After nearly 18 years, the project to restore Claudius Crozet’s Blue Ridge Railroad Tunnel for recreational use is quite nearly reality. Those who have contributed to the Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, were invited to get “a sneak peek” of the historic project before it opens to the public.
The supporter campaign, which officially ended with the sneak peek tours, was designed to help the foundation financially with efforts to provide historical interpretation of the tunnel. The founding supporters will be recognized by name on a plaque to be installed at the entrance. Two hundred supporters signed up for the August 30 tour.
Masks were required to be worn on the shuttle bus from Veritas Vineyards and when approaching others along the trail. Participants were required to complete a Covid-19 screening questionnaire sent via email to complete prior to the day of the tour. Throughout the day, scheduled buses transported fourteen people to the new eastern parking area. After exiting the bus, the hike to the Eastern Portal entrance began and continued through the tunnel to the Western Portal and the newly created western trail could be explored. Along the way, there are four new interpretive signs trailside on subjects such as the life of nineteenth century workers and Claudius Crozet, with an informative kiosk sign at the eastern entrance.
Those arriving at Veritas registered with Maureen Kelly, Nelson Tourism Director. Claire Richardson and Emily Harper, Nelson County Parks and Recreation representatives, and Helene Richards, a volunteer, were available for questions and helping with foundation fundraising sales of t-shirts and hats. Dwayne Jones, director of Waynesboro parks and recreation, was greeting those exiting the bus with an explanation of what to expect. Guides from the foundation board included Wayne Nolde at the eastern portal and Alan Hale at the western end.
Phase Three is not yet considered complete.
Hale described his last walk-through that identified the erosion challenges and heavy drips onto the trail, stating, “The western trail is not yet ready without a final #10 stone surface. A change order is now in process to treat the final surface and possibly provide a needed ditch.”
Claire Cline, an experienced Crozet hiker, was one of the many supporters and agreed with Hale’s assessment. She commented, “Ongoing maintenance of this Western trail is already needed and will be challenging.”
Hale’s punch list should be completed by the end of September and the public opening will follow, hopefully in early October. Invitations are planned for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to recognize this unique treasure.
For more information, go to blueridgetunnel.org.