In this week's 8News Daytrippers, Tim visits High Bridge Trail State Park in Farmville. (Photo: Virginia State Parks)
RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) -
Each week, 8News Meteorologist Tim Pandajis explores different day trip spots in our area; you can get to most of them on just a tank a gas!
There are 36 state parks scattered across the Commonwealth; we'll visit plenty of them here on 8News Daytrippers but we wanted to start here at High Bridge Trail State Park in Farmville where just last year, 200,000 people visited!
High Bridge Trail State Park is one of the newer state parks in Virginia, opening in August 2008. It's also unique in the fact that it's one of only two rail to trail state parks, meaning the entire path is a converted railroad line.
"Well it's a trail that's open for hiking, biking, equestrian use," says Chief Ranger Craig Guthrie. "A lot of people come to picnic and a lot of people just want to see High Bridge because it has such a historic significance to the local history and to the national history."
High Bridge Trail State Park spans 31 - soon to be 33 - miles across four counties. It's had an impact on the local economy in Farmville, where just last year, $3.1 million has been contributed.
The story of the park begins with the railroad coming to Farmville in the 1800s, which provided the seed to grow the region into what it is today. The construction of the bridge was a huge undertaking though.
"They had to build something that had never been built before," Guthrie says. "This project at the time was considered the largest bridge in the world. It's said that there were some longer bridges, and some higher bridges but taken together with the length and the height, this was the largest bridge in the world at that time."
Being located in at such a strategic spot along the Appomattox provided one of the only passages across the river. Once the Civil War broke out, it was only a matter of time until conflict arrived.
"Down below there was a little wagon bridge that was at river level made of fairly new green wood. The Confederate engineers got a very late order to destroy the bridge. They had set a bonfire on it, but by the time their efforts had begun, the Federals had artillery and sharp shooters on the hills and were able to beat the Confederates back. 500 men were killed below us in that river valley, fighting over that wagon bridge."
"The federals were able to swarm that bridge, clear the burning brush off of it and get the fire out, keeping the pressure on the army of Northern Virginia - Lee's army. Ultimately that ended up in a surrender at Appomattox. This is possibly the place where the last nail in the coffin of the Confederacy occurred."
"This bridge means a lot of different things to different people," Guthrie says. "It's a beautiful place to visit. It has a lot of history. The civil war history… railroad history… the history of southside Virginia... We continue to make history today."