The Tinker Creek Greenway just got 2.5 miles longer. Last weekend the ribbon was cut on a new segment that runs from the Hollins University campus to the boat ramp area at Carvins Cove, providing a new way to access the Cove’s 40-plus miles of trails. That access point also means walkers who get there by foot won’t need a permit to park. Roanoke County officials, including Hollins District Supervisor Richard Flora and Parks, Recreation & Tourism Director Doug Blount, spoke about the new unpaved trail, which was built by volunteers from Hollins University and the Pathfinders for Greenways group.
Hollins University President Nancy Gray also spoke about the importance of open space and recreational trails. The new Tinker Creek Greenway segment can be accessed from the school by students, faculty and staff on foot by a path about a half-mile long. Local residents can use the new parking lot Roanoke County built on the portion of Plantation Road west of I-81 at exit 146, where the road narrows to a small rural country lane.
The Tinker Creek Greenway currently ends in Southeast Roanoke at Fallon Park; connecting that segment to the new trail beginning at Hollins means about 8-9 miles of work. Standing in the way is funding and securing rights of way. In some cases the greenway may be nothing more than a shared sidewalk, where access to build a trail cannot be negotiated on private property.
Roanoke Valley Greenways Coordinator Liz Belcher said she hopes that the ribbon cutting “will [provide] momentum for the rest of the Tinker Creek Greenway.” Belcher said linking the greenway system to Carvins Cove (in southeast Tinker Creek also links to the Roanoke River Greenway) was significant. “Its such an amenity for all of us. One step at a time…eventually we’ll go all the way down Williamson Road and get Tinker connected all the way through to sections in the city.”
Belcher said the new section “was definitely done on the cheap.” Volunteers built the small bridge at the start of the 2.5-mile trail. She cited the easement granted by local property owner and environmentalist Bill Tanger, which allowed the greenway to continue up towards Carvins Cove. “The right of way is always the issue.” In fact getting a right of way through the Hollins campus took more than ten years to negotiate.
“It’s a great day for us at Hollins after working for a decade,” said school President Nancy Gray, “[this] will enable Roanoke Valley residents to walk from where we are …to Carvins Cove. It’s a really beautiful trail that includes a very diverse natural habitat.” Gray likes the fact that Hollins students, faculty and staff members can also access the new greenway “in the shadow of Tinker Mountain; it just highlights the natural beauty of the Roanoke Valley.”
Gray said she was “proud” of the partnership that helped get the trail built; more than 100 people connected to Hollins took part. The Wednesday crew from Pathfinders for Greenways, the volunteer group of mostly retirees affiliated with the Roanoke Valley Greenways Commission, provided direction for the Hollins volunteers. “We’re thrilled to see this get done,” added Gray; “we had a lot of things to work through…to make sure all parties were comfortable. We got it done.”
Supervisor Richard Flora was excited about the “easy access” the new trail provides to Carvins Cove. “Right off the interstate, right on Plantation Road. They don’t have to drive all the way into the Cove. It’s going to be extraordinary.” Flora also hopes to see more momentum build for the Tinker Creek Greenway, which could follow Carvins Creek in north Roanoke County. “I think it’s going to be heavily used.”
Doug Blount said the new trail and the Tinker Creek Greenway in general will link three jurisdictions – Roanoke County, Roanoke City and Botetourt County, which the new segment enters as it heads towards Carvins Cove. “This is a tremendous community partnership,” said Blount of what it took to finally have the trail built on the Hollins campus.
The Western Virginia Water Authority, which manages Carvins Cove (Roanoke City’s principal water supply) also had a seat at the table. “Everybody [was] working together to create something that will be here for years to come.”
By Gene Marrano