opposition on the segment heading towards Ridgeview Park that we have to get worked out,” Jones said.
The city may have to consider changing the routing of the greenway to Ridgeview Park. Also the city actually owns all the land on the west bank of the river of the segment that would run from North to Basic parks, making the easement procurement process nonexistent.
Looking past Phase 3, the city is tossing around connecting the South River Greenway to the upcoming Sunset Park and the Crozet Tunnel that will tie into a multi-jurisdictional regional system and create true water and mountain based assets to increase tourism.
It’s an exciting time to expand opportunities for the city and to offer natural outdoor amenities for citizens and visitors alike.