Trail Gateway Project, Brunswick County

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Thanks to the hard work and partnership of area leaders, the unused space at Lawrenceville’s trailhead to the Tobacco Heritage Trail will become a playground for kids near and far.

“It would be great to have a slide, merry-go-round we can get dizzy we can go round and round. Big or small any size. Swings: we can go high or low we could swing fast or slow.”

“We need a playground, not just for me but for all of us.”                                                            

In community feedback sessions, Lawrenceville fourth graders made it clear that playgrounds are good for everybody. The director of the county’s Industrial Development Authority (IDA), Mike Dotti, agrees. “Playgrounds foster community. Moms hang out and talk to each other. Creating and nurturing community relationships is a big part of our mission.”

In drawings and notes, kids from Lawrenceville’s grade school showed the difference a playground could make.

Currently, there are no public playgrounds in Lawrenceville, so families must make the 30-minute drive to South Hill so their children can play outside. Brunswick County’s IDA is about to change that with a $25,000 grant from the Virginia Outdoors Foundation’s Get Outdoors Program. They are using the grant to install a shelter and playground equipment at Lawrenceville’s access point to the Tobacco Heritage Trail (THT).

Dotti says locating the playground and shelter at the THT trailhead is a strategic choice, part of a larger vision of making the area’s outdoor resources more accessible to everyone. “The trails may be a destination for others, but how do we [as locals] use them? How can moms take their children to the trail head and feel safe, with proper lighting and amenities, a bathroom and changing station? The playground is the first step to making the trails more user-friendly.”

Area leaders Gibson, Dotti and Reynolds are making sure all local assets are working for the community, including an old railcar that will soon be refurbished to host birthday parties and other local youth activities at the trailhead playground.

Dotti credits the county’s economic development director, Alfreda Reynolds, and Lawrenceville’s town manager, Everett Gibson, with sharing this vision of revitalization. “Partnerships make change,” he says. “We’re going to make this happen through everybody thinking and talking and working together.” That shared vision has also inspired a project led by the Town of Lawrenceville to create walkability from downtown to the trailhead where the new playground will be located.

Going forward, the county and town will continue to work together to create more outdoor resources to serve residents as well as visitors to the area, Dotti states. “We have a renewed sense that together we can make this stuff happen. We can bring revival to an underserved rural community by taking advantage of what we have–these great trails. We just need to make sure everyone can use them.”

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