Combined Efforts of Many Contribute to Proud Opening of the Amherst Visitor Center

by Sharon Wright & Dan Curran

After more than 20 years of planning and restoration, and not without trials and tribulations, the Amherst train depot has opened as a Visitor Center with offices for the Amherst County Economic Development Authority and the Amherst County Chamber of Commerce.

The restored depot sits in clear view of both US 29 and US 60, its bright yellow exterior a draw to travelers. The visitor center offers information about places and events in the county that interest tourists. It also houses historical information about the county as well as the depot itself.

The Amherst County Visitor Center

The original Amherst Train Depot was built by Southern Railway in 1913 for passenger service. In the 1920s, freight service was added to the line, and the station was remodeled to add a freight room. By the 1940s, it hosted three passenger trains per day, but these were discontinued in the 1960s, and freight service ended in the 1970s. The building stood empty.

The idea for the project was originally introduced in 1995 when the depot still stood at its original site on Depot Street. The depot then was owned by local businessman Marshall Mays, who donated the building to the Amherst County Chamber of Commerce. The deed for the future site, at Rts. 60 and 29, was given to the local non-profit Friends of the Historic Amherst Train Station.

Headed by Marlene Fitzgerald (formerly Marlene Mays, daughter of Marshall Mays), along with Lynn Cunningham and E. O. Kinnier, The Friends of the Historic Amherst Train Station worked with the county to contract with architectural firm Dalgliesh, Eichman, Gilpin & Paxton. The renovation was completed in stages as federal grants were administered through the Virginia Department of Transportation. In time, the land and building were turned over to Amherst County.

An early photo of the Amherst Depot
(Courtesy of Fred Loving).

The Friends of the Historic Amherst Train Station is no longer active, but the local organization was an important early advocate for the Depot. The Friends applied for and received several grants, all done through Amherst County acting as the fiscal agent. The grants were available through a federally funded program for travel enhancement and had to work through a local government. The Friends were not involved in the final grants for the completion of the visitor’s center as Amherst County became fully involved.

The building was relocated to its current site in 2008 and renovated with federal grant money administered through the Virginia Department of Transportation after VDOT presented plans to straighten Depot Street.

At times the entire project was delayed due to concerns about financial responsibility and stipulations of grant and loan providers, but the enthusiasm for the future visitor’s center didn’t wane.

County officials consulted with local historians and viewed historical pictures in order to maintain the authentic qualities of the depot. In the second stage of the project, exterior renovations included replacing the roof and siding, reusing as much of the original materials as possible. Parking, a concrete patio, and new windows and doors were added. An old railroad signal that was donated by former Amherst County Chamber President Bill Callahan stands outside the depot.

From left- Patrick Dreher, ACCC Board President; Dean Rodgers, Amherst County Administrator; Claudia Tucker, Board of Supervisors Chairwoman; Amanda Ramsey, former ACCC Board President and current Vice-President; David Proffitt, Asst. County Administrator; Vanessa Angus, Director of ACCC and Tourism; Marlene (Mays) Fitzgerald, former President of The Friends of the Amherst Railroad Station; Lynn Cunningham, former officer with the Friends of the Amherst Railroad Station; E.O. Kinnier, former officer with the Friends of the Amherst Railroad Station; Gary Taylor (atop railroad cart) former ACCC Board President; Jeremy Bryant, Planning Director; Bill Callahan, former ACCC Board President; Rodney Taylor, former Amherst County administrator; Charlie Copp, former ACCC Board President; Garett Rouzer, Dalgliesh Gilpin Paxton Architects.
(Credit due but not present for photo) Chad Mooney and Martha Tucker.

The concept of repurposing old train depots has resulted in updated buildings for a variety of purposes in Virginia in Altavista, Appomattox,  Dublin, Farmville, Pulaski, and Purcellville. While the former Amherst train depot will house offices, its most valuable service will be its status as a Visitor Center.

In the Amherst region, the Nelson County Visitor Center has operated since the early 1990s, serving some 25,000 visitors each year. This was the first state certified rural center, and its director, Maureen Kelley, also assisted with the establishment of the Amherst site. The Nelson center is open seven days a week with only three holidays off during the year and offers travel information and even space for recreational vehicles to park overnight. It maintains a business directory and has all tourism brochures of area businesses. Weekly events are posted on their website and sent out to all area businesses so that locals can refer tourists to one another and promote further tourist activity.

“Our visitor centers are critical components of destination marketing, serving as gateways and ‘first-stop’ destinations while also providing real-time information to travelers,” said Rita McClenny, President and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation. “A recent study showed that 11% of travel parties that stopped at visitor centers stayed nearly three additional nights in that destination. And with two-thirds of the travelers from our target markets indicating that they used visitor information centers during their travels, that translates to a real revenue generating opportunity for our destinations across the Commonwealth. Virginia’s visitor centers are an absolutely imperative tool in reaching travelers, boosting revenue, and connecting our communities in important and authentic ways.”

Some of the exhibits within the new visitor center.

