In the words of Town Manager Kyle O’Brien, the possibility of repurposing an abandoned railroad track in the Valley is “gaining steam,” and the effort is fully supported by the town of Broadway.
During Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, council members unanimously approved a resolution in support of transforming the former Manassas Gap Railroad owned by the Norfolk Southern Corp. into a 38.5-mile linear park.
The railroad is located in Shenandoah and Rockingham counties.
The rail trail will span from Broadway to Strasburg and connect 11 communities, three Civil War battlefields and various schools and businesses, according to the Shenandoah Rail Trail Partnership.
With Broadway being proposed as the southern terminus of the trail, it would bring increased revenue to the town.
“Broadway will be one of the greatest recipients of this,” O’Brien said Tuesday.
In a previous interview with the Daily News-Record, O’Brien said the trail will have “unlimited potential for the town from an economic development standpoint,” adding that the town will be a spot for many to begin or end their hike or bike.
According to the resolution, the trail would “catalyze tourism-related economic growth and greatly enhance recreational services in Broadway.”
Efforts to transform the rail corridor began several years ago with help from public, private and nonprofit organizations located in Rockingham and Shenandoah counties, who were seeking ways to bring new recreational opportunities to the area.
The resolution stated that the railroad in its current state is a “blight’ on the community and a danger to those who trespass.
The opportunity to reinvent the rail corridor would lend itself to creating a space for bicyclists, pedestrians and equestrians to enjoy the area safely.
And while efforts to make the rail trail happen have been simmering for a number of years, it got put on the fast track when Del. Tony Wilt, R-Broadway, introduced a budget amendment during the 2020 General Assembly special session calling for the Department of Conservation and Recreation to assess the feasibility of developing the trail.
The budget amendment was approved in 2020, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation is expected to present its assessment to the chairs of the House Committee on Appropriations and Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriations no later than Nov. 1.
With the passage of the resolution, Broadway affirms its support of converting the discontinued railroad to a multiuse trail for alternative transportation and recreation.
The town will also seek to join other trail localities in seeking support from regional, state and federal agencies, as well as the Norfolk Southern to move forward.