By Debbie Adams
The Gladetown Trail is one of Vinton’s best-kept secrets. Nestled in the area between the Roanoke Elections Office (formerly the Craig Avenue Recreation Center) on Chestnut Street and Woodland Place on Niagara Road, it is one of the segments of the Roanoke Valley Greenway System that is most pure in nature.
The 0.7-mile loop trail has a natural surface – no tiny gravels or paving. It is heavily wooded with a spring-fed stream. Those who frequent the trail have reported seeing 56 different bird species, along with several species of mammals – unusual to find in an urban setting. The land was originally part of the Vinyard Farm, owned by Vinton’s founding fathers in the 1700s.
The trail is rated “easy” on the difficulty scale. It is mostly flat,165 feet in elevation, and seldom crowded. Recommended activities are walking, mountain biking, jogging, dog walking, and bird watching. It is not wheelchair accessible.
The Gladetown Trail started out long ago as a footpath and was turned into a greenway trail in 2012 by the volunteer Pathfinders for Greenways Midweek Crew.
The Midweek Crew paid a return visit last week to do some maintenance work on the trail itself and especially the bridge that crosses the creek near Woodland Place. A smaller crew came out the week before to clear some fallen trees from the trail.
On Dec. 14, two kinds of work went on: the whole trail was cleaned up including weed-eating, raking, minor re-benching in a few spots, cutting overgrowing grass and stick weeds, and lopping; plus, the wooden ramp to the bridge and some handrails were replaced.
Volunteers brought along tools for both projects— a generator, portable drills, saws, squares, tapes, and crowbars for demolition of the old ramp. Their first task was carrying in the lumber for the bridge repairs.
What was first named the Gladetown Loop Trail came to the town’s attention in October 2005, when community leader Joe Banks asked the Town of Vinton to consider building a trail from the Gladetown community to Niagara Road– not only for recreation and eventual connection to the Wolf Creek Greenway, but also to give residents the option of walking via a shortcut to Lake Drive Shopping Center.
Due to its own limited resources, the town submitted a grant application to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation in 2007 for funding to complete the part of the proposed trail which is on town-owned property and used for a stormwater management pond, built in the years after the flood of 1985. The construction of the town’s industrial park on Third Street and the Lake Drive Shopping Plaza on Hardy Road had led to some flooding issues in the area. At one time it was estimated that two-thirds of the town’s water drained into the Gladetown section.
When the grant did not receive approval, the town decided to seek assistance from the Pathfinders for the Greenways in building the trail.
In siting the trail in the fall of 2009, town staff discovered that, in order to be out of the wet area, a portion of the remainder of the proposed pathway would have to be built on property owned by Woodland Place.
Former Town Manager Chris Lawrence and Planning and Zoning Director Anita McMillan met with Tommy Wood and his wife, Karen, then owners of the Woodland Place property, to ask for an easement. Instead of granting an easement, the Woods generously decided to donate a triangular portion of their property to the Town of Vinton for the trail.
In addition to the Woods family and the town, the Gladetown Trail became a cooperative effort involving Roanoke County, the Roanoke Valley Greenway Commission, and Pathfinders for the Greenways. The proposed greenway was a Class C trail, using a natural-type surface. Hopes were for completing the project in the spring of 2012, and, thanks to the Pathfinders Midweek Crew, it was.
If you aren’t familiar with the Gladetown Trail, you should make it a point to get connected. On your walk or run, you might be fortunate enough to see one of those 56 bird species, which include the Yellow-crowned Night Heron, wild turkeys, Northern Mockingbirds, Downy, Red-billed, Hairy, and Pileated Woodpeckers, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Indigo Buntings, Red-winged Blackbirds, mallards, Cooper’s Hawks, Canada geese, Eastern Bluebirds, American Goldfinches, Red-shouldered Hawks, Northern Flickers, Cedar Waxwings, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and Scarlet Tanagers.
There is plenty of parking at the trailhead, on the street, and in the nearby Elections Building parking lot on evenings and weekends. Motorized vehicles and horses aren’t allowed on the trail. You can’t camp, hunt, or build a fire. You are asked to clean up after your dogs and not litter. Also, please don’t feed the wildlife.
“We’re very excited about the work the Midweek Crew of the Pathfinders for Greenways has done at Gladetown Trail,” said Vinton Economic Development Specialist Marshall Stanley. “It’s invigorating to see members of our community help maintain a great outdoor recreation asset in Vinton.”