By Stefanie Jackson – The Cape Charles Town Council voted July 16 to apply for funding for Phase IV of the Southern Tip Hike and Bike Trail that currently begins near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and ends at Capeville Drive, just north of Kiptopeke Elementary School.
The bike trail is parallel to Route 13 on one side and the railroad on the other.
“If we’re successful, this could be the longest trail in Virginia,” said John Coker, a Northampton County supervisor.
He is also the vice chairman of the Accomack-Northampton Transportation District Commission, the public partner of the private company, Canonie Atlantic, which owns the railroad.
“As you know, the Canonie board is actually looking at a trail from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel all the way to Hallwood, which is where the tracks end,” Coker told council members.
“It could be huge, and it could be very successful,” he said.
“And we’ve also been contacted by people in Maryland, because they’d love that trail to go to Pocomoke City,” he continued.
“This could be something really special if it really gets going,” Coker said.
The resolution stated that Cape Charles will request the assistance of the Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission to apply for funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to construct Phase IV of the bike trail.
The town council discussed the resolution at its July 2 meeting but did not vote.
A memorandum of agreement (MOA) between Cape Charles, the Northampton board of supervisors, and Canonie Atlantic states that once Phase IV of the bike trail is constructed, it will belong to Cape Charles, and the town will be responsible for maintenance costs.
Coker pointed out that passing the resolution would not prevent the town council from negotiating with other parties for the future maintenance of the bike trail.
The resolution passed in a 5-1 vote, with Councilman Andrew Follmer opposed.
The Cape Charles section of the Southern Tip trail will likely begin near Rayfield’s Pharmacy on Fig Street.
Starting there, the speed limit drops to 25 mph and there are plenty of sidewalks, meaning bicyclists, runners, and walkers should be able to safely access the rest of the town, Coker said.
The bike trail will not begin at the waterfront as originally planned because of Canonie Atlantic’s decision to sell the Cape Charles rail yard, Coker noted.
The trail will follow Stone Road to Route 13, turn right, and continue south about 900 feet, then cross the highway at the new intersection to be built at Food Lion. The trail will turn again and proceed about 900 feet north.
The detour was added to enhance safety by avoiding high traffic at the intersection of Routes 13 and 184.
That is one of two changes made to Phase IV since the MOA was signed in October 2018. The other change is the funding source for the trail. It was originally to be funded by VDOT’s Highway Safety Improvement Program, but now it’s part of VDOT’s SMART SCALE program.
Another SMART SCALE project will extend the bike trail to Cheriton and will be constructed in two to three years, Coker said.
The Southern Tip Bike and Hike Trail is a paved trail, suitable for all skill levels. It currently is approximately 4.8 miles long, starting from the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge, leading north along the old railroad bed and passing Kiptopeke State Park. Parking is available at either end of the trail.
Land for the trail was donated by the Nature Conservancy and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
The first phase of the trail, covering 2.5 miles, was completed in 2011, and the second phase was completed in 2019. A third phase is planned.