PETERSBURG, Va. -- The dream of a 25-mile trail running along the Appomattox River from Hopewell to Dinwiddie County is getting closer to reality.
"I'm looking forward to it. It's a very therapeutic walk out here. A lot of people come out here because it's just a nice trail and it sounds like it will be a whole lot nicer," Mike MacNeil, a man who walks the trail every day, said.
The idea for the trail started in 2000 and has come a long way since then.
"Right now, we have about five miles paved on the ground, another five miles that's passable and another four miles that we have under funding," Heather Barrar, a member of the non-profit Friends of the Lower Appomattox (FOLAR), said.
The non-profit is behind the riverwalk project.
"What we wanted to do is contract and clear a pathway from the Brassfield Dam all the way to Hopewell," Richard Taylor, a former FOLAR board member said.
Now with another phase recently completed, the next phase is already underway.
"Our goal is to focus on the seven miles between I-95 on Pocahontas Island and Ferndale Park in Dinwiddie County," Barrar said.
FOLAR already has a $1 million donation and a $500,000 Challenge Grant for planning and engineering.
"What that's going to do is transform our western entrance of the trail in Dinwiddie County and Chesterfield County coming all the way here to Petersburg," Barrar said.
Ultimately, this phase to construct will come with about a $10 million price tag.
"Preserving and protecting this historic river, these historic resources is good for the environment, it is great for our personal health and wellness, it is great for economic development," Barrar said.
The City of Petersburg has a long portion of the trail flowing near their historic Old Towne Area.
"It's an attraction, it makes people want to come see it," Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham said.
With the city's phase basically completed, their parks and recreation department has plans to use Petersburg's portion of the trail.
"One of our big initiatives is getting the kids back outside and also getting them to work with FOLAR and provide more outdoor activities which are safe activities for our kids," Parham said.
The trail garnered extra attention during the coronavirus pandemic.
"During COVID especially, we found that our outdoor spaces were a sanctuary for all of us," Barrar said.
The next phase of the Appomattox River Trail is expected to begin in the next four to five years, bringing users one step closer to a completed 25-mile trail from Dinwiddie to Hopewell.