November 16, 2012
Albemarle County celebrated the opening of Old Mills Trail Friday morning.
"Over the last several years, we've just noticed a tremendous increase in enthusiasm and demand for recreational trails," said Albemarle County parks and recreation director Bob Crickenberger.
The latest trail, a three-mile stretch snaking from Darden Towe Park to Martha Jefferson Hospital, winds along the scenic Rivanna River.
"There's a lot that can be seen beyond just the footpath," said Greenways supervisor Dan Mahon.
Mahon, who helped design the trail, said acquiring the land to make Friday's ribbon cutting possible has taken time, especially because the county didn't seize any of the properties.
"[The properties] are all gifts, either through development process or just an outright gift to the community," Mahon said.
And they are gifts that keep on giving. Mahon said creating the trail has unearthed artifacts like boat locks and sluices that are shedding light on how the river was used long before highways and railroads.
"This is the way everything was carried into town and out of town," said Mahon. "There was a lot of riverfront industry that occurred along here."
Along with connecting residents to area neighborhoods and businesses, Crickenberger said the path will spotlight the county's rich historical interests, like areas associated with Lewis and Clark and Thomas Jefferson.
"Thomas Jefferson grew up playing around here and turning these rocks over and seeing what was underneath them," Mahon added.
Mahon said the next step is working with the historical society and other organizations to make sense of their discoveries so trail users can get a history lesson along with their jog or bike ride.
The multi-use trail is part of the county's Rivanna River Greenways and Blueways system. The network of trails, parks and river access sites will eventually follow the river from North Fork all the way into Fluvanna County.
Albemarle County supervisor Ken Boyd cut the ribbon at Friday's ceremony. Crickenberger said Boyd played a vital role in the trail's construction. The portion of the trail named "Boyd's Crossing" was dedicated to Boyd for his support of the project.