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Best Darn Place It Can Be

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For those who’ve not had the chance to cover every mile of the Virginia Capital Trail, a recent podcast presents a terrific opportunity to learn about its offerings from one of those who know it best. Cat Anthony, the new Executive Director of the Virginia Capital Trail Society, was just interviewed by Richmond Outside’s “View From the Treehouse”. Set in an actual tree house (it’s not just a clever name), the half hour conversation gives listeners a chance to learn more about one of Richmond’s greatest community drivers, and where to get the best beers along the way.

The Virginia Capital Trail sounds intimidating. A 52 mile track from Richmond’s Riverfront to James City County near Williamsburg, VA, the bird’s eye view of the trail can seem a little daunting to those new to cycling, the outdoors, or Richmond in general, and this interview helps break it down into more manageable bites. It also focuses on what many would consider to be the true point of the trail: Get outside and have fun!

Most of the Trail’s exposure lies in the Cap2Cap Trail, a bike event that allows for 15, 25, 50, and 100 mile treks. It gets good advertising, helps raise funds for trail maintenance, and promotes a healthier lifestyle for many.

(Registration now open for a ride on May 12.)

What a lot of people don’t know is that they can use the trail for much more than ‘JUST’ exercise. Along its length, the Trail serves as a stop for multiple restaurants and microbreweries, natural parks and scenic views. It has been used by families with strollers, elderly who enjoy the safety of the trail for their exercise, commuters, and the hard core cyclists that many assume to be the primary users of the trail. It runs from the urban background of Rockett’s Landing in Richmond, through some of Eastern Virginia’s most beautiful rural landscapes.

This is where Cat comes in. With a tally of uses approaching 1.3 million, her goal is to expand and improve what we have, and help encourage those who live along the trail to get out and use it in whatever way they feel most comfortable. The greatest risk to the trail, she feels, can be summed up in one word: stagnation. “We have to keep maintaining it, and building businesses around it.” With aspirations of a new connector in Williamsburg, additional decoration, improved safety measures, and a map of the trail that includes local restaurants and watering holes, her drive to make this a true destination is a journey that will require community support.

                “I would like to see more art along the trail. I want to make it a destination. If I had lots of money, I would like to connect the trail from James City County to Colonial Williamsburg. I see that connector trail as very, very important. You can come into Richmond and connect to a hotel easily, but coming from James City County to a hotel is much more challenging. I would love to see that connector trail…I would like to have our office on the trail. Where we have someone at the front desk to answer questions, and be that ambassador for the trail. I would expand our Trail Ambassador Program, and our volunteer program.”

Listen to the podcast. There’s a clear joy in Cat’s interview, and a passion for the outdoors and for Richmond that can’t be conveyed in writing –even the interviewers, both familiar with the trail, have trouble containing their excitement for this phenomenal resource. The overall message to take away from the interview is this: The trail is whatever you want it to be and we need your help to make it the best it can be for everyone. Don't believe me? Check out their Instagram and tell me that it doesn't look like fun. Cat’s desire to make it the “Best Darn Place it Can Be” will go a long way, but ultimately, the Trail is a community resource, and we need to add our voices to the advocacy, our sweat to the development, and our love to this outdoor space.

Also, for the record, her favorite curse word is (expletive deleted).