The visitor centers at Lexington and Buena Vista in Rockbridge County, along with the information center at Natural Bridge, share about 50,000 tourist visits per year. They offer information about area attractions, travel directions, and parking. According to Rockbridge official Jeanne Clark, oftentimes people visit the area for one particular purpose, such as traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway or visiting Natural Bridge, and are unfamiliar with the other attractions in the area. Even local residents are sometimes unaware of new and expanding businesses, so the center helps visitors take advantage of everything the area has to offer.

The new Amherst Visitor Center hopes to capitalize on the same situations and draw many more tourists to the area. Its easy accessibility from both US 29 and US 60 will appeal to travelers who might otherwise consider the county as a place to drive through as they aim elsewhere. Hopefully, now they can learn about Amherst County as a tourist destination in its own right.

“The grand opening of the Train Depot represents the beginning of a whole new era for Amherst County,” Amherst County Administrator Dean Rodgers said recently. “We are reaching out to the region and the state to let people know we are a tourist destination, a growing business destination and ultimately, the place where people will want to educate and raise their children.”

Rodgers went on to say that “Amherst is entering a renaissance, and it’s being led off by this new visitor’s center.  It has been a long road to get the funding to move the old depot structure, renovate it, buy land for it to sit on, and then work through the endless government approvals needed to use the funds.  For the county, this has all been led by David Proffitt, the Deputy County Administrator and county purchasing officer.  David has been here from the beginning untangling the multiple grants and their requirements, the multiple government agencies and their requirements, the citizen and nonprofit groups and their requirements, and the designers and artisans.  Its boggling complexity makes it truly a wonder this project has been completed at all!  David has been ably assisted by our energetic Planning and Zoning Director, Jeremy Bryant. Jeremy has been David’s right hand in almost all the decisions along the way.  All good works boil down to proper planning and proper funding and these two individuals have made it happen for Amherst County.”

Part of the new conference room inside the visitor center.

Claudia Tucker, Chairwoman of the Amherst County Board of Supervisors, said the following recently:

“As the longest serving member of the Board of Supervisors, I am very pleased to have seen this project completed. It will serve as a wonderful resource to tourists coming to visit Amherst County but also to local groups who can use the space for meetings and gatherings. The train depot was important to commerce in its hay day and we look forward to its repurpose as a place to greet and educate our visitors.”

The Town of Amherst has supported the county’s efforts to relocate, restore and occupy the Amherst train station for many years.

According to Jack Hobbs, who was Town Manager of Amherst until recently, the location of the train station, at the intersection of the county’s two major highways is worthy of note. U.S. Rt. 29 goes from Baltimore, MD to Pensacola, FL; and U.S. Rt. 60 originally ran from the Atlantic Ocean at Virginia Beach, VA to the Pacific Ocean in Los Angeles, CA.

“We hope that the Amherst County Chamber of Commerce’s new Visitor Center will enhance the local effort to promote tourism by being a focal point and clearinghouse for the folks who visit our community and the businesses and attractions that serve them. The Town views this facility as an important resource and the Amherst County Chamber of Commerce as a valued ally in our efforts to promote Amherst,” Hobbs said.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with the county to establish a visitor center and our office in the newly renovated and beautifully transformed depot,” stated Vanessa Angus, Director of Amherst County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism.

“Amherst County’s scenic beauty, peaceful lifestyle, recreational opportunities, events and attractions will no longer be missed by passersby. The Amherst County Visitor Center will serve as a beacon to visitors and an introduction to all that Amherst County has to offer,” Angus said.

“I have enjoyed working alongside David Proffitt and Jeremy Bryant to complete the final stage of the depot’s transition as the county’s first official visitor center.  In addition to the new tourism brochure, a new tourism video and website will soon be launched showcasing the county’s greatest attributes.  Other projects on the horizon include achieving the status of a Virginia “certified” visitor center and creating Amherst’s own interpretation of the Love sign,” Angus said.

Second Stage | Amherst Fulfilling Its Vision

Second Stage | Amherst Fulfilling Its Vision

It’s been over two years (since the summer of 2015) that the non-profit Second Stage | Amherst opened in the former home of the Amherst Baptist congregation, in downtown Amherst, with the goal of becoming a place shared by the Amherst community for a variety of purposes.

Besides attracting artists and becoming a focal point for cultural activities that add to the Amherst area’s quality of life, it has served as a convenient and low-cost venue for meetings, classes and workshops, community forums and a farmers’ market that started five years ago under the huge oak tree.

Improvements to the building, which is leased from Amherst County, have included the installation of handicapped-accessible facilities, the repainting of  the beautiful pressed metal ceiling in the performance space, and the upgrading of the HVAC systems.

The 2nd Street Farmers Market completes its 5th year in Oct. 2017, under the huge oak tree. It runs on Thursday afternoons every year from April thru early October. Inside markets are often held during the winter and spring months.



Upcoming 2017 events include:

Friday, September 22
AGAR presents
Chris Magee and Friends

7:30 PM | Tickets $15

Saturday, September 30
Come to the Table, a Community Dinner, on grounds of SSA

5-9 PM | Tickets $10 (10 & under free)

Thursday, October 12
Agri + Culture Market
featuring music by Temple & Staton and a Community Seed Swap
3:30 – 6:30 | Free

Saturday, November 11
Opera on the James presents

​“The Bremen Town Musicians”
4 PM | Free (donations accepted!)

