The creation of the regional Appomattox River Trail and Park System has long been envisioned. The vision was firmly planted in 1977 by the designation of a section of the upper Appomattox River as a “Virginia Scenic River” by the General Assembly and then extended in 1998 and again in 2011 to designate the entire 25-mile lower Appomattox River, from Lake Chesdin to the convergence with the James River, as a “Virginia Scenic River.” With this designation came increasing regional interest in providing river access along the Appomattox River for public use.


The National Park Service and the Crater Planning District Commission (CPDC) held a series of regional meetings to develop a consensus and identify partnerships for a vision of recreation development, resource conservation, economic development, and water quality protection along the Appomattox River. The process and results were documented in the Appomattox River Corridor Plan. The Plan was funded by the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program. One recommendation of the plan was to establish a regional trail from Lake Chesdin to Hopewell.


As a result of the planning the cities of Petersburg, Colonial Heights and Hopewell together with the counties of Dinwiddie, Chesterfield and Prince George were identified as stakeholders along the lower Appomattox River and a group of individuals representing the six jurisdictions and Virginia State University formed Friends of the Lower Appomattox River (FOLAR).


To create a more detailed design plan for the corridor concept, the CPDC and FOLAR commissioned Virginia Tech though a grant from Virginia Department of Forestry’s Urban & Community Forestry Program. The resulting Greenway/Blueway plan concentrated on developing a 23-mile-long park and trail system that would become public access – on foot, by bike or boat.


FOLAR volunteers started working to implement sections of the plan, especially a new riverside park that is now known as Appomattox River Regional Park. The park protects 60 acres with walking trails, pier, overlook, pavilion, and a kayak/canoe boat launch. To date FOLAR has protected additional land and established a number of trailheads and parks for public use. FOLAR members have also held numerous river clean-ups and participated with other organizations in events that promote environmental awareness.


Regionwide strategic planning determined that the community overwhelmingly wanted FOLAR to make its highest priority the completion of the Appomattox River Trail as a world-class regional trail system. To accomplish the work, FOLAR hired its first staff member – an executive director to strengthen operations, increase fundraising, and commission a master plan to guide development of the Appomattox River Trail system as an accessible, multi-use, by-way for transportation and recreation.


Following a yearlong regional public planning process, the Appomattox River Trail Master Plan was published, funded by a grant from The Cameron Foundation. To focus on the trail and signage development and related conservation and educational programming, the FOLAR Regional Trails Program Director position was created in 2018 as the second full-time staff through a partnership with PlanRVA.


FOLAR received official Resolutions of Support of the Appomattox River Trail Master Plan from all six jurisdictions along the lower Appomattox River and significantly expanded its collaborative partner support network. Several sections of the improved Appomattox River Trail were opened, including the Hopewell Riverwalk, which received the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award.

The FOLAR Environmental Stewardship Scholarship fund for local high school seniors was established through the Reiko and Victor Liu Charitable Fund and awarded its first annual scholarship. The scholarship is administrated by John Randolph Foundation.


FOLAR received a $1 million grant from The Cameron Foundation and a $500,000 challenge grant from The Cabell Foundation for the Appomattox River Trail and Park System. This affirmed our need to establish the staff position of FOLAR Development Director to focus on growing financial support. The successful opening of the improved University Blvd Trailhead and section of the regional Appomattox River Trail and Park System in Petersburg represents the first section that is funded completely by individual donations and managed by FOLAR in collaboration with the City of Petersburg and other partners.

FOLAR publishes the first Land Conservation Plan for the lower Appomattox River corridor through a grant from the Virginia Environmental Endowment as a resource for technical partners in land conservation to ensure that land conservation is coordinated region wide among all partners.

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