What is the Town to Trail initiative?
Town to Trail is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that emerged from a working group of friends, neighbors and local businesses partnering with The Piedmont Environmental Council to improve community access to green space, starting in 2015 with an initiative to create the Montpelier-Grelen Trail, a 3.9-mile stretch of a 15-mile continuous trail for recreation in Orange County. PEC’s involvement in Town to Trail reflects our mission to build better communities by improving the walkability of towns and increasing access to recreation in the Piedmont region.
We hope the Gordonsville Park Network will stand as a testament to how park and trail projects can revitalize communities and foster economic development.
Gordonsville Park Network
The Gordonsville Town to Trail project is inspired by a conceptual plan to help advance the Town’s Comprehensive Plan that was developed by UVA’s School of Architecture, called Gordonsville Visions. In 2017, PEC and the Town worked off of this vision to begin work creating a park network in the Town of Gordonsville, starting with Verling Park – soon to be renamed Gordonsville Park – located in the center of the Madison Barbour Rural Historic District.
To set the plan in motion, PEC retained Charlottesville-based Land Planning & Design Associates to develop a concept design that incorporated input from Gordonsville residents. The park master plan outlined a design for refurbishing the 1950s-built park, improving park access from Main Street and Baker Street, and developing sidewalks to connect the park with Firemen’s Fairgrounds, which is owned by the Volunteer Fire Company and used for training purposes. The effort to expand the park has resulted in the inclusion of an entire town block, more than doubling the size from two to four acres.
Throughout the planning process, the Town worked with PEC to identify, fundraise for and acquire four target parcels that would expand Gordonsville Park and connect it to Fireman’s Fairgrounds. Within the first year, Town to Trail raised $35,000 in private contributions from generous residents and neighbors to kick off the acquisition phase.
PEC first helped the Town purchase the first parcel at 112 Linney Street in 2018, where the Town later removed an abandoned home to expand Verling Park to a full block. Next, the Town worked with CSX Railroad to formally acquire a large parcel already in use as park space, but not legally owned by the Town.
Fundraising continues, and volunteers raised almost $70,000 (mostly from bake sales) for a new pool. Soon, the acquisition phase went on to attract about $700,000 in private, municipal, and state funding (from the Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s Open-Space Lands Preservation Trust Fund).
2019 brought the addition of another parcel, a vacant lot at 204 Allen Street, which PEC purchased with contributions from community donors. PEC also purchased an adjacent parcel at 304 Market Street. Both of these parcels, totaling approximately 2 acres, were transferred to the Town in spring 2023.
All of these acquisitions, located within the block between Fireman’s Fairgrounds and Verling Park, strengthen the original Gordonsville Visions concept.
Getting It Funded
In 2022, the Town finalized the details of the park network design with Land Planning and Design Associates. The Town also collaborated with Rappahannock Rapidan Regional Commission and PEC to submit a grant application with hopes to receive $3.4M from the National Park Service’s Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). LWCF is a matching fund, and the Town had received $1.6M in pledge donations from members of the community, including $1M from the Manning Family Foundation, as part of the application process. The estimated cost of the new park infrastructure, including a regulation-size pool, bathhouse, pavilion, and playground, was estimated at about $3M.
Fortunately, in September, the Gordonsville park project was one of only six park projects in Virginia awarded funds through the LWCF! PEC is proud to have been a key partner in securing this funding to match funds raised in a grassroots effort by community members.
The first of the two-part redevelopment phase began with a groundbreaking in October; construction of the new pool, bathhouse, pavilion and playground is expected to conclude in June 2024.
Town to Trail Supporters
Cyd Black, Chair
John Keyes, MD
A big thank you to the Manning Family Foundation donations for acquisitions, the 15+ businesses and organizations, and well over 100 individuals have helped fund the Town to Trail initiative to date!