High Bridge Trail Update

Published 3:25 pm Tuesday, August 9, 2011

CUMBERLAND – Eric Hougland, High Bridge Trail State Park's park manager, recently gave the Cumberland Board of Supervisors an update on activities that have been taking place in the park throughout the summer.

After his presentation, he also addressed the economic impact the day-use park has on the local area.

“I'm here to share an update about the park,” said Hougland about the newest rail-to-trail conversion park added to the state's park system.

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The first four miles of the park were originally opened in Cumberland County in 2008 and since then the park has steadily expanded and grown to about 30 miles.

“We back stepped it a little bit just because we took another step forward because we started to work on High Bridge and I know that has been a reoccurring question to me,” he noted. “…Well we're starting on the bridge.”

Keith Barber Construction was awarded the contract to do the rehabilitation work on the bridge earlier this year, he continued.

The bridge design is for a wooden decking construction with a handrail system going about five feet high, according to Hougland.

“We were glad to see a local contractor get the job,” he said. “They earned it.”

On March 8, the construction company started mobilizing necessary equipment to the site.

“It's a big job,” he said. “High Bridge is 2,400 feet long. It's kind of a lot of the same thing over and over and over but progress is being made. The contract called for substantial completion in nine months, which would put it in December but the reality is…we're probably looking at more realistically next spring for completion.”

The park's attendance in 2010 was almost 80,000, Hougland advised the Supervisors.

“And we just see that going through the roof once the bridge is complete,” he added. “A lot of interest from outside the area. A lot of people from the Richmond area, Roanoke, Tidewater, Charlottesville, even out of state and, of course, we love that we can provide a community aspect to our localities as well.”

“Mr. Womack has been a great user, in fact,” noted Hougland while looking over to Supervisor Elbert Womack who lives just a short distance from the trail and utilizes it regularly.

Womack said, “For any of you that hasn't used the trail, it's a magnificent place. You'll see things you've never seen before.”

Hougland continued, “It's an exciting time for us and we're looking forward to having that bridge complete and open next spring.”

“Have you done an impact study on what dollars have actually come into the area as a result of High Bridge (Trail State Park) being opened yet?” asked Supervisor Tim Kennell, District Two.

Although Hougland noted that there is a difference in the formula for parks that are day-use and for those that are overnight he did say, “I know it's over one million dollars.”

“The contribution of all of our state parks is phenomenal,” continued Kennell. “You're doing a great job.”

Hougland also offered, “The support of our communities has been outstanding.”