Trail Future

We're heading in an exciting direction, and we'd love for you to join us.

AN IMPASSIONED EFFORT IS UNDERWAY TO RE-ENERGIZE AND ENHANCE THE ELIZABETH RIVER TRAIL.

Since its incorporation as a 501(c)(3) in 2016, the ERT Foundation has been focused on transforming the existing 10.5-mile Trail into a resilient, inclusive, connected urban riverfront trail that connects people and businesses. The ERT is growing to become a recreational, social, and educational destination that improves environmental awareness, neighborhood connectivity, and provides a place for innovative economic development in the region.

We start by building love and support for the ERT, and we do this by improving the Trail itself, and by adding amenities like signage and wayfinding, solar lighting, playgrounds, kayak launches, public art, and more…

With a strong Master Planning committee and a community of visionaries, a trail began to take shape with plans for 11 trailheads each unique and reflective of the neighborhoods they touch.

Work on the Chelsea Managed Meadow began in 2018 to transform a flood prone and spot blighted industrial area into an award-winning meadow and edible orchard. Continuous improvements from widening sidewalks, improving connections and installing bike repair stations and bike racks along the trail have been just a few of the projects encompassing the trail’s master planning strategy.

2019

In 2019 construction began on the ERT’s first signature trailhead at Plum Point Park consisting of a kayak launch, playground, meditative labyrinth, double turbo obstacle course and trailhead shelter, along with benches, picnic tables, trash cans and bike racks. In January 2020 the kayak launch at Plum Point Park was opened and constructed with support from the City of Norfolk and an Aid to Local Ports grant awarded to the city with matching funds from the Elizabeth River Trail Foundation.

The Elizabeth River Trail Foundation also received a $10,000 grant from the Edwin S. Webster Foundation to help construct the pier access to the launch.

2020-2021

In September 2020, the obstacle course at Plum Point Park opened. This project was made possible through grant funding from KOMPAN and the SunTrust Foundation and additional support from Ann P. Stokes Landscape Architects, ADS Inc., Elizabeth River Crossing, Miller’s Energy, Furniture Classics, Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority (NRHA) and the Virginia Department of Forestry.

The NRHA originally owned the site of the obstacle course. It sat vacant for many years with limited accessibility. The ERT Foundation worked with NRHA, and the land was donated to the city of Norfolk. In February 2021 17 new trees were planted at the Trailhead.

2020-2021 saw the phase 1 completion of a multi-year wayfinding signage installation plan for the trail. More than 500 signs were installed over 10.5 miles helping users better navigate the trail. With our iconic trail colors and logo the signage tells trail users how far they are from the terminus and which direction they are headed as well as highlighting local “must see” attractions.

2022

In April 2022 the Water Street Open Space near Harbor Park was officially opened with the installation of ERT picnic tables, benches, bike racks and trash cans. This open space invites visitors to spend time enjoying the scenery of our working waterfront and represents the widest section of trail, perfect for vendors, food trucks, skateboarders, yoga, and other group meet ups. The City of Norfolk’s Office of Resilience received grant funding to restore this former brownfield site to a waterfront multi-community use space using stormwater management tools.

The Trailhead at Jeff Robertson Park is next up for development with a dynamic parkour course installed in November 2021 funded in part by a Norfolk Southern Grant. The ERT’s signature amenity The Glowline officially opened in October 2022. The Glowline is a first-of-its-kind amenity on the East Coast, a luminous path laid with Glowstones that absorb natural light during the day and emit a soft glow for 6-8 hours at night. Completion of the Trailhead will also include a trailhead shelter, a public art project, a tree arboretum and native educational garden, a project spearheaded by the Garden Club of Norfolk, as well as benches, bike racks, trash cans and the first hydration station on the trail.

Breaking ground in the winter of 2022 will be the trailheads at Larchmont Library and Norfolk State University.

The NSU trailhead is funded in part by a Department of Conservation and Recreation grant and will be home to the first bicycle pump track on the trail.

The Larchmont Library trailhead will continue the trail’s connection to the Elizabeth River with the construction of another kayak launch as well as natural play areas for children that incorporate the trees and water views beloved by the Lochaven community as well as embracing the Elizabeth River Project’s work here as the first Wetland’s Restoration Project in Virginia.

ert in the future

The ERT is growing! And we are planning to connect to our neighbors in Virginia Beach, to the Virginia Capital Trail, the Birthplace of America Trail (BoAT), and to the East Coast Greenway by way of tributary trails across the region that lead to the ERT.

The ERT is the placemaking spine of the city, incorporating the Norfolk Innovation Corridor (NIC), a thriving Technology Zone that supports resilience products, services, and technologies. Many of Norfolk’s businesses, both small and large reap the benefits of being trailside with increased bike and pedestrian traffic, trails are good for business. The ERT Foundation invites businesses and developers to contact us and discuss how we can work together.

The ERT aims to follow in the footsteps of other great trails in attracting and retaining talent, improving the quality of life for residents, and making positive impacts on the health of people and the environment. All the while, we will honor this rail-trail’s historical significance and continue working to bring waterfront access to everyone!