Clinich River Walking Trail Report
Richlands, a small town in the mountains of southwest Virginia,
is located near the origins of the Clinch River, a 135 mile river
which flows through the Great Appalachian Valley before joining
the Tennessee River. The Clinch, along with the Powell River,
is considered one of the only ecologically intact (undammed)
headwaters of the Tennessee River system and is the home of
a number of rare and endangered species.
Originally established as a planned community whose economy would be supported by mining of rich coal deposits, Richlands was intended to be the Pittsburgh (PA) of the South by the Clinch Valley Coal and Iron Company of Philadelphia. The coming of the Norfolk & Western Railroad supported the capital investment to create a town that would manufacture products such as steel, brick, and glass. It also showcased the deluxe Hotel Richlands and other businesses as well as residential areas. Because the Town was uniquely situated along the Clinch River, the plan encompassed development and growth along both sides of the river. One particular stretch of railway, which paralleled the Clinch River, was used for transporting raw materials for brick manufacturing. It was this piece of original railroad track bed that paved a way to the future. In 2000, the Town of Richlands received a Transportation Enhancement grant from the Virginia Department of Transportation to create a walking trail along the old railroad track in order to connect the Williams Field/Critterville Playground to downtown Richlands. The trail’s official name is the Clinch River Pedestrian Walkway. A portion of the trail was built, but plans to connect the trail to downtown Richlands were not completed.
The Community Design Assistance Center was tasked with developing a conceptual design for a greenway that extends the exsisting walking trail approximately 1.67 miles to complete the connection to downtown and a historic swinging bridge. The goal would be to provide increased benefits and equal access to the river for the larger community.