Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Case Study: Virginia Creeper Trail

One of 47 bridges and trestles on the Creeper Trail.

The Monticello Connectivity Practicum team studied a number of regional trail projects to find out what works and what we can learn from them. This past weekend, I was able to visit one of the best of them and experience it first-hand. After reading hundreds of reports and gushing reviews I had high expectations for the Virginia Creeper Trail. It exceeded them.

The Creeper follows an old railroad right-of-way through the mountains and valleys of Southwest Virginia. Meredith and I rented bikes for the day and one-way shuttle service in Abingdon ($26 each) and rode the full 37 mostly-downhill miles back from White Top. It felt epic but attainable for someone who is active but not a cycling specialist. Shorter routes are available. The entire first half is a very easy ride and barely requires pedaling. As a result, we saw all body types, kids and seniors. The beauty is breath-taking and I was thrilled to see so many people out enjoying it. Because most people ride the same direction, there was little conflict even on a peak-usage Saturday afternoon.

The right-of-way is a three-way partnership between the United States Forest Service, the Town of Damascus and the City of Abingdon. Much of the trail is on Forest Service land, but more than half of it is on private land, passing alongside (and through) villages, farms and woodlands. Trespass is not an issue: the trail design keeps you on it and there’s really no reason to leave except to patronize the businesses it passes.