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Rails To Trails Right-Of-Way Being Secured

Halifax County is in the process of acquiring 14.6 miles of 100-foot corridor width right-of-way from the Norfolk Southern Railway Company for the Rails to Trails project to be deeded to Roanoke River Rails to Trails, Inc.

No county funds are being used, according to County Administrator George Nester, who pointed out a Tobacco Commission grant will be used to purchase the right-of-way property.

The process began several years ago when the proposal to secure the right of way for the project was sent to the Virginia Attorney General, and supporters for this project were delighted the proposal gained approval.

In addition to the 178 acres in Halifax County, approximate acreage in the acquisition includes 49 acres in Greensville, 241 acres in Brunswick and 213 acres in Lunenburg, according to C. J. Dean, town manager for the Town of Lawrenceville.

Norfolk Southern Railway Company recently sold the right of way in Brunswick County for the Rails to Trails project to the Roanoke River Rails to Trails, Inc. for $297,987.58, Dean said.

The Lawrenceville town manager, who also serves on the Roanoke River Rails to Trails board of directors, said the total contract price was approximately $760,269 to secure the right of way in Halifax County, Brunswick County, Greensville County and Lunenburg County.

The Halifax County administrator explained the right of way here is for the 100-foot right of way along the old Norfolk and Southern rail line that starts at Cotton Mill Park and runs westward to a portion of land that ends at Route 656 at Kern’s Mill Road.

Part of the land is in the Town of South Boston, and the remainder is in the county, he further explained.

“Norfolk Southern Railway has agreed to deed it to the local government for the Rails to Trails project, and the board has accepted it and is in the process of having it designated as being tax-exempt,” Nester said.

The county administrator said he received the request in mid-December and expects the board to act on the “housekeeping matter” at its February board meeting.

“The board already has agreed to it previously,” he added, “and they are expected to set a date for a public hearing at their February meeting.

Attached to the right-of-way is a restriction that it be used for recreational use, the county administrator said.

“This is very good news for the Rails to Trails project. It means the right of way will be preserved for future generations. Now we can transition from acquisition to construction. The funding for acquiring the rights of way have been expended, and now the real trail work begins”  the Lawrenceville town manager said earlier this week.

The Tobacco Heritage Trail is a regional initiative to develop a series of public trails within the counties and towns of the Southside Planning District and neighboring counties that will ultimately be linked to form a long distance network of approximately 160 miles of recreational trails.

The trail is envisioned as an economic development and quality of life tool, valuable to bring in tourism dollars and valuable to residents for health and recreational benefits.

The off-road trail is intended to be non-motorized and multi-use, for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding with handicap accessible portions. The system will utilize primarily abandoned railroad right of way and other easements.

The Rails to Trails project is part of the Tobacco Heritage Trail.