Visitors of the popular Huckleberry Trail will soon have more pavement beneath their feet. The trail, located just off campus, is undergoing major construction that will extend it an extra four miles.
The roughly six-mile asphalt path stretches from the Montgomery County Public Library in Blacksburg to the New River Valley Mall in Christiansburg, and is a common venue for those looking to exercise. Others take advantage of the scenic route to shoot photos and experience nature. Periodically, a “pocket park,” or miniature point-of-interest will provide visitors with an opportunity to deviate from the path.
Currently, the three municipalities overseeing the trail — Blacksburg, Christiansburg and Montgomery County — are designing and constructing three new sections that look to be finished sometime next year.
“It has always been the vision of the Huckleberry Trail to extend toward the national forest and connect Christiansburg to us,” said Dean Crane, Director of Parks and Recreation in Blacksburg, who wrote and administered the grant for the Heritage Park section of the trail. “People love having a connection to make it easier to bike and recreate and walk.”
One of the planned sections will connect the path under the Route 460 tunnel to Plantation Road and the section that runs through Hethwood. Another segment will extend from Price’s Fork Road to Heritage Park near Glade Road and continue on to the National Forest Trail Network. The third will begin at the New River Valley Mall in Christiansburg and fork to two locations: the Christiansburg Aquatic Center and Christiansburg High School.
Creating the extended pathway isn’t a cheap endeavor. The 3,500 foot segment of trail near Heritage Park is funded by a grant of $371,700. Funding for the project came from grants and donations.
“Now the funding is there, and the timing is right,” Crane said.
According to Crane, one mile of path could cost as much as $600,000 depending on the topography of the land. The biggest problem the construction crews face is navigating some of the hills and occasional wetlands that surround the trail.
Crane said the project has received strong support from residents of the NRV, so much so that community members would like the construction completed sooner than expected.
“You start clearing (the path), and they want to be on it,” Crane said. “They want it done faster, and it takes time.”
Foxridge students in particular are interested in the new extension near Hethwood.
“I think it would be a great idea to help people have alternate routes to get to campus instead of everybody trying to cram on the bus or go down the same exact path,” said Adam White, a sophomore and resident of Foxridge who often bikes on the trail. “It will also be great for recreation and not having to come to dead ends while you’re on the trail."
Emily Robles, who graduated from Virginia Tech last year but still lives in Foxridge, believes the Huckleberry Trail is one of the area’s most worthwhile attractions.
“A lot of (people) will go to Dragon’s Tooth or the Cascades, but you don’t have to drive 40-plus minutes. You can literally walk out of your apartment and hop right on the trail,” she said. “This is an awesome way to kind of get away from everything and really experience the amazing beauty that is Blacksburg.”