East Coast bike trail could touch here

Published 6:33 pm Tuesday, February 26, 2019

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer 

An interstate, off-road bike and pedestrian trail that would connect Maine to Florida could involve Smithfield if the town segment of the trail were completed.   

Smithfield resident Cristin Emrick recently approached the Smithfield Town Council to promote the town’s involvement in the East Coast Greenway, which aims to connect 15 states via off-road paths for bicyclists, horseback riders, pedestrians and other nonmotorized travelers. 

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A number of Smithfield and county residents including Emrick have been attending recent Town Council meetings in an attempt to spur progress of trail construction within the town. Emrick believes that increased bike and pedestrian trails would improve the health of residents and spur local business. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The only trail currently under consideration in the town is a segment that would connect the Nike Park bike and pedestrian trail to downtown Smithfield. Isle of Wight County is currently building its portion of the four-mile trail along Battery Park and Nike Park roads, but Smithfield has yet to make a decision on whether or not to complete the section that runs through town along South Church Street. This trail is often referred to as the “park to park” trail. 

A large tenet of the Greenway project is to create a completely off-road, Maine to Florida trail, and while a route between these states is mapped out and available for use already, large segments of it involve roadways designed for motor vehicles.

Emrick said that while this project has several possible iterations to make its way through Surry and Isle of Wight counties, there is only one recommended route within the town limits of Smithfield. 

“This route would come down Main Street, then down (South) Church Street to connect to Benn’s Church Boulevard, and continue through to Suffolk,” said Emrick at the Feb. 5 meeting. 

According to Emrick, this path would also act as a segment of the “Birthplace of America” trail, which, if fully constructed, would overlap the “park to park” trail mentioned above, but would also have a designated bike and pedestrian path along Main Street that connects to the larger East Coast Greenway. 

The “Birthplace of America” trail routes a bike and pedestrian path from Jamestown, through Smithfield, then Suffolk, and then eventually out to Cape Henry in Virginia Beach, the site of Jamestown settlers’ first landing. While the trail had its grand opening in Oct., 2015, like the Greenway, there are large stretches of “trail” mapped through Smithfield along typical roadways. 

The East Coast Greenway map posted online does not show this particular route at this time, but rather it goes along Mill Swamp Road as it turns into Cary Street and onto Grace and Main streets and then on Great Spring Road to country roads further west of town and not on Route 10 at all. 

Emrick added that in addition to connectivity, the “Birthplace of America” trail would not only connect Smithfield to the Greenway via bike and pedestrian path, but would also showcase the region’s unique and historical heritage, such as Smith’s Fort, Bacon’s Castle and the 1750 Courthouse. 

Several people in the audience stood to support Emrick’s speech. 

Per the Greenway’s most recent report, 32 percent of the trail is currently protected, or “off-road,” while the remainder is on-road. In terms of off-road paths, 44.4 miles were added to the trail in 2018, the large majority of them in Florida. 

According to greenway.org, 33 percent of the trail is now complete, meaning that over 950 miles of “off-road, protected, multiuse paths” are now designated as part of the Greenway, leaving over 2,000 miles still to go.  {/mprestriction}