By Debbie Adams
The Town of Vinton and Roanoke County celebrated Arbor Day 2021 in conjunction with a ribbon-cutting ceremony officially opening the Glade Creek Greenway Phase II.
The ceremony was held at the Glade Creek Greenway Trailhead on Gus Nicks Boulevard.
Vinton Town Manager Pete Peters welcomed guests and guest speakers, including Vinton Mayor Brad Grose, Jason Peters, Chairman of the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors and Vinton’s representative on the board, Frank Sims, Chairman of the Roanoke Valley Greenway Commission, and Forester Denny McCarthy from the Virginia Department of Forestry.
Mayor Grose noted that the Town of Vinton has been designated a Tree City USA Community for 19 years. Roanoke County has been celebrating National Arbor Day for 20 years. Partners have included the Virginia Department of Forestry, the Vinton History Museum, the Vinton Planning and Public Works Departments, and the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission.
“In addition to promoting trees and green spaces in the town, Vinton also has a long history of supporting outdoor recreation–having one of the oldest greenways in the Valley,” Grose said. “We continue that tradition today with the expansion of the Glade Creek Greenway.”
“Most people recognize the value that a Greenway brings to a neighborhood,” Grose said. “A Greenway will provide recreation, transportation, economic development, and improve the quality of life. The Roanoke Valley Greenway system is more; it represents several important partnerships. It’s a public/private partnership that includes many volunteers, government, and business. I think that is especially important here in our valley.”
“The partnership didn’t just happen. It needed a steady leader with both passion and vision,” Grose continued. “Liz Belcher has provided exactly the right kind of leadership that has helped this team to produce a valuable and lasting asset to our valley. Thanks for your courage, your passion, your vision, and steady leadership—and your friendship throughout the years.”
He described Greenway Coordinator Belcher as “an integral part of this project in all aspects. Her dedication and contributions to the development of greenways throughout the Roanoke Valley and the Town of Vinton over the past 25 years cannot be said enough. We wish her a happy retirement this August knowing she has made a difference in all our lives.”
He went on to thank the many others who “made this day happen,” including Greenway Commission Chair Frank Sims and Vinton’s representatives on the Greenway Commission Bud LaRoche, Rob Lyon, and Janet Scheid who “helped to guide the vision of this project and supported its development.”
Grose noted that funding for the project was supported by Vinton Town Council, and VDOT’s Transportation Alternatives Program and Urban Highway Funds.
He thanked Chairman Jason Peters and the Board of Supervisors who supported easements for the greenway and trailhead parking. The tree planting and greenway sign were made possible with funding from the Roanoke County Capital Improvement Incentive Fund.
He thanked Vinton Director of Planning and Zoning Anita McMillan who managed and coordinated the project with assistance and guidance from Jessie Nester and Jay Guy at VDOT.
“We also had extensive cooperation with the Roanoke County Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, and Planning Department personnel throughout the greenway development and ribbon-cutting event, including Doug Blount, Allen Hayes, Mark Courtright, Eric Vest, Lindsay Webb, Alex North, and Alex Jones,” Grose said.
He recognized Mike Johnson and Adam Matusevich with Hurt and Proffitt for their engineering services and Matt Combs and the staff at Summit Contracting who served as contractor for the project.
Grose expressed appreciation to the Pathfinders for Greenways Midweek Crew, including Bud LaRoche, Janet Scheid, Tom Berdeen, John Van Luik, and Shannon Palmer for getting the needed tree removal completed by mid-April and who removed downed trees after a recent storm.
Jason Peters commented on the recent action taken by the Board of Supervisors to rename the adjacent park as Glade Creek Park and on the connectivity the greenway provides to downtown Vinton, Vinyard Park, the Tinker Creek Greenway, and beyond to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
“The greenway is a great asset to the Valley and has been an outlet for many in the past year of the pandemic,” Peters said.
Sims stated that 25 years ago, Mayor Grose and McMillan were part of the initial greenway steering committee who had the vision of developing the greenway system. He noted that McMillan is the “only person who has been continuously part of the greenway development from the steering committee until today.”
“The dedication and hard work of people and communities has made this a successful program,” Sims said. He described the Glade Creek Greenway Phase II project as “another piece of the puzzle,” and Belcher as “the backbone of the Greenway for the Roanoke Valley.”
Vinton Town Council had declared May 25, 2021, as Arbor Day with a proclamation at their most recent meeting on May 18.
McCarthy shared parts of the Arbor Day town’s proclamation:
“In 1872, J. Sterling Morton proposed to the Nebraska Board of Agriculture that a special day be set aside for the planting of trees. This holiday, called Arbor Day, was first observed with the planting of more than a million trees in Nebraska. Arbor Day is now observed throughout the nation and the world.”
“Trees can reduce the erosion of our precious topsoil by wind and water, cut heating and cooling costs, moderate the temperature, clean the air, produce oxygen and provide habitat for wildlife. Trees are a renewable source giving us paper, wood for our homes, fuel for our fires and countless other wood products.”
“Trees increase property values, enhance the economic vitality of business areas, and beautify our community. Trees, wherever they are planted, are a source of joy and spiritual renewal.”
McCarthy noted the role that trees play in intercepting rainfall and reducing run-off into streams, creeks, and rivers.
In closing the ceremony, Grose said, “On behalf of the Town of Vinton I would like to thank everyone again who has had a hand in building this greenway. Our town staff, especially Planning and Zoning and Public Works, have given us a beautiful space in which to celebrate today and will maintain the greenway into the future.”
“The Greenway will be an asset to the nearby residents of Billy Byrd, Glade Creek Park patrons, and the rest of the community and these trees will be seen for decades by the greenway and ballfield users, parents, and visitors. The trees will serve as a reminder of our role to be conscientious environmental stewards and to do our part to help preserve our natural resources,” Grose said.
The ceremony concluded with the ribbon-cutting opening the newest section of the greenway, which connects Gus Nicks Boulevard to Gearhart Park. With this expansion Vinton and East Roanoke County now have nearly four miles of greenways for residents and visitors to enjoy.
McMillan explained that to maintain its designation as a Tree City USA, the town is required to hold an Arbor Day Celebration, along with tree plantings and tree education outreach each year. This year six Green Giant Arborvitae trees were planted at the Greenway Trailhead, while 30 others were planted throughout the town in medians and at the Vinton Farmers’ Market. The trees were funded through the Virginia Trees for Clean Water Grant Program. This year Vinton received $6000 in grant funding to purchase and plant trees.
“We are excited to open up this next expansion of the trail and new trailhead parking for everyone to enjoy,” said Assistant Town Manager Cody Sexton.