Prince Edward supervisors support growth project for Pamplin

Published 2:38 am Thursday, March 23, 2023

PAMPLIN – Some residents of Pamplin remember when it was a booming railroad town. Thanks to traffic changes on Highway 460 and the decline of the tobacco industry, that once bustling town is now the smallest in the area. Residents hope to rebuild it, however, and part of that process involves the High Bridge Trail. 

During their Tuesday, March 14 meeting, the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors heard a bit about High Bridge and the plan Pamplin residents have to bring in tourists. They want to direct the High Bridge Trail into the downtown area. The goal is to tailor the downtown, to attract tourists walking on the trail to stop in and look around. 

Currently, High Bridge Trail ends at Heights School Road. A land purchase by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation from Norfolk Southern will enable the trail to extend another mile into the Town of Pamplin. The town’s responsibility is to build the western terminus parking lot. Originally, the cost of the parking lot was estimated at $50,000. As Pamplin resides part in Prince Edward County and part in Appomattox County, Appomattox supervisors gave them the full $50,000 originally needed. Already, $14,000 of that has been spent by the town on clearing brush and debris, surveying property lines and acquiring site plans. But then inflation hit hard this past year and now the town needs some help. 

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“However, this past year has seen unprecedented escalations in the cost of materials and labor,” Pamplin Mayor Sarah Hamlett Blackwell wrote in a letter to supervisors. “New estimates have averaged about $125,000 for the remainder of the project.”  

Fortunately, the town received a grant to cover most of the cost. Now to get it done, they just need $25,000 from each county. 

Prince Edward supervisors agreed by a unanimous vote to take $25,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act funds, to help cover the cost. 

Pamplin and High Bridge

As for High Bridge itself, Park Manager Daniel Jordan said the operation is doing quite well. In 2021, the last year with data available, 140,000 visitors dropped by, generating a $6 million economic impact to Prince Edward and Cumberland countries. A total of 98 jobs were created, with 89 of those being full-time. 

As for work right now, it’s time to start focusing on the visitors center, Jordan said. 

“It was a wet winter so it took a while to get off the ground,” Jordan added, promising that construction will begin soon. 

The trail center will be situated at the eastern end of the actual High Bridge from which the park receives its namesake and is the most popular section of the trail. The building will be located about 0.3 miles from High Bridge and there will be an ADA-accessible path to the trail. The trail center will serve as the new centerpiece of the park highlighting the recreational, cultural and historical significance of the trail and resources in the surrounding area.

This building will look a little different from the typical visitor center found at most state parks as it will be linear and will resemble a train station that would have been built for Norfolk and Western Railroad in the early 1900s. The design was based on the 1914 Standard Combination Passenger and Freight Station in the Norfolk & Western Railway Company Standard Plans. The trail center’s unique design will enhance the history of the area as well as bring more modern features to the park.