Earlier this month, recently elected Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signed the first budget of his term, dedicating a record-setting $93 million to funding for multi-use trails across the Commonwealth.
This total represents a nearly eight-fold increase of the previous year’s general fund commitment and establishes a new benchmark for trail funding in Virginia.
The Commonwealth’s investment was initially supported by outgoing Virginia Governor Ralph Northamm who “dedicated in his final budget an unprecedented and historic investment in outdoor recreation,” according to the Virginia Bicycle Federation.
This funding will most certainly spur future growth of the East Coast Greenway, says the East Coast Greenway Alliance’s Virginia & Washington, D.C. Coordinator Elliott Caldwell.
“While no specific trail project - like the Fall Line trail segment - received direct funds in the budget, projects along the East Coast Greenway route are very important in Virginia's trail network and will be incredibly competitive in all of the funding opportunities provided by the budget,” Caldwell said.
The $93 million includes funding to establish a State Office of Trails, which has been a long-time goal of East Coast Greenway Alliance work in Virginia, as well as $14 million in earmarked funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Transportation Alternatives Program to build new regional trails, as well as complete projects to improve connectivity of existing trail networks.
Currently, Virginia is home to 300 miles of the East Coast Greenway’s spine route and nearly 75 miles of its complementary route. Since 2009, the Greenway has been designated a state trail by Virginia, and this funding will help support the long-envisioned goal of completing the route in the Commonwealth. At this time, less than 60 miles of the Greenway’s spine route is housed on safe, protected pathways.
When complete, the 34-mile Fall Line trail will complete the East Coast Greenway through metro Richmond. The north-south regional trail spine in Central Virginia will connect seven localities between Ashland and Petersburg.
Alliance partners Brantley Tyndall of the Virginia Bicycle Federation, as well as Cat Anthony of the Virginia Trails Alliance & Virginia Capital Trail Foundation played a key role in securing this increased level of funding.
Other key partners in the effort included the Rails to Trails Conservancy, Sports Backers, Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition, Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge, Friends of the Eastern Shore Trail, Virginia League of Conservation Voters, Our Virginia Outdoors and the Virginia Conservation Network.
“This remarkable increase in funding for trails is tremendous news for not only the East Coast Greenway but the people of Virginia who will enjoy the many benefits of trails and greenways,” added Caldwell.
“The latest Commonwealth budget demonstrates the kind of annual investment that can complete the East Coast Greenway in Virginia. We hope this will be an annual investment in equitable, safe, active transportation.”
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