The Trail

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Skyline of the city of Richmond From the Lee Bridge. Photo credit: Taber Andrew Bain.

52 miles of history, from Great Shiplock Park to Jamestown. The Capital Trail starts with the channel for ships built in 1854; Great Shiplock Park is now a fishery for friends and family to enjoy a nice sunny day. Once on the Capital Trail, you can experience beautiful rows of corn just three miles west of the city of Richmond, and signs every few miles about the historical significance of a certain location. The most appealing part of the Capital Trail is that it is connected to no roads. This makes it so no motor vehicles are allowed, which diminishes the risk of an accident. My friend and I recently decided we should grab our helmets and go bike the Capital Trail. But what did it take to make the Trail?

40 long years of ideas, planning, donating, and creating the Trail. The first idea of making Route 5 into a bicycle trail was brought forth in 1975 by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. However, it wasn’t seriously considered until 1991. The Virginia Department of Transportation ( VDOT) petitioned the concept to Governor Douglas Wilder and the General Assembly of Virginia. The initial idea was to just widen Route 5 and add bike lanes, not create a whole new bike road. However a study was performed between 1996 and 2003 about the conceivability of a multi-use trail along Route 5, incorporating the scenery into the Trail. VDOT appointed Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc., an engineering and designing firm, to run the study. Then, from 2003 to 2009, governors started to seek funding. The largest contributors were paper and packaging company WestRock, donating $300,000, and Dominion Power, donating $110,000. In December of 2009, then Governor Tim Kaine addressed the beginning of creating the Trail. Finally, in October of 2015 the Capital Trail was open.

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Photo credit: Reilly Gallagher.

The day was perfect 54 degrees and sunny. We parked our cars at Great Shiplock Park, ready to bike until our legs cried. Leaving the city was especially difficult, making our way through the elevation out of Shockoe Bottom to eastern Henrico County. However, once the trail flattened out, our morale was boosted, as well as the state of our legs. My friend and I  passed many runners and fellow bikers, which usually led to a simple nod or a “Good afternoon!” I even ran into Collegiate’s own Middle School math teacher Bill Rider, one of our mountain biking coaches. The whole experience was intriguing, and we ended the day with 22 miles under our belts and very sore legs.

Almost everyone I’ve talked to who has conquered the Capital Trail has fallen in love with it. Collegiate’s Brad Cooke, of Outdoor Collegiate and the Upper School history department, states, “this is the best thing Richmond has ever done.” Fellow Upper School history teacher Dr. Brian Ross says, “You can ride through sixty miles on a smooth bike trail that cuts through woods, farmlands, and gently rolling hills.  The experience includes exercise, fresh air, and the joy of cycling.  And best of all, there is basically no automobile traffic. It’s just you, your bicycle, your friends, and the outdoors.” Everyone seems to have a passion for this trail.

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Map of the Capital Trail. Photo credit: Hal Jespersen via Wikimedia Commons.

I believe that the Capital Trail has really created a wonderful environment to enjoy the outdoors, history, and exercise. It provides a safe use of transportation by bike or by walking, which promotes no risk of motor vehicle accidents. Whenever you have time or the weather is nice, I definitely recommend heading out and enjoying the Capital Trail.

About the author

Reilly is 5 foot 2 3/4 inches