City receives $45K grant for riverwalk

Published 1:11 pm Saturday, October 14, 2017

The City of Franklin has received a $45,500 Virginia Land Conservation Foundation grant to assist with its acquisition of 22 acres along the Blackwater River for use as a public riverwalk park.

Last Tuesday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the grant along with 22 other recipients. VLCF grants are used by private land trusts, local governments and state agencies to acquire and protect significant lands for use as agriculture, forestry, historic resources, natural areas, parks and open space.

According to a press release from the governor’s office, approximately six acres of the property the city hopes to acquire is upland, and will be used to develop a park for fishing, kayaking, walking, unstructured play, nature observation and picnicking.

The city applied for the grant earlier this year. According to City Manager R. Randy Martin, the funds will be used to pay for the preliminary work needed before the city can acquire the land, including environmental assessments and legal assistance to check the titles of the parcels.

“We’re in the process of getting those proposals now to do the survey work and other steps, particularly the environmental assessments,” Martin said. “We’re very pleased that we achieved this step so we don’t have to use local funds to do all these things before the city could acquire the property.”

The city’s goal is to have the surveying, legal work and environmental assessments done by the end of the calendar year, he added. The resulting riverwalk would stretch from Barrett’s Landing Park along the western bank of the Blackwater River up to the Holland-Councill Bridge on Second Avenue connecting the city with Isle of Wight County.

The creation of a riverwalk on this land has been a project for several years. In the city’s 2015-2025 comprehensive plan, it is stated that “The Blackwater River is a valuable asset to the City and should be both utilized and protected. Barrett’s Landing Park is an example of the type of facility that can enhance residents’ ability to enjoy the river.

“The use of the area along the river for recreational purposes should be a priority for the City’s future. The downtown area is a prime candidate to attract tourism by expanding the existing pedestrian trails along the shoreline to offer greater opportunities for residents to access the riverfront while helping in the protection of wetland areas.”