Saturday, November 18
Scottish folksinger and songwriter Jim Malcolm

7:30 PM | Tickets $15

Sunday, November 26
Singing in the Season:
a progressive holiday musical event with six Amherst churches
3 PM | Free

Saturday, December 9
Santa Paws Coming to Town!

Bring your furry friend to have photo taken with Santa. Shop the Winter Bazaar. 11 am. – 4 pm. Free



Here is a look of the organizations that are currently renting space at 2nd Stage.

Deb Walker is a retired Amherst County teacher turned artisan. Her Lavender Design Jewelry Studio 7 lives up to its name; the pleasant scent of lavender fills the hall and her studio. She has been making jewelry for about 11 years, since she made gifts of necklaces and earrings for the bridesmaids of her daughter’s wedding.

Walker eventually took some classes and now designs with stones, pearls and crystals. She says that every piece she makes is original and unique, although she has been asked to make similar items to some popular ones she previously created.

Her studio hours are the same as the Farmers Market; Thursdays (3:30-6:30), and by appointment. For more information, e-mail her at or call (434) 922-7244.



Oil-painting artist Mary-Ellen Higgins displays her paintings in the same Studio 7 that Deb Walker has for her jewelry. Higgins has only been painting for six years, but she previously kept sketch books before then. Her husband eventually saw the sketches and her talent and encouraged her to take courses, which she did at Lynchburg’s Academy of Arts and The Art Box. She also shows at various local festivals. The Studio is open during the Farmers’ Market, April – October, from 3:30pm to 6:30 pm., and during the Santa Paws Market in December, most public events, and also by appointment.  For more information, call (434) 922-7244.   




Mindful Mountain Yoga teaches various aspects of Yoga which also relies on extensive medical experience. John Kortmulder, proprietor, is excited to offer the first (and only) yoga studio in Amherst County. The teachers include John (Yoga, breathing, meditation); Tim Griffin (Tai Chi and Qigong); Bonnie Black (Yoga) and Malcolm (African and Caribbean Percussion).

Mindful Mountain Yoga practices a personal yoga style, suitable for any ability level, encouraging beginners. Classes are taught with humor without being judgmental or competitive. Both individual and group classes are available during various days of the week. For more information, visit or call 914-589-0964. Like them on FB!



Specializing in seascapes and cityscapes in oil, the Ken Templeton Studio is another interesting place to visit. Having exhibited at the George Billis Gallery in New York City and other parts of the U.S., Templeton has won numerous awards.

“As a realist painter,” Templeton says, “I am attracted to the places where we live, work and play. A small town perhaps, maybe a rural outpost… Lately, vibrant cities have fascinated me. I use photographs as an outline or a stepping off point in my work. My photographs are rather amateurish or shot with an iPhone, which allows for more interpretation. I choose to work in small format as this expedites the process. At night, I sketch them out while relaxing at home. During the day, they come alive as I apply paint, working in two to three layers.” For more information, visit or call (252) 202-6599.

Ken works at his studio most weekdays and is also available by appointment.



WORK  is a “jewel-box” gallery of fine art, where Craig Pleasants shows artists from around the world working in contemporary practices.  Pleasants is an artist and the former Artistic Director of VCCA. His own artwork has been exhibited at The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the North Carolina Museum of Art, The Alternative Museum in New York, and The Musee d’Art Contemporain in Marseille. WORK gallery is open on Thursdays from 3:30-5:30 during the Second Stage Farmer’s Market, or by appointment. For more information, please visit, and, or call (434) 946-7547.




Studio 8 is an innovative arts classroom for learners of all ages. Owner and Director, Maryellen Barron, is licensed in Virginia and currently teaches Art to 9 -12th graders at Amherst High School. She holds a degree in Art Education and has 23 years of experience teaching art to people aged 2 through 82. Classes in Drawing, Painting, Sewing and Mixed Media are taught in 4 week sessions. Workshops are available for adults. For more information, visit or call (419) 654-0615.





For a calendar of 2018 events at Second Stage | Amherst, visit Interested volunteers, donors or renters can also visit the website for more information or e-mail


News and Notes

News & Notes

New Kitchen Supply Store Opens in Amherst

Ladle & Blade, a marketplace for commercial-grade kitchen tools, opened its first showroom in downtown Amherst last July. The shop, located at 106 East Court St., is the first brick-and-mortar location for this retailer, which until then was operated solely online. Serial entrepreneur and Amherst resident Carl Jackson is the owner and manager. For more information, see page 27.




Hickey Electric Open in Madison Heights

Hickey Electric Heating and Air has relocated from Lynchburg to 4262 South Amherst Hwy., Suite 100, Madison Heights.

The full service electrical and HVAC contractor has been installing, repairing and servicing equipment in Lynchburg area homes and businesses for more than 30 years.

For details on available products, seasonal specials or to schedule services, see page 9.



4th Annual Shopaloosa Fest Held in Madison Heights

Jake and Sarah Ryan held their 4th anniversary music event aka My Guitar Shopaloosa Fest, Sunday August 20th, at their store My Guitar Shop located in the Town and Country Shopping Center in Madison Heights. They raffled two custom pinstriped Jackson guitars by local tattoo artist Jamie Krantz and all the proceeds went to the Amherst County Habitat For Humanity. My Guitar Shopalooza Fest is already planned for the same weekend in August 2018, the Sunday before the Lock’N Festival. It’s Free to the public and always features local bands, local vendors, food trucks, raffles, door prizes, a Loose Shoe beer garden and more!.

Centra Amherst Medical Center Open

The Centra Amherst Medical Center, located in the Ambriar Shopping Center, opened to patients in Dec. 2016. Primary care, imaging and physical therapy are some of the services available at the state-of-the-art facility.


New Hydro-Powered Brewery Coming to the Historic Amherst Mill

The historic Amherst Mill is on track to become the first hydro-powered brewery in the U.S. by summer 2018. The Amherst Milling Company has been an iconic business in the Town of Amherst for over 100 years and is being purchased by Waukeshaw Development, based in Petersburg, Virginia. Waukeshaw intends to preserve the Mill and the bucolic setting and uses the one-of-a-kind property as an outpost for its existing Trapezium Brewing Company. To be called Trapezium West, the Brewers intend to use local ingredients, capture wild yeast for its ales, and retool the historic water wheel for the production of electricity. The main level of the Mill will include a brew house and taproom, with the upper levels preserved for tours of the historic milling equipment. “The Mill will continue to be an amazing asset for Amherst County,” according to Calvin Kennon, EDA Chairman. “Once repurposed, its’ fun and unique personality will be just what the County needs and will become a must-see gathering place. This will bring people to Amherst County and benefit our tourism efforts.” For more information, visit Courtesy of Economic Development Authority of Amherst County.

Amherst Business Expanding – Buys Land in the Amelon Commerce Center

Another Amherst business is expanding and has bought a site in the Amelon Commerce Center. David Wall, owner of Affordable Energy Concepts and Wall Construction, chose Amelon Commerce Center because of the affordable price and great location. He intends to build a 7,500 – 10,000 square foot building to house both businesses. The Economic Development Authority of Amherst County has been working with Wall for several months to facilitate their purchase and assist them in accessing local incentives. When asked why he purchased land in the Amelon Commerce Center, Wall explained “I needed to expand, and because of the good purchase price, it made it easier to grow.” For more information on Wall Construction and Affordable Energy Concepts, visit or Courtesy of Economic Development Authority of Amherst County.


Branding and Marketing Plan for Amherst County Unveiled

The unveiling of the Amherst County branding and marketing plan took place last June. Branding is the process of capturing the essence of a product -in this case, Amherst County and its’ communities unique story and character – and promoting it in a compelling way. The Brand will be used to market and promote Amherst County and its communities to new businesses, tourists, new residents, etc.

Over the last several months approximately 400 community members and leaders were engaged through interviews, focus groups, social media, and an online survey, to gather community thoughts on the values and character that make Amherst County a special place and to tell Amherst’s unique story.  Courtesy of Economic Development Authority of Amherst County.


Integrated Technology Group Moves to Amherst County

A technology company moved to Amherst County last July, bringing 22 full-time, high-wage jobs.  Integrated Technology Group (ITG), a provider of commercial technology solutions to the Central and Southwestern Virginia regions, is moving into a building owned by the Economic Development Authority of Amherst County (EDA) in the Amelon Commerce Center. ITG is a growing company that is looking to expand to new markets and doubles their employee base over the next 5 years. “Gaining a tech company like ITG is a great win for Amherst County. The partnership between the EDA and ITG will provide jobs and economic growth for Amherst for years to come,” said Calvin Kennon, EDA Chairman. Courtesy of Economic Development Authority of Amherst County.


Expanded Services at Riveredge Park

A playground recently was added to the landscape of Riveredge Park, giving Amherst County residents a new family attraction.

Sara Lu Christian, director of Amherst County Recreation and Parks, said the playground has been a collaborative effort thought about for “quite some time.”

“It’s more to attract the community and there’s not a playground in the area,” Christian said.

Christian said since the playground was installed the department has received several phone calls saying residents are “really thrilled and excited” about the addition to the Madison Heights park.

The playground, designed for a variety of ages, is large enough to accommodate a lot of children and is handicap accessible, Christian said.

Riveredge Park now offers the James River Adventures concession, which offers rental opportunities for exploring and enjoying the scenic James River. Canoe and kayak rentals (and optional shuttle service) are offered to people of all skill levels. For more information, call  (434) 847-1090 or e-mail


Amherst County Administration Building Addition

The Amherst County Administration building, which is home to the County Administrative offices, School Administration, Health Department and Social Services, has taken on a new addition.

The new addition includes a new Public Meeting Room, several meeting and conference rooms, and the expansion of offices in the lower level to accommodate the growth in staff in the Department of Social Services. The new Public Meeting Room is where all of the Board of Supervisors, School Board and Service Authority meetings will be held.

The new Public Meeting Room features updated technology such as: two projector screens that are full HD, 1 65in 4k ultra HD Smart TV, an audio rack and 2 digital recorders. One digital recorder is for the school board and the other is for the board of supervisors. The two projectors are for the audience and the TV is for the board.

The new addition also includes four conference rooms upstairs that are all available for the public. The public Meeting Room seats 150, the Committee Room seats 10, the Small Meeting Room seats 6 and the Board Room seats 16.

If you would like to book any of these rooms or need more information please call Layney Sandifer at (434 )946-9400.



If you know of something new in Amherst County, please e-mail


ACCC Winners Announced

From left to right: Derrick Brown, IRON Lives Inc. (Non-Profit Organization Winner); Phillip Stone, President of Sweet Briar and guest speaker (Large Business Award Winner);Angela Scott, Woodruff’s Café & Pie Shop (Small Business Award Winner); Shelly Hunt, Caterpillar Club House(Medium Business Award Winner); Mirands and Shane Combs, Lola’s Restaurant (New Business Award Winner);The Honorable J. Michael Gamble (Ret.) (Harry L. Day, Jr. Award Recipient)

Amherst County Recreational Opportunities Abound

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnyone living in Amherst County who says “there’s nothing to do” isn’t fully informed…there are plenty of options, all year ’round.

The following is a summary of Amherst County sponsored activities and outdoor natural resources available to everyone.

For more day and time specific information, watch for the semi-annual recreational guide in the new Amherst New-Era Progress, or contact the Amherst County Recreation and Parks Department at 434-946-9371 or e-mail

An exciting development has been the enhancement and expansion of Riveredge Park, on the Madison Heights side of the James River directly across from Downtown Lynchburg.

RIVEREDGE PARK offers a nice boat ramp and fishing access, along with comfort stations, picnic tables and a community center. This park is most accessible by taking the first two left-hand turns at the bottom of the hill of Rt. 163 (old Rt. 29 bus., now called Old Town Connector) just before the bridge crossing into Downtown Lynchburg.

The community center located in the park is available to civic organizations and school groups on a reservation basis. It is also available for rent to private individuals on a reservation (rental fee) basis for events such as birthday parties, reunions or wedding receptions. For additional information call the Recreation Department at 434-946-9371.

More Amherst County Parks

Amherst County is widely known and popular for its scenic beauty and natural settings. There are a variety of parks and trails within the county offering healthy “back-to-nature” experiences. The county maintains several parks in very attractive settings throughout the county. There are two on the historic James River and three are at the foot of the fabulous Blue Ridge Mountains. *County park hours are sunrise and one hour after sunset. [Please note that county code stipulates that consumption of alcoholic beverages is strictly prohibited on all county property.]

COOLWELL PARKriver.edge.bldg.

Located on Coolwell Road, south of the Town of Amherst, this recreational park has a picnic area with grills, a picnic shelter, a play area for children, restrooms, lighted all-purpose fields (soccer, football, and softball), outdoor basketball courts, a nature trail and an outdoor amphitheater. The community center located in the park is available to civic organizations and school groups on a reservation basis. It is also available for rent to private individuals on a reservation (rental fee) basis. For additional information call the Recreation Department at 434-946-9371.


This park is located on the scenic and historic James River. The park offers a boat ramp and boat dock for access to the river, fishing benches, a covered picnic pavilion and picnic area, a play area for children and restroom facilities. It is located in the Elon area of the county. Directions: take Rt. 130 W. to Elon. Turn left on Monacan Park Rd. The park is located at the end of the Monacan Park Road.

RIVEREDGE PARK (see above)


Located in the Temperance area of the county, this park is considered by many residents to be the most scenic with a clear view of Mt. Pleasant and is part of the Sleeping Giant Loop on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail [ ] Furthermore, this park is extremely popular with the fishermen! It rests on a 190 acre watershed lake that is open for fishing only (no swimming). No gasoline powered boats allowed. The park consists of a boat ramp, picnic tables and grills, play area for children and restroom facilities. Directions: turn onto Rt. 778 off of Rt. 60 west. Turn right on Rt. 610. Follow the signs.


Located in the Temperance area of the county, this park rests on a beautiful 41 acre watershed lake and is open for fishing only (no swimming). This park is part of the Sleeping Giant Loop on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail. [] There is a boat ramp providing access into the lake (no gasoline powered boats allowed). A covered picnic pavilion, picnic tables and grills, a play area for children and restroom facilities makes this park an attractive setting for family/group picnics and activities. Directions: turn on Rt. 778 off of Rt. 60 W. Turn left onto Rt. 610. Follow the signs.


Located in the Temperance area of the county, this park rests on an attractive 36 acre watershed lake open for fishing only (no swimming). This park is part of the Sleeping Giant Loop on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail []. It consists of a boat ramp (no gasoline powered boats allowed) picnic tables and grills, a play area for children and restroom facilities. Directions: turn onto Rt. 778 off of Rt. 60 W. Turn left on Rt 610. Follow the signs.


For night-time fishing at the county lakes are available for purchase at the Recreation Department; 214 Second Street; Amherst.
Current VA fishing license is necessary. Fee: $10/county resident $15/non-county resident

Hiking Trails


Located at Coolwell Park, this ¼ mile trail is located behind the outdoor amphitheater. Go exploring and check it out!


This blacktop hiking/biking trail is part of the Peaks of Otter Loop on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail [ ] and has two access points. One is from Percival Island Natural Area. The trail extends from Lynchburg’s Blackwater Creek Trail, crossing the railroad trestle onto Percival Isle from Lynchburg. It traverses the island for about one mile along an old railroad bed. The trail continues across the James River on another trestle, and continues along the James River in Amherst County for another 1 ½ miles. This is a beautiful scenic walk or bike ride through an historical area. The trail is also accessible in Amherst County at the end of Fertilizer Road [enter via the Central Virginia Training School]. Be sure to explore the exhibit, VIRGINIA ROCKS, at the JRHT trailhead at the base of Fertilizer Road. This was an Eagle Scout Project completed in March, 2009, by Draper Lee, of Troop 29 BSA.


This trail is idyllically located in the rolling Virginia countryside and follows the banks of the Piney and Tye Rivers along the path of the longest running, commercially successful short-line railway in America. It is part of the Sleeping Giant Loop on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail []. This trail provides a perfect opportunity to relive the historically significant events that developed and changed Amherst and Nelson Counties. The trail has recently been expanded an additional two miles into Amherst County for hikers, bikers, and horseback riding. The two access points are located at Piney River and Roses Mill.


Approximately 25 miles of this trail passes through Amherst County from the Nelson County line to the James River, crossing over the James River Foot Bridge into Bedford County. There are many beautiful and scenic trails that run through the mountains of the county. Enjoy the sights from Mt. Pleasant, Cole Mountain, Tar Jacket, and Rocky Row Run, just to name a few.


Located in the Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area, this 4.8 mile loop leads to the 4,071 foot summit of Mount Pleasant with panoramic 360 degree views high atop Amherst County!


A 5-mile loop, when combined with the Appalachian Trail, across the meadows on the summit of Cole Mountain with fantastic views of the Amherst foothills and the western valley.


From the Atlantic Ocean of Virginia’s eastern border, to the towering Mt. Rogers at its southwest corner, the Commonwealth includes every bird and animal habitat that occurs naturally between Maine and Florida. Virginia also offers a long history, rich culture, and tradition of warm hospitality to welcome visitors. Within Virginia’s 43,000 square miles of diverse natural habitat, you can find some 400 species of birds, 250 species of fish, 150 species of terrestrial and marine animals, 150 species of amphibians and reptiles, and a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates. The Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail celebrates this diversity. In fact, it is the first statewide program of its kind in the United States. All three phases of the trail link wildlife viewing sites throughout the state have been completed: The Coastal, Piedmont, and Mountain Phases. Amherst County has several trail loops listed inthe Mountain Phase trail system. The Peaks of Otter Loop includes the James River Heritage Trail along the southern border of the county. The Sleeping Giant Loop, includes Mt. Pleasant Scenic Area, Mill Creek Lake, Stonehouse Lake, Thrashers Lake, as well as the Virginia Blue Ridge Railway Trail. For further information or for a map of one of the three phases, visit the Amherst County Recreation Department or contact the Virginia Tourism Corporation @ 1-800-visitva or visit


The Terrapin and Rattlesnake trailhead parking lots are posted along Rt. 130. For more information contact the Glenwood- Pedlar Ranger District of the National Forest Service @ 540-291-2188. For an Amherst County Parks & Trails Guide, visit



Camping and restaurant/gift shop. Located at milepost 60 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. For more information, call


A family campground in the Blue Ridge Mountains, full of fun and activities including swimming, ATV trail, special events; along with a camp store and gift shop and much more. 6252 Elon Road; Monroe, VA [Rt. 130 west of Elon and a mile east of the Blue Ridge Parkway. For more information, call 434-299-5228 or visit

Scenic Areas


Amherst County has been promoted as “Virginia’s Most Civilized Wilderness”. Part of the rationale for this ‘Claim to Fame’ is that nearly 1/3 of Amherst County (northwest) is located in the George Washington National Forest. Hunting, camping, hiking, nature and wildlife watching enthusiasts enjoy the benefits of the GWNF in Amherst County. Scenic view sheds, overlooks, waterfalls, and more- it’s all here! For additional information, visit


Outstanding scenery and recreational opportunities make the Blue Ridge Parkway one of the most popular units of the National Park System. “America’s Favorite Drive” winds its way 469 miles through mountain meadows and past seemingly endless vistas. Split-rail fences, old farmsteads and historic structures complement spectacular views of distant mountains and neighboring valleys.” Access to the Blue Ridge Parkway in Amherst County is on Rt. 60 and Rt. 130/501. For more information, visit


Located in the Glenwood and Pedlar Ranger Districts of Amherst County, this 7,580 acre area is part of the George Washington National Forest and is accessible by Route 60 West. It is part of the Sleeping Giant Loop on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail [ ] Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area offers excellent opportunities for solitude and serenity and is very popular for various forms of dispersed recreation including hiking, hunting, and fishing. The core of the Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area is remote in appearance. Motor vehicles are permitted only on open roads. For additional information, visit

Health & Fitness

For very reasonable fees, Aerobics Classes are available for adults at locations in Madison Height and Amherst (Amherst Elementary) during the months of Jan., Feb., Mar., Apr., May, Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. Zumba classes are held in six (6) week sessions on an ongoing basis three (3) times a week. Yoga is taught at the former Amherst Baptist Church on 2nd St. in Amherst during the months of Jan., Feb., Mar., Apr., May, Aug., Sept. Oct., Nov. & Dec. Even Square Dance lessons are available Sept.-Dec. at the Coolwell Community Center. Newcomers can try the first 2 weeks for free! If you would like information sent to you as it becomes available,send an e-mail to

Arts & Crafts

Acrylic and Oil Painting classes are available; acrylic in Mar., April, May, Sept., Oct., & Nov. Deleted Dec.. at the Coolwell Recreation Center in Madison Heights.
Oil painting classes are taught in the Bob Ross technique, and are also taught at the Coolwell Recreation Center every month of the year except Jan.


Football, Basketball Leagues, Basketball Camps, Soccer, Soccer Camps, Baseball Leagues, Softball, Golf and Golf Clinics and Hunter Safety Class are available through the year for most ages.

Every Fall is the time for Wolverine and Monelison Bruins football. For more information, call the Amherst Recreation Dept. any weekday at 434-946-9371.
Co-Ed and Girls Youth basketball is available for children aged 5-8 yrs. Registration deadlines are Sept. 30, Oct. 31st, and after Oct. 31 with the fee rising the later one registers: so try registering early! Registration locations are at the Amherst County Recreation office in Amherst during the week, and every Sat. morning in Oct. at the Coolwell Recreation Center. Registration can also be done online at

A basketball camp has been running successfully for 15 years during the summer, at Amherst High School.

Soccer league competition for those 4 1/2 – 14 yrs.-old takes place March-May with registration beginning in Feb. Registration can be done online at

The Lancer Soccer Camp, run by Amherst County High School Soccer coaches, is held at Coolwell Park in June. For more information, call 434-946-9371.

Dixie Youth baseball and Dixie Youth girl’s softball is available in both Amherst and Madison Heights. Opening days are in mid-April, with practices beginning in March. For more information about Amherst Dixie Youth boys baseball, visit www.Amherst Dixie For Dixie Youth girls softball, call the recreation office at 434-946-9371. The Madison Heights Youth Baseball Association (Dixie Youth) is for participants 5-15 years of age, with opening days in late April. For more information, visit

Adult softball leagues are organized every summer for separate men’s and coed divisions. Games start in late Aug. or early Sept. Call 434-946-9371 for more information.

Winton Country Club hosts a Women’s Golf clinic and a Junior (for youth under 18 yrs.-old) Golf mini-camp every year in April. The instruction for the clinic is specifically for beginning to immediate golfers and is entirely free, with all equipment and range balls provided. The junior mini-camp is also free. For more information or to register, call the Winton Pro Shop at 434-946-7336.

A Hunter safety class is taught in September at the Coolwell Community Center. It is required for all 12-15 yr.-olds as well as anyone 16 and over who are seeking their hunting license for the first time. Those already with hunting licenses are also welcome to attend to refresh their hunting skills. Pre-registration is required. For more information, call Mr. Wise at 434-384-7048.

Senior Adult Programs


There are three center sites in Amherst County. The schedule of activities at each of the sites varies greatly, including table and card games, covered dish lunches, arts and crafts, local shopping and sight-seeing trips, nutrition specialists, health screenings, and an assortment of other special events. Call the Recreation Department for a monthly calendar. Visit any or all of these locations.

Location: Main St., Amherst
Dates: Mondays & Thursdays
Time: 10AM-2PM

Location: US 29, Madison Heights
Dates: Mondays and Wednesdays
Time: 10AM-2PM

Location: Pleasant View
Dates: 1st & 3rd Fridays
Time: 10AM-2PM

Aerobics and Yoga (see Health and Fitness above) are available to seniors. There is Bingo every Wed. morning at 9:30 at St. Francis Assisi Catholic Church at 322 S. Main St., Amherst, with refreshments for everyone and prizes for the winners, all free of charge.

Other social activities for senior adults include monthly Senior Socials, involving lunch and entertainment taking place at the Madison Heights Community Center. These events are free, however, reservations are needed. For more information and to make reservations, call 434-946-9371.

Whether it is learning a new hobby, competing in a sports program or taking advantage of the wonderful parks available, Amherst County residents are fortunate to have so many ways to pursue recreational activities.

But if you have any comments about current leisure services or suggestions for new County sponsored activities, the Amherst County Parks, Recreation and Cultural Development Board (ACPRCD) Board) meets the second Monday of each month at 6:45 pm in the Amherst County Administration Building to review budget, activities, and discuss future options. Individuals and groups are welcome and encouraged to bring matters concerning recreation and parks in the county to these meetings. In order to get on the agenda, please call the Recreation Department at 946-9371 at least three weeks prior to a scheduled meeting date.

Historical Paintings in Amherst County

About 150 people gathered in downtown Amherst last September to witness the unveiling of eight paintings portraying historically significant Amherst County and Town residents.

They line the 2nd Street outside wall of the Goodwin Building at the corner of Main and 2nd St.s. The paintings took months to produce by current and former National Art Honor Society Amherst High School students under the supervision of Amherst High School art teacher, Maryellen Barron and volunteers from local artists’ organizations.

Suny Monk, who helped spearhead the initiative with her husband, Sweet Briar art professor Joe Monk, served as informal master of ceremonies. Suny was also instrumental in initiating the popular downtown Amherst ArtMeter project, that established art on old and unused parking meters.

1-Robert Rose (lived from 1704- 1751) painted by Bryan Taylor. Born in Scotland, he immigrated to Virginia and is generally credited for establishing St. Mark’s in Clifford.

2-Indiana Fletcher Williams (1828- 1900) and her daughter Daisy (1867- 1884) by Sienna Barron. Indiana was the daughter of Elijah Fletcher, a schoolmaster from Vermont. Indiana and her brothers and sister were raised at Sweetbriar plantation. Indiana married James Henry Williams of New York, and they had a daughter, Maria Georgianna “Daisy” Williams, spent her life between Sweetbriar and New York, dying at the age of 16. Sweet Briar College was established according to the terms of Indiana’s will, in memory of her daughter Daisy.

3-Reuben Barnes Ware MD (1873- 1964) by Sarah McCafferty. Ware received his medical degree from Medical College of VA in 1895, and began his practice at a time when doctors made house calls on horseback and all types of weather. In practice more than 50 years, he delivered more than 3,000 babies, many honored with names such as Reuben, Barnes and Ware. A skilled story-teller, he taught many, by example, the values of humor, generosity and courtesy.

4-(Arthur) Gates Ware (1911-1990) by Ryan Mattox. Known for his avid sports interests (golf, croquet, horseshoes, as well as the school sports of baseball, basketball, football and more), Postmaster Ware would participate, coach, or simply watch, always placing how to play the game over and above winning the game. Well endowed with a sense of humor, his smile lightened the hearts of many youngsters.

5-Queena Stovall (1887-1980) by Lauren Huffman. Stovall began her career as a dedicated artist at the age of 62, focusing her subjects on rural country life in Amherst County. By 1972, her work became nationally recognized, and this acclaimed American folk artists continues to be a source of pride in cultural circles of Amherst County.

6-Sheriff Henry Myers (1900- 1970) by Taylyn Soult. Myers served Amherst County for 28 years.

7-Florence “Sis” Yancey (1870- 1978) by Alison Tyler. Living to the age of 107, Yancey lived to age 107 and delivered generations of babies as a certified midwife for 50 years; over 500 babies. She answered calls from all over, some in places by candlelight and no running water.

8-Eddie Rodwell (1922-2005) and Willard Douglas by Zach Mays and Tiffany Foster. Rodwell was a local barber, and his concern for the lack of indoor plumbing for many in town led him to run and win his first term on the Amherst Town Council. In 1991 he was appointed to complete Mayor Joseph Siegrist’s unexpired term, thus becoming the Town’s first African-American mayor.

In the barber’s chair is Willard Douglas (born in 1932). He graduated from Amherst County Training School in 1949, served in the military, and graduated from Virginia Union University and Howard Law School, before becoming the first black judge in Virginia (since Reconstruction) in 1974. He is retired and lives in Richmond, but attended the September unveiling.

Sponsors of this wonderful project are: Amherst Art Society; Amherst County Museum and Historical Society; Amherst Glebe Arts Response; ArtMeter volunteers; Duncan Augustine; Bank of the James; Wanda Beverly; First National Bank of Altavista; Friends of Amherst County; Suny and Joe Monk; Roy Prior and students; Marguerite F. Singleton; Mary Snow; the Town of Amherst; Claudia and Bill Tucker; John Ware.

An Interview With County Administrator: Clarence Monday

Amherst County Guidebook (ACG) 9/30/12

ACG: Have you been able to move your family from Martinsville up to Amherst yet?

Monday: Martinsville ranks at or near the top for the highest unemployment rate in the state, and unfortunately, our house has not sold yet with the large inventory of houses on the market. I currently live in the Clifford community, and the rest of the family comes here on weekends and during mid-week breaks. This has allowed a gradual acclimation to the community. My family recently started the search for our permanent Amherst County home. We look forward to our house selling soon so we are all again under one roof.

ACG: Besides the much larger population of Amherst County (about 32,000 to Martinsville’s 14,000) how would you describe any differences between the people of these two areas?

Monday: Similar. People make a community. I have found the people of Amherst to be open, friendly, and welcoming. The community has a nice feel with folks that are down to earth and willing to engage in conversations as if they have known you all along.

ACG: What do you see as the most challenging issues now confronting Amherst County?

Monday: Amherst County is like many other localities across Virginia, and the nation for that matter. The recession of 