Funding to finish the Mendota Trail through a state budget amendment remains tied up in the Virginia General Assembly.
“It’s in the mix. The funding of the Mendota trail is in the mix,” Tyler Lester, the legislative director for state Sen. Todd Pillion, R-40th, said last Wednesday.
Pillion made the budget request for $466,500 — enough money to finish the last remaining trestles on the Mendota Trail in the remote Wolf Run Gorge.
“Hopefully there will be some movement soon,” Lester said.
If approved, the money could be used to finish the 12.5-mile-long trail by July 1, 2023, Washington County Board of Supervisor Chairman Saul Hernandez said.
“The hope is that this time next summer, the trail will be completed,” Hernandez said.
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More than half of that trail is now complete. One section runs from Bristol, Virginia, through Haskell Station and Benhams to reach Wolf Run Gorge. Another section runs from Mendota Road to a crossing on the North Fork of the Holston River.
The trail follows a grade formerly used by the Southern Railroad until 1972. For a few years in the early 2000s, the city of Bristol, Virginia, attempted to develop the trail. More recently, work began about five years ago under new leadership of the Mendota Trail Conservancy.
Washington County Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Mike Rush wants the trail to be part of an Outdoor Recreation Authority that would also include similar rail-to-trail projects like the Salt Trail and the Virginia Creeper Trail.
The Mendota Trail has also been designated to be part of the statewide Beaches to Bluegrass Trail, a footpath along U.S. Highway 58 that takes its name from a 2007 book, “Beach to Bluegrass: Places to Brake on Virginia’s Longest Road.”
For Hernandez, who represents the Mendota Trail area of Washington County, the completed trail for hikers and bicycle riders should be a popular tourist attraction that spurs economic growth, he said, while comparing the trail to the Virginia Creeper Trail at Damascus.
“Obviously, it’s an economical element,” he said. “It’s kind of following the Damascus model, but certainly at a smaller scale.”
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