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Land donated for Banister River Gateway Project

Since identifying the significance of the surrounding natural resources found along Banister Lake and the Banister River in the 2007 Comprehensive Plan, staff with the Town of Halifax has been working with the Southside Planning District Commission, Dan River Basin Association, Roanoke River Basin Association-Upper Reach, Roanoke River Rails-to-Trail (Tobacco Heritage Trail), APVA, Halifax County Historical Society, Banister River Garden Club, Halifax County Tourism Office, VA Canals and Navigations Society, Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) and other organizations, local civic groups and interested citizens to secure VDOT Enhancement Grant Funds for the construction of the Banister River Gateway Project.

The project is located at the recently constructed bridge on VA Scenic Byway 360. The facility improvements will include bridge streetlights, a gateway sign and a wayside with parking which will provide interpretive signage, a river overlook, river access and future trailhead to the Tobacco Heritage Trail. 

In 2011 consultants, Hill Studio, 1717 Design and Wiley|Wilson were hired to develop site plans and design elements for the project working in conjunction with staff and citizen members of the project management team. 

RRBA-Upper Reach Director Scott Murray partnered with the project in 2012 to design and install river access for the canoe/kayak launch and wayfinding signage for the Banister River Blueway from the King’s Bridge Landing to the Terry’s Bridge Landing on U.S. Highway 360 beyond to the Staunton River State Park as part of a regional canoe trail system. 

During the summer, Halifax Town Councilman Jack Dunavant, made a private donation with the portion of his family’s land between the new bridge and the old King’s Bridge so that the final plans could be approved by VDOT through environmental review and right-of-way certification to release the funds. 

When signing the deed of gift to the town with Mayor Dick Moore, Jack and Bertha Jane Dunavant spoke of their family’s willingness to make the donation.

 “We are delighted to donate this property to the Town of Halifax because we feel the Banister River Gateway Project will be a tremendous asset to our town, and it will enhance a major entrance to our county seat,” Dunavant said.

According to the Dunavants, the property is part of a parcel of land originally acquired by Dunavant’s great-grandfather, Robert Holt Easley, in the early 1900s for the purpose of building the Halifax dam.  

Easley was at one time mayor of Halifax and president of the Bank of Halifax.  

The Halifax Town Councilman made a private donation with the portion of his family’s land between the new bridge and the old King’s Bridge so that the final plans could be approved by VDOT through environmental review and right-of-way certification to release the funds. 

 “We subsequently purchased this land from Virginia Power before they sold the dam to a third party,” Dunavant said.

Once a bid contract is secured, construction is anticipated to start in early spring 2014 with the grant project completed before December 2014.

For the 2013 Scenic Awards Ceremony at the Virginia State Capitol on Oct. 11, Scenic Virginia’s Trustees showcased the efforts of the localities to use the new Scenic River designation for tourism, marketing and economic development. 

The Banister River Gateway Project was featured prominently during the presentation in Richmond.  

When signing the deed, Mayor Moore told the Dunavants, “On behalf of Town Council, please accept my gratitude for your generous offer, which will greatly enhance the Banister River Gateway and help to protect, promote and preserve the river’s resources for generations to come.”