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Heritage trail adds sites in Northern Neck


RICHMOND—Virginia’s “Road to Revolution” heritage tourism trail is expanding to the Northern Neck, and tourism proponents hope it brings with it tourist dollars and wider interest in the region’s Revolutionary War-era history.

The trail is adding a number of historic sites related to Virginia’s Founding Fathers, including Stratford Hall in Westmoreland County and the James Monroe birthplace in Colonial Beach.

The additions more than double the size and scope of the trail program, said tourism leaders at a press conference in Richmond on Thursday. The trail also has a website, roadtorevolution .com.

Del. Chris Peace, R–Hanover, helped found the Road to Revolution trail through legislation a few years ago. At the time, it focused on sites related to Patrick Henry.

Now, it will expand to sites relevant to a variety of people who “played a role in liberating Virginia and establishing the United States of America.”

Stratford Hall was home to the Lee family, who included two signers of the Declaration of Independence, a Revolutionary War hero and the father of the Civil War, Gen. Robert E. Lee.

“This is another great step in helping to promote all the other Virginians” involved in the Revolution, said Dr. Paul Reber, of Stratford Hall.

Those others “tend to get overshadowed” by the likes of George Washington, Reber said.

He said the Road to Revolution trail designation will highlight those others, attracting tourists and encouraging them to explore beyond the beaten paths to the doors of well-known sites like Mount Vernon.

“On many levels this is a useful and good investment,” Reber said.

Monroe, who fought in the Revolutionary War and was the fifth president of the United States, was born in Westmoreland County.

Monroe Foundation president Bill Thomas said the designation will help tourists get to know Monroe better—the fact that he was born just miles from where Washington was born, his role in the War of 1812, the importance still today of the Monroe Doctrine.

“We hope the public will come and rediscover our fifth president,” Thomas said.

The trail program, he said, “makes the Northern Neck a destination. It’s a birthplace of a number of our Founding Fathers. It’s a way that the public can rediscover the greatness of these Virginia-born patriots. By highlighting our history in Westmoreland County and the Northern Neck, this is the most powerful economic development engine that the county can have in the 21st century.”

Rita McClenny, president of the Virginia Tourism Corporation, said designated “trails” do attract tourists. Virginia also has wine trails, a craft beer trail, the Crooked Road music trail, the Civil War trail and more.

“Trails work,” McClenny said.

The trails help people plan a trip around one kind of destination, McClenny said, making trip-planning more intuitive.

“Hopefully if they get on one trail, they’ll get on others,” she said.

Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028