Some special things come in threes! The Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) invites you to its First Saturday Outing on December 7 to walk on three paved sections of the Smith River Trail System in Martinsville, Virginia. The total hike will be about 2.5 miles, covering the Uptown Connection Trail, the Silverbell Trail, and the Wilson Park Nature Trail.
Meeting at 10:00 a.m. at the corner of Franklin and Depot Streets (GPS 36.692971, -79.872300), hikers will leave their vehicles in the trailhead parking lot for the out-and-back walk. DRBA joined many partners in the community in creating and enhancing both the Uptown Connection and Silverbell trails.
Originally constructed in 2008, the Uptown Connection Trail and Park received its name via a community contest in 2012. As the name implies, the trail and parking lot link important city amenities-Martinsville's historic district and the Dick & Willie Passage. At the naming ceremony, Martinsville community planner Susan McCulloch spoke of "how vital our Smith River Trail System has become to our community."
Enhancements near the parking area include a greenspace with trees, a comfort station resembling a train depot, pedestrian-friendly stairs, and an overlook within sight of an American flag mural by artist Scott LoBaido. DRBA provided benches, signage, and a trailhead kiosk and helped to extend the paved trail to the Clocktower building.
Next on the walk is the Silverbell Trail, a project of DRBA and Activate Martinsville Henry County, which officially opened in December 2012. DRBA's program manager Brian Williams says, "The trail is named for the Carolina Silverbell tree, which is uncommon in the Piedmont region and rare to Henry County.
"On a preliminary hike to lay out the trail route," Williams continues, "Cari Zimmer of Activate and I observed and photographed blooms on a tree we had not seen before-the Silverbell tree. We found four smaller trees in close proximity, and the trail was carefully routed to avoid damage to these trees."
Iron leaves and interpretive signs mark points of interest along the trail, which includes a long boardwalk. Sculptures and signs depicting Silverbell blossoms help identify the trail. In addition, there are small bronze animal sculptures, including a dove, a turtle, a snake, and a trout, for children to locate and identify.
Third is the J. Frank Wilson Park, described by the Virginia Birding Trail as a "quaint park in the center of Martinsville...the perfect venue for a quick wildlife watching break." Dozens of bird species have been sighted in the park, which has a small stream through its center and is crisscrossed by a system of paved trails. DRBA members and guests will take their lunch break at the park before retracing their steps to their vehicles.
Participants in the outing should bring water and lunch, wear hiking boots and layers of water-shedding artificial fabric or wool, and be prepared for rain or wind. All participants will be asked to sign a waiver form.
To reach the parking lot at the corner of Franklin and Depot streets from the south, take US 220 North to Martinsville. Continue onto US 220 Business North/Memorial Boulevard for 1.8 miles. Turn right onto Bridge Street. After 0.7 miles, continue onto Jones Street. After 0.1 mile, turn right onto Depot Street. The parking lot is on the right.
From the east, take US 58 West to Martinsville. Continue onto US 58 Business for 4.3 miles. You will pass Chatham Road next to Food Lion. At the second Chatham Road, turn right and drive 0.4 miles. Turn left onto Commonwealth Boulevard. Drive 1.3 miles, turn left onto Liberty Street and drive 0.2 miles. The parking lot is on the left.
From the north and west, take US 220 Business South into Martinsville. Merge onto VA-57 East. Continue onto North Virginia Avenue for 4 miles. Turn left onto Commonwealth Boulevard, and drive 1.4 miles. Take slight right onto Liberty Street. Drive 0.2 miles, and turn right into the parking lot.
Outings and meetings of the Dan River Basin Association are free and open to the public.