The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the steward of the lands and waters at Philpott Lake with a mission to manage and conserve those natural resources, while providing quality public outdoor recreational experiences now and in the future. Based on public demand for recreational trails, the Corps began developing a vision for a trail system at Philpott Lake, looking for a way to connect to local and regional trails. This vision began to be realized when the Corps initiated a partnership in 2005 with the Franklin County Parks and Recreation Department to develop the five-mile, shared-use Dogwood Glen Trail. Through the Corps’ Handshake Partnership Program, $10,000 of seed money was granted to Philpott Lake toward this project. Dogwood Glen Trail traverses through a forested corridor connecting the Philpott Park Tailrace at Philpott Dam to Salthouse Branch Park along the Franklin County side of Philpott Lake. It is open to hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians and is moderate to strenuous in difficulty.
The next phase of trail development was spurred when additional partners took an interest. Due to budget constraints, Jamison Mill Park at Philpott Lake was slated for closure. There was an enormous amount of community interest in this park, which led to the development of the Friends of Philpott, Inc. in 2007. With a similar mission to promote environmentally responsible use, development, and protection of the natural and recreational resources at Philpott Lake, the Friends of Philpott entered into a Cooperative Agreement with the Corps of Engineers at Philpott Lake. The development of the non-profit Friends group paved the way for additional partnerships with Franklin County Parks and Recreation, Henry County Bike Club, Franklin Freewheelers, Inc., Southern Virginia Mountain Biking Association, Dan River Basin Association, Martinsville-Henry County Rivers and Trails Group, and Activate Martinsville, which were integral to the expansion of the trail system at Philpott Lake.
With the involvement of these various partners, a new vision was cultivated: to create a trail system that will make Philpott Lake a destination point for trail enthusiasts and will provide a diversity of experiences for a variety of trail users. With this enhanced vision, the Corps initiated another Handshake Partnership in 2008 with the Friends of Philpott, Franklin County Parks and Recreation, Henry County Bike Club, Franklin Freewheelers, Inc., and Southern Virginia Mountain Biking Association to develop the six-mile Jamison Mill Trail System at Jamison Mill Park. Volunteers from partnering organizations built one and a half miles of trail over the course of two years and 1,000 volunteer hours using the Corps’ SK 500 Ditch Witch mini-skid steer and another SK 500, donated by Jim Frith of Frith Construction in Martinsville, VA, on behalf of Henry County Bike Club. Franklin County Parks and Recreation staff built three and a half miles of trail using a John Deere 450 bulldozer. Due to the steep, difficult terrain of the remaining segment, the Corps contracted Trail Dynamics, a professional trail builder, to build the last half-mile of trail.
The Jamison Mill Trail System, completed in September 2010, now consists of a total of 6.25 miles of inter-connected loops of shared-use trail for hikers and bicyclists. The trails vary in difficulty from easy to strenuous. The loop design allows for a variety of experiences for a variety of trail users, from an easy one-mile family hike, to a multiple-loop route that provides 10+ miles of strenuous mountain biking. The highlights of the trail include segments along the shoreline of Philpott Lake and beautiful ridge top vistas. Two interpretive stops along the trail bring to life the rich history of the community that lived in the vicinity of the former Jamison Mill during the early to mid 1900’s. These stops, which include the original home site of the former miller, Robert “Bob” E. Carter, and a brief history of the “Jamison Mill Era”, recall the memories of those who made a home in these rural Virginia mountains.
With sincere gratitude toward the partners who put forth a tremendous effort to develop the trail system at Philpott Lake, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proud to offer a variety of trail experiences for local and regional trail users alike. With continued support from dedicated partners and the community, hopefully this system will continue to expand and eventually connect to regional trail systems. Trail users are encouraged to use the trails responsibly, not only for their own safety, but also for the protection of the natural resources. Please see our Trail Etiquette & Safety guidelines to help make your trip to Philpott Lake a safe occasion.