Those who love to take a hike now have a new option.
The Co-op Trail officially opened Jan. 1 at Pocahontas State Park.
Jeff Samuels, director of the Friends of Pocahontas State Park’s trails committee, said the trail is currently 3 miles although another mile is planned later this year.
The Co-op Trail runs along the north shore of Swift Creek Lake and begins near the Pocahontas boat ramp. The trail intersects several other trails too, including a three-quarter mile loop located near the eastern edge of the Co-op Trail that was recently completed by a Boy Scout troop. A spur that was built by the Youth Conservation Corps last summer connects the Co-op Trail with the Forest Exploration Trail.
About 50 or so people attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Co-op Trail at noon Jan. 1, and 55 hiked the trail beginning at 8:45 a.m. that day.
Samuels said that the name of the trail was chosen because of the cooperation between various entities that brought it to fruition. A $20,000 grant from REI Richmond, a $10,000 grant from Dominion Energy and $5,000 from Altria funded the hiking-only trail.
“Single-use trails are a win-win,” park manager Josh Ellington said in a press release. “Hikers don’t have to worry about mountain bikers zipping by them, and bikers can ride freely without hikers on the trail.”
The Co-Op Trail contributes to some 10 miles of hiking-only trails in the park, with more trails planned. Ellington said the 8,000-acre park has some 125 miles of trails in total.
At the ribbon-cutting, Samuels thanked volunteers and sponsors for their help building the trail, specifically naming Andrea Hasenfus, a state Department of Conservation and Recreation employee, for her encouragement along the way.
Volunteers encountered ticks, poison ivy
Ellington said that a small bulldozer and mini-excavator were used to help build two portions of the trail.
“It wasn’t just people digging dirt. It was people writing grants and contacting corporate sponsors,” said Ellington, who has been at Pocahontas for 3 1/2 years.
The new trail features wetlands, old growth forest
Kathy Samuels, Jeff’s wife, said the Co-op Trail was her husband’s dream. Jeff Samuels was given a lifetime pass to the park because of the many volunteer hours that he contributed since 2007.
“He just lives in the park,” trails committee member Ellie Tuck said. “[Kathy’s] biggest contribution is letting him take off and ‘live’ in the park.”
The Co-op Trail was the second hiking-only trail the trails committee has helped build. The first was the Big Poplar Trail, which was completed in 2017.
According to a press release, Ellington has helped facilitate a dramatic increase in park visitation through continued development of the park’s trail system, including the mountain-biking specific Swift Creek Trail system that formally opened in October.
The park is well known for some of the best mountain biking trails in the state.