Fredericksburg Features

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Beat a path to excellent urban trail loop in city

FEW THINGS—with the exception of agreement by every member of Congress—are truly impossible. But I believe I’ve discovered something nearly everyone likes. 

It’s the new Rappahannock Heritage Trail, a 1.8-mile, paved trail for runners, walkers, cyclists, dog-walkers and general perambulators. Combined with the existing Canal Park Path,  it should yield a loop of about 3.5 miles, although the official length for the two trails is stated at 3.1 miles.

 Let me cut to the chase: This trail sets the new standard for urban trails. It’s that good.

 The older Canal Path following the waterway through the city has been around for many years. This new part has been in the works for more than 20 years, probably closer to 25.

 All I can say is it was worth the wait.

 How many times have I castigated Fredericksburg for coming up short? It made up for it on this one.

(And there is more to come—earlier this month, City Council approved a contract for the first two sections of what will become a 3.5-mile rail trail. It will start in the city, travel west through Alum Spring Park, cross U.S. 1 and continue west.)

A week ago Saturday, I set out with a friend and my four-legged pal, Annie, from the Princess Anne Street point where old and new trails join. It was a beautiful day for a walk.

 Within 15 minutes we passed what seemed like half the population of Fredericksburg. Wow! Don’t tell me nobody’s interested in a good trail.

 They were walking, running, pushing carriages, pulling dogs, but what matters is that they were using this new city offering. 

At the kiosk at Princess Anne Street I chatted with a not-so-young couple who had just ridden the entire loop on their bikes. They, like me, are Spotsylvania County residents.

 “It’s great!” said he. “Wish we had something like this.”

 I agreed that it’s time we got more good trails in Spotsylvania. Check the website Trail Link——to get an idea what we have now. Stafford County, on the other hand, deserves praise for new trails there.

Fredericksburg’s Heritage Trail, at its upstream or north end, will eventually connect directly with the Canal Path Trail. The city will close the current gap at Normandy Village as part of its road upgrade  at Fall Hill Avenue’s canal crossing.

 That work, expected to be complete late this year, will eliminate the risky road crossing required right now, leaving two places where it is necessary to cross a road on the Heritage Trail.

 The highlight of the new, 10-foot pathway is a lengthy section from Old Mill Park, westward beneath Falmouth Bridge, following high ground with sweeping views of the river, then curving around to Fall Hill Avenue.

 In researching this column, I became aware of a potential safety issue with the new section of trail. The difference in speeds between fast bicycles and pedestrians could pose a problem, but only if a cyclist fails to exercise reasonable speed discipline.

 One more tidbit: If you take your dog for a trail walk here, take some water. There’s none along the way.


Paul Sullivan of Spotsylvania  County,  a former reporter    with   The Free Lance–Star,   is a freelance writer.        Email him   at