The town of Christiansburg has made plans to expand the Huckleberry Trail, thanks to a $1 million donation made by a local resident.
Renva Weeks Knowles passed away in November 2007 and left $1 million to the town. Knowles, who spent her later years in Christiansburg, left this gift to improve roads, sidewalks and walkways.
“The gift by Ms. Knowles was so generous,” said Becky Hawke, spokeswoman for the town.
While Christiansburg has yet to receive the money, it is currently making plans to use it to expand the Huckleberry Trail. Town council members collaborated to develop a project that would match the intentions of her will, Hawke said.
Knowles’ donation will create a pedestrian bridge across Peppers Ferry Road.
“(The cost) is extensive to build a bridge, but the $1 million gift will cover that,” Hawke said.
Christiansburg recently applied for a grant with a revenue sharing program through the Virginia Department of Transportation that is used to help improve roadways. The town could receive up to $1 million additional dollars through this program that would go toward the project and allow expansion of the Huckleberry Trail to the Christiansburg Recreation Center. Depending on funding, construction could begin as early as late 2010, according to Hawke. The town will oversee the project, and will provide most of the labor. Hawke said the town might contract out if it receives enough funding, but it would prefer to keep the work force local as a cost savings measure.
“We have the ability to complete that work,” she said.
The Huckleberry Trail currently extends throughout Blacksburg and Christiansburg, stretching more than 5.8 miles of land.
In addition to this construction, Friends of the Huckleberry has also been working toward expanding the trail in all directions. FOTH is currently working on a $70,000 expansion that will move past New River Valley Mall and end at Peppers Ferry Road, adding 0.4 miles to the trail.
The town of Christiansburg is contributing labor and forces while the FOTH has supplied $70,000 in materials.
FOTH President Bill Ellenbogen is currently working on two additional projects.
The first is a collaboration between FOTH, the town of Blacksburg, and Virginia Tech, which will expand the trail from the west of Route 460 to Hethwood. Tech has contributed $465,000 in grants and FOTH has raised $30,000 in funding, according to Ellenbogen.
The second project will connect Prices Fork Road to Glade Road as part of the Jefferson National Forest portion of the trail, also to be funded by FOTH. Ellenbogen said engineers are still currently working toward a final cost estimate.
FOTH was formed in 1991 to raise funds and help promote and expand the trail, explained Ellenbogen. The organization has worked closely with the Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Tech and Montgomery Country to improve the trail. Since its inception, approximately five miles have been added to the trail.
“The Huckleberry is a great facility and we hope the people of the community continue to use it,” Ellenbogen stated.