Home to the Thornton Gap Entrance to Shenandoah National Park, the village of Sperryville in Rappahannock County is a gateway to recreation, critical wildlife habitat, and the public connective tissue of the Blue Ridge Mountains. But Sperryville is much more than a place to pass through – and through the enthusiasm and hard work of its community, the Sperryville Trail Network illustrates that these amenities lie within the village as well as beyond it. In November 2019, the Sperryville Community Alliance, a local nonprofit, created the Sperryville Trail Network, a publicly accessible trail on private property that links areas of the village previously lacking safe pedestrian access, and much of which runs along the Thornton River.
To support the future and longevity of the Sperryville Trail Network, The Piedmont Environmental Council’s Krebser Fund for Rappahannock County provided financial support for the creation of a Trail Study and Invasive Species Management Plan. Both now complete, these documents will inform the future activities and management of the Sperryville Trail Network.
One of the first items on the docket is restoring native vegetation and tree canopy to the Thornton River’s riparian corridor adjacent to the trail. The Thornton River is a state-designated Scenic River, and also home to wild trout – making this a great step. A recent inventory of the trail conducted for the Invasive Species Management Plan found over 40 different non-native invasive species, representing almost 70 percent of the vegetation along the Thornton River.
To kickstart the restoration effort, the Sperryville Community Alliance, with support from PEC staff, secured funding from the Department of Forestry’s Community and Urban Forestry Grant Program. Additionally, on November 12, the Sperryville Community Alliance and Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection hosted a volunteer Sperryville Trail Network Clean-Up Day, with more than twenty volunteers – including PEC staff – participating in the removal of invasive species, tree planting preparation and trash pick-up.
Three years in, the Sperryville Trail Network has shown that it takes, well, a village, to build up a new and expansive community resource. In the coming months, we hope to see the trail evolve into an educational showcase for the importance of riparian buffer restoration, continue providing walkability and connectivity for residents, and be at the heart of many more Sperryville events. Stay tuned for more updates on the Sperryville Trail Network, and read more about PEC’s efforts to help expand access to the Piedmont in Charlottesville, Orange County and along the Rappahannock River (see video).