Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Patrick County Rivers & Trails Master Plan will be presented to the Board of Supervisors on Monday, July 15th. Below is a link to the document.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Public Feedback Shows Trails Have Value in Patrick County

There are currently about 12 trails in Patrick County that total over 45 miles of walking, hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding opportunity and ranging in difficultly from easy, handicapped accessible to strenuous. While there are several trails that allow hikers to enjoy the beautiful scenery and wildlife of Patrick county, feedback, acquired through Public Meetings  held in Patrick County this past Spring by the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) show that local citizens want more miles of walking trails in the town of Stuart, convenient to those who live and work around town.

“The Mayo River Rail Trail was a huge step in the right direction, according to many Patrick County residents. The only complaint being that it isn’t long enough.” said Anna Wallace, Patrick County Coordinator for the Dan River Basin Association. “Due to high population, there has been a more vocal demand for trails in Stuart, however it’s important to consider the smaller, more rural communities also. With support from the Dan River District Supervisor, there has been a push to develop a trail that connects to Dan River Park in Ararat. Similarly, a group of devoted trail-enthusiasts were the driving force behind a small network of trails at IC Dehart Memorial Park in Woolwine.”

DRBA’s Patrick County volunteer committee, the Patrick County Rivers & Trails Group (PCRTG), is leading an effort to develop more hiking and walking trails for Patrick County citizens. The volunteers are currently developing a Recreational Use Plan, which would serve as a road map for future trail building and would improve existing tails, making them more accessible the public. DRBA began by inventorying all of the recreational amenities that Patrick County has to offer; they then held a series of public meetings throughout the county to get input from citizens on the types of recreational amenities they would like to see developed. Currently, the organization is developing a plan to give to the County for future trails and trail improvements based on the inventory and public feedback.  PCRTG also organizes and participates in volunteer activities such as river and trail clean-up events. The Adopt-A-Trail program, launched by PCRTG, allows members of the community to “adopt” their favorite trail, contributing to maintenance efforts and encouraging trail use.

“There is a strong case for developing, expanding and connecting trails of all kinds in Patrick County. One of the most compelling reasons is the potential health benefit,” said Wayne Kirkpatrick, a Patrick County local citizen and DRBA board member. “The adult obesity rate in Patrick County is 30%, which is higher than both state and national rates. Patrick is considered critically medically underserved, with 2,080 residents per 1 physician. Also, 20% of Patrick citizens are uninsured, again higher than state and national rates. To top it off, Patrick County has one of the lowest rates for access to recreational facilities in the state (www.countyhealthrankings.org).”

“Another compelling reason for developing trails in the county is the increased quality of life and economic benefit that comes along with it,” said Tiffany Haworth, DRBA’s Executive Director. “The beautiful scenery and current and future recreational opportunities in Patrick County is a very real attraction for new businesses and their employees. Patrick County is definitely not lacking in opportunities for outdoor adventure, but the accessibility to such adventures could stand to be developed. This could open the door to economic development based on tourism and new businesses.”

DRBA’s PCRTG is recruiting for volunteers. The next meeting of the PCRTG will be Thursday, July 19th in the Community Room at PHCC at 7pm. Meetings are held bi-monthly on the 3rd Thursday of the month.  DRBA representatives will be on WHEO to talk about trail development and Recreational Use Planning on Tuesday, July 17th at 9:30am. Anyone interested is encouraged to tune in to the conversation and attend the meeting.    

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Have You Seen What's Blooming on the DeHart Mountain Trail?

If you enjoy native wildflowers, you can probably still catch some Spring blooms along the DeHart Botanical Gardens hiking trail. The trail-head parking area is located on Route 58 West between Stuart and Meadows of Dan. If you're headed up the mountain, the pull-off area and gated drive will be on the right. The mailbox near the gate has a visitor log and trail maps. The preserve is a nearly 200 acre garden that is open to the public as a day use hiking facility.

Last week Dale Swanson joined me on a hike of the DeHart Trail. He works as the Program Manager for DRBA in Patrick & Stokes Counties. We took the opportunity to gather more data that will be useful in the Recreational Use Planning process currently underway in Patrick County.

Fire Pink; silene virginica
The initial climb to the top of the ridge from the parking area is characteristic of the entire trail. It is well worth the effort; the ridge-top where the trail begins provides a breathtaking birds-eye-view of the Smith River Valley and the only complete view of Rocky Knob anywhere along Route 58.

Pendelton home chimney
We crested the ridge and began to descend the side of the mountain. We were thankful for the series of switchbacks, which took us past a series of large boulders that create a small cave in the mountain-side and eventually to the old homesite located on the loop trail near the bottom of the mountain. The original chimney from the Pendelton home bulit in the late 1800's is the only part of the house that still stands.

Red Trillium; trillium erectum
We picked a wonderful time to hike the trail - wildflowers were scattered all over the mountain-side and we were able to identify a few of them. There were several we could not identify, such as this flower which we later found to be a Red Trillium.

Past the old homesite a short spur trail took us to a small waterfall. There are a couple small creeks that bubble up from springs in the mountain and converge into one creek that drains into the Smith River less than a mile from the Dehart Preserve. It's not much of an exaggeration to say that the water in these creeks is probably some of the freshest and cleanest there is. Because there is no development or ground disturbance, rain water is well-filtered before it soaks into the aquifer and chilled to perfection before it bubbles out of the mountain.
Waterfall near the lowest
point of the trail

The climb back to the top of the ridge was a bit strenuous but worth the effort! The Dehart Mountain Trail is great for those hikers who like a challenge and those interested in viewing native flora and fauna.

We hope to spread knowledge about all of the great outdoor recreation opportunities there are in Patrick County and guide the smart development and improvement of our amenities through Recreational Use Planning. If you are interested in joining this effort, please attend one of the Patrick County Rivers & Trails Group meetings. The next meeting is scheduled for May 17th at 7pm at PHCC in Stuart.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring has Sprung at Reynolds Homestead!

Tuesday's weather was too perfect to stay inside, so Daryl Kreager and I laced up our hiking boots and headed over to Reynolds Homestead, pausing along the way to admire the beauty of Spring time in Patrick County.

I took the opportunity to gather some GPS data of the Homestead's trails. With the support of many in the community, the Patrick County Rivers and Trails Group is continuing their development of a Recreational Use Plan. We have reached the planning phase in which we are hitting the trails to gather information that will illustrate the big picture of public access trails in Patrick and help us form a vision for the future.

ADA accessible birding trail at
Reynolds Homestead
We first walked the ADA Accessible Birding Trail that diverges from the L.E.A.F. trail near the corner of the upper parking lot. It is a short out-and-back trail that winds through a stand of pine trees, perfect for taking the time to view birds and wildlife. The kiosk at the trail head has a place to record your sightings, a great tool for helping us understand the habits of native fauna.

The L.E.A.F. Trail is a 1.0 mile interpretive trail that combines learning about natural resource use and heritage tourism. The kiosk provides a detailed map and information about the different sites of interest along the trail. We started up the trail and away from the historic home site, passing the old family cemetery, an apple orchard and a restored tobacco barn.

Fiddlehead Ferns
Photo credit: Daryl Kreager
One of the first things to catch our eye was a patch of Fiddlehead Ferns growing along the trail. A telltale sign of Spring, Fiddleheads are the furled tips of fern plants waiting to unroll into new fronds. They are often harvested in rural areas and used as a vegetable in cooking.

Tree identification at historic cemetery
Photo Credit: Daryl Kreager
As we moved along, the paved surface turned into a mowed grass walking path. We spotted several types of butterflies and a few wood thrushes before we stopped to take a rest on the bench near the historic slave cemetery where a stand of native trees have been identified and tagged.

Down the hill from the cemetery the trail takes a right turn down a path that leads to a shallow, crystal clear creek that was teaming with minnows. A bridge takes you across the creek to the Rock Spring, for which the plantation was named.

Continuing on, the trail reaches the banks of the upper research pond, where we spotted a school of fish (and a "no fishing" sign.) We walked around the edge of the pond until the trail turned to go up hill, where it comes out below the Continuing Education Center.

We found ourselves back where we started and took a quick look around the historic home site before heading out. The home itself is very interesting and well worth the time it takes for a guided tour, but I was preoccupied by the ancient tree that still stands in the front yard.

Reynolds Homestead is a wonderful amenity in Patrick County. They offer a variety of classes, workshops, exhibits, performances and recreational opportunities, while preserving and highlighting the history and heritage of the area. Check it out, you're guaranteed to find something that interests you!

The Patrick County Rivers & Trails Group will continue to explore the many recreational and cultural amenities in Patrick. If you have anything you would like to share, please contact Anna Wallace - awallace@danriver.org. To get involved with recreational development or meet fellow outdoor-enthusiasts, attend one of our bimonthly meetings! The next meeting is scheduled for May 17th, 7pm @ PHCC Stuart.