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HILLSVILLE — Two recent actions have started educators down the path of building a new walking trail at the Carroll County Schools Farm next to Hillsville Elementary School.
The New River Highlands Resource, Conservation and Development Council, the Virginia Department of Forestry and Carroll schools’ agriculture teachers and students recently installed a small stream crossing bridge at the site that will become part of the recreational trail.
At the July 10 meeting of the Carroll County School Board, elected officials quickly approved a right-of-way deal with the Virginia Department of Transportation for a stream mitigation project that will count as part of the George L. Carter walking trail.
Over the course of several hot and humid days, foresters Brad Carico and David Richert, ag teacher Randy Webb and several students worked with Virgil Hall of Hall Excavation Service to swing the 40-ton capacity bridge into place over the small stream behind the greenhouses and fields on the school property.
Students assisted by stretching out a plastic product called Geoweb at the bridge approaches.
Once the webbing was filled with stone, it turned the ground solid enough to take the weight of the approximate 30-foot iron span of the bridge, plus whatever large piece of machinery that passes over it.
The bridge came in two pieces that they chained to the bucket of the excavator to lift and place in the fence opening and over the stream.
The operator nudged the two parts even on the banks with a couple of gentle pushes with the excavator’s arm.
In the process of creating a slope up to the bridge deck, Hall had to drive his excavator on the structure itself to dump several loads of rock on the other end. The bridge didn’t budge under the 17-ton weight of the machinery.
Webb welded iron plates to the middle to close the gap on another work day.
Having a bridge to cross the stream will protect water quality and prevent erosion when moving large equipment.
At the July 10 school board meeting, VDOT officials Kevin Bradley and Danny Tyler attended to answer educators’ lingering questions about the stream mitigation project.
VDOT had to make up for stream and wetlands that it disturbed in the construction of the U.S. 58 bypass at Hillsville.
VDOT worked with the schools on plans to reconfigure a stream at Hillsville Elementary as one of the mitigation projects.
As a part of that, the VDOT officials requested a right of way on 14.99 acres at the school in a plot now used as a “land lab and research farm by the Carroll County High School Agriculture department,” according to school board information.
“The right-of-way acquisition will allow VDOT access to the property to do a stream mitigation project in a wetlands area located on the property. The mitigation project will allow for property improvements including fencing, trail construction, stream restoration, all part of the construction of a conservation area.”
Of the right of way, 14.86 acres would be permanent while .11 acre is temporary for construction.
In exchange, VDOT offered the school board $61,419 for the right of way.
Bradley noted that school board members had asked questions about paving the planned walking trail and providing a break in the fence so the schools could access property behind the mitigation area.
“I think we’ve got your last questions answered,” Bradley said. “We’re going to finish this up tonight.”
He told the school board members that they will be able to pave the trail because it’s not in the conservation easement area.
Bradley also worked with planners to provide a 35-foot break in the fence to allow better access to the other part of the property.
After a motion by School Board Member Olen Gallimore, the right of way was granted unanimously.
Construction on the stream mitigation project may start this fall, Bradley told The Gazette.
Educator Bob Martin has obtained $97,000 in a grant from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation in order to create the George L. Carter walking trail, so named because this land was the homeplace of the man who became a mining, railroad and land magnate.
The $15,000 cost for the bridge can be counted as part of the 20 percent local match required on the grant, Martin explained after the meeting. The Virginia Department of Forestry provided the grant as a demonstration project to build the bridge.
The bridge will be able to handle removal of timber without disturbing the stream or causing erosion.
Trail walkers will use the bridge to cross the water, too.
The stream mitigation project by VDOT will also enhance the recreational trail.
“The good thing about it is there’s a quarter-mile trail that... will tie into our recreational trail,” Martin said.
That will help because the educator is using every possible opportunity to develop the trail and keep the cost down.
The school system will soon seek construction bids for the project. He hopes that locals will be able to get the contracts to do the grading and laying the gravel.
Martin hopes to expand uses of the property by planting blight-resistant chestnut trees, seeking a national historic designation for it due to its connection with the industrialist, developing a history museum/classroom to tell about Carter’s life and accomplishments, installing plant identification signs, teaching about a possible Native American camp that was there and hosting track meets.
CLICK LINK BELOW FOR A DOWNLOADABLE MAP OF THE PROJECT: