Sunday, October 1, 2023

African-American Heritage Trail In Williamsburg Takes Step Forward With Federal Grant

WILLIAMSBURG – Plans to construct a walking trail highlighting Black History sites within the city took a big step forward this week with the announcement that Williamsburg had won a $357,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to begin the first phase of construction.

“It’s great news,” said Assistant City Manager Michele DeWitt, who announced the award at the city’s annual budget retreat on February 14. “Now we want to hear from the community. We want them to tell us their stories and incorporate their ideas into ours.”

The city has scheduled a community meeting for 10:30am Saturday, March 4 at the Quarterpath Park Recreation Center, 202 Quarterpath Rd.

“We’re going to lay out on paper what we’ve plotted so far and let everybody put their ideas alongside,” DeWitt said.

The funding is for phase one, which will involve building the “trailhead” on city-owned land at Virginia Avenue and Lafayette Streets, converting a pump station behind the Braxton Court apartments to a restroom facility, and ensuring that all city sidewalks used as part of the trail meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

DeWitt said previously that the city hopes to build a civil rights memorial at the trailhead. Williamsburg’s leaders have discussed building a monument of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. for decades. The civil rights leader visited the First Baptist Church on Scotland Street in 1962.

Stops on the rest of the walking route,  which will be marked by “breadcrumbs” to guide visitors, will include the Triangle building, site of the original Black business district, the Hearth, a Memorial to the Enslaved, and the Sankofa Seed Sculpture, both on the campus of the College of William & Mary, and the Gowan Pamphlet Plaque, which marks the life of the enslaved tavern worker Gowan Pamphlet who risked his life to preach about the need for equality.

“We’re keeping it to 1.99 miles but it could’ve been five miles,” DeWitt said.

The total cost of the proposed trail is estimated to cost $1 million.

“Both of our senators, Sen. (Mark) Warner and Sen. (Tim) Kaine are encouraging us to apply for full funding for the trail,” said City Manager Andrew Trivette.

The creation of the trail was one of the city’s 2023-2024 Goals, Initiatives, and Outcomes.

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