After 12 years of developing the Virginia Lewis and Clark Legacy Trail (VLCLT), at its quarterly meeting in Staunton, the Board of Directors of the Department of Historic Resources (DHR) approved two important VLCLT requests that push the trail project closer to implementation through signage.
The VLCLT organization anticipates that within the next ten years, Virginia Historical Markers will begin to dot Virginia highways and locations that were traveled and visited by one or both the Explorers during their pre and post Expedition visits to Virginia. Ingles Ferry (New River Crossing-Pulaski County/City of Radford) was the first Lewis & Clark-connected historic site to be approved by the DHR Board of Directors at its 9/15/22 quarterly meeting for such a marker.
In addition to the historical marker, the DHR Board of Directors approved a “Supplemental Sign Plaque” that will be attached to the historical marker pedestal under the marker panel. “The plaque design was created by VDOT staff in its Integrated Directional Signage Program (IDSP), “and its purpose is to visually link the highway, the specific location, or structure to the Virginia Lewis and Clark Trail. Passers-by will easily be able to identify it as connected to Meriwether Lewis and/or William Clark,” according to Peggy Crosson, VLCLT President of Fincastle.
Funding for the VLCLT Signage Program is possible because of an allocation from the 2022 Virginia General Assembly, and fabrication and installation is a cooperative venture among the VLCLT County Chairs, the DHR and the VDOT‘s IDSP. “The VLCLT is extremely fortunate to have been backed for many years by Virginia’s state legislators, beginning with HJ #566 in 2015 lead by Del. Terry Austin, (Allegheny County-All, and Botetourt and Bedford Counties – Part.)
As to the potential number of future historic highway markers with supplemental sign plaques, Crosson estimates possibly up to 60. “The trail has grown by leaps and bounds in the past seven years. Previously unknown historical nuggets about Lewis and Clark connections within Virginia have appeared unexpectedly as news about the trail circulates. At the beginning of 2015, there were 4 counties involved; today there are 15 counties, 6 cities, and 13 towns throughout the state participating along trail routes,” according to Crosson. Many of these will be applying for a historical marker in the future, for which four per year have been agreed upon with the DHR’s Historical Highway Marker Program. Also slated for applications for the 2022-2023 Budget year are Smyth County’s Cullops Tavern, Caroline County’s replacement marker celebrating the life of York, William Clark’s slave and friend who made significant contributions on the Expedition, and Montgomery County’s Roanoke River Crossings.
In her remarks at the DHR meeting, Crosson acknowledged the trail organization’s appreciation to the Board of Directors for their consideration of the two signage-related requests. “With an affirmative action today… this would be a big day for the Virginia Lewis and Clark Legacy Trail. And a big day for Virginia and beyond. [It] will educate Virginia citizens and visitors about the travels of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in our state. The markers will shed light on the culture of the times and reveal the connections of both Explorers to the people they knew and the places they visited. Your approvals today would indeed be “A Gift”- a gift that you have bestowed on the trail, and on the Commonwealth.”
– Peggy Crosson, VLCLT President