In 1997 a group of local citizens became interested in an abandoned railway that ran along the Tye River and one of its tributaries, the Piney River. With the help of several local interest groups and the Virginia Department of Transportation, the abandoned railway was transformed into a multi-use trail. The trail, in its first stage, ran from the Piney River Depot to Roses Mill Road in Piney River, Virginia. This is a 1.8 mile flat stretch that follows the Piney River. The Virginia Department of Transportation’s Enhancement Program offered a $275,000 grant to begin construction on the first phase of the trail in September of 2002 (Trail). The opening of the recreational area was well received by the public and planning for the second phase began. The second section of the trail, which opened in 2008, meanders along the river for another three miles, ending at a foot bridge over the Piney River (Trail). Currently, the trail is closed for public use beyond this point. However, considering the pending approval by the Virginia Department of Transportation, the next section of the trail should be open for use in the near future. The third section runs another two or more miles crossing the confluence of the Piney and the Tye Rivers and continuing on past the Route 29 Bridge making its way to the town of Tye River, Virginia. The end portal is still being discussed as there is neither defined parking area nor designated outlet in Tye River, VA. The trail winds between forested land and the river, at times approaching farmland. The owners of the land adjacent to the trail have been instrumental in seeing the project through to fruition. The original suggestion for the trail was highly supported by Steve and Popie Martin whose property lies at the end of the second accessible section. The trail runs through two counties, Amherst and Nelson. This has been purely beneficially in the acquiring of funds, trail maintenance and trail planning. Bob West, a board member for the Virginia Blue Ridge Railway Trail Foundation, says that having the two counties working together has made things easier in getting things started. Amherst and Nelson County governments have worked together to raise funds for the trail. Each county does their share to maintain the trail on their respective sides. The trail allows many different types of recreation such as walking, bike riding and horseback riding. Aside from the Rockfish Valley Trail System near Nellysford, VA, the Virginia Blue Ridge Railway Trail is one of the few places in the Nelson and Amherst County areas that is flat as opposed to the many rolling hills in other areas of the counties. The latter can pose a challenge for many recreationists and can often discourage people from using trails. The Virginia Blue Ridge Railway Trail provides an easy path for mothers with strollers, beginning hikers or those who have restricting recreational needs. Although the initial stages of the trail have been shaped by public opinion, no official survey has been done to find the needs and opinions of the trail users and local community members. Recreational areas rely heavily on its users and their perception of the area. In order to provide the utmost in outdoor recreation for Amherst and Nelson County residents, an assessment of public opinion is necessary.


Other forms of recreation such as canoeing, kayaking and swimming are also very prominent on the river. The Nelson Area Paddlers and The Nelson County Recreation Department sponsor a canoe race on the Tye River each year. This race is open to any level of participants and accommodates accordingly. There is a picnic and awards ceremony that follows the race. It is a full day of summer fun for any level of paddler in or around Nelson County. More can be found about the race at Also sponsored by the Nelson County Recreation Department is the Piney River Mini-Triathlon. Taking place each spring, the mini-triathlon allows for area residents to have some competitive athletic fun while utilizing the local natural resources and recreation areas. The mini-triathlon takes place on the Virginia Blue Ridge Railway Trail. More about the race can be found at


On the Tye River, there are both private and public river access points. The majority of points identified during the visual survey were private. Some access points had small footpaths leading through the woods and to the water, some were cleared to provide a beach-like area and others were more developed.

Of the many private access areas, most were found to be free of litter and debris and to be well maintained with regard to river stewardship. However some sites were obviously more frequently used and had litter in abundance. Only one site was noted as having graffiti which is a sign of public use and considered an eyesore for recreationists. Some riverkeeper groups around the country have formed clean-up crews to remove graffiti from the rocks on the banks of rivers. Wildplaces, a non-profit organization in California organizes the Rio Limpio, or Clean River, every year to pick up trash and scrub graffiti off bridges and rocks. Local citizens help to clean the banks of the Tule River and learn about conservation of their local watershed (Places). The same type of activity took place closer to home at the James River State Park. This clean-up was organized by the Friends of James River Park, City of Richmond Parks, and the Richmond Police to clean some unsightly graffiti that appeared near a popular reflection spot on the James River (Heights). Families were seen fishing, men and women were lounging on the banks and two people were seen with tubes, intending to ride the river for miles. This local resource appears to be well respected and frequently used during the summer months. A study on the actual frequency of use and the specific activities preferred on the river could lend more information to state agencies and riverkeeper groups involved with the maintenance of the river.