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The Friends of the Lower Appomattox River is working to incorporate climate change considerations into the development of the Appomattox River Trail blueway and greenway.

The development of the Appomattox River Trail will take into consideration climate change impacts as they relate to the ecosystem, park and trail infrastructure as well as the park and trail users. These impacts include increased temperature and precipitation and more frequent extreme weather events. Additionally, these impacts will amplify existing stressors to the forest ecosystem such as invasive species and insect pests and will increase river temperature, impacting fish communities.

Project Area

FOLAR Geographic Regions.
The Appomattox River Trail is being developed on a 20+ mile stretch of the scenic Appomattox River in the Tri-Cities Region of Central Virginia from the Brasfield Dam at Lake Chesdin to the confluence with the James River. The project includes the Counties of Chesterfield, Dinwiddie and Prince George and the Cities of Colonial Heights, Hopewell and Petersburg.

Management Goals

Paddling Arches.






Management Goals:

  1. Provide a recreation and transportation network for all ages and abilities, using the riverfront as the backbone for the shared use path.
  2. Provide a natural and rugged hiking recreation experience along the main Appomattox River Trail and park sites.
  3. Improve access and user experience for paddlecraft, both whitewater and flatwater.
  4. Maintain a healthy and vibrant forested riparian buffer along the Appomattox River.
  5. Manage stormwater outflows from the watershed to minimize impacts on the condition of the riparian buffer and shoreline of the Appomattox River Trail.
  6. Maintain and improve the condition of the shoreline of the Appomattox River.
  7. Control the invasive species found in the riparian buffer, including trees, shrubs and vines.
  8. Provide access to the Appomattox River Trail through a series of day-use trailhead parking areas and park sites that also provide amenities for picnicking, fishing, canoe/kayak launch, playgrounds, restrooms and possibly outfitters.

Climate Change Impacts

For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:
Temperature in the Southeast is projected to increase by 4.4 to 7.7°F by late-century (2071-2100).
The Southeast is expected to experience between 5 and 30 more days per year with a maximum temperature exceeding 95°F by the middle of the century.
Average annual precipitation is projected to slightly increase.
A majority of climate models suggest that precipitation in the Southeast will increase in the winter, spring, and fall by the end of the century, but summer is generally expected to become drier.
The number of days per year with more than 1” of precipitation is projected to increase across the Southeast by the middle of the century, and double the number of heavy rainfall events are predicted by late century.
Climate change will amplify many existing stressors to forest ecosystems in the Southeast, such as invasive species and insect pests.
Wildfire risk is projected to increase across the Southeast by the end of the century.
Damage from hurricanes and sea-level rise is expected to increase in the Southeast by the end of the century.
Low diversity systems are at greater risk from climate change.
Species in fragmented landscapes will have less opportunity to migrate in response to climate change.
Systems that are limited to particular environments will have less opportunity to migrate in response to climate change.

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:


The forest around the trail area may decline from strong storms, rising temperature and an increase in insects and disease. The lack of forest cover would negatively impact users by lack of shade and overall aesthetics.
Sea level rise and change in river levels may negatively impact trail and paddle launch sites as well as the paddling experience.
As temperature increases and there is potential forest disturbance from strong storms, the invasive species may evolve and change habitat range.


Less freezing days makes this blueway and greenway system more viable for not only increased transportation but also increased recreation both on the land and the water.
Some native species will benefit from climate change and there will be an increase in the southern species of trees and shrubs that can adapt to the area.
Future park and trail planning gives us the opportunity to develop a resilient park and trail system.

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project, including:

Trail and Park Infrastructure
Build the shared use path and associated bridges, culverts and access roads with design and materials to accommodate increase in precipitation, increased stormwater flows and increased flooding.
Develop all new park sites with Low Impact Design; retrofit existing stormwater outfalls to accommodate increased flows; expand work into the watershed to decrease stormwater entering the river.
Limit cars in some riverfront areas and revegetate areas with native plants.
User Experience
Add language to signs, websites and brochures about increased risk for heat, strong and unpredictable storms, poison ivy and insects.


Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including:
Monitor trail use numbers.
Monitor canoe/kayak launch use.
Monitor percentage of invasive species in specific management units.
Evaluate condition of shoreline.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact
or visit:


Fish habitat
Insect pests
Invasive species
Management plan
Wildlife habitat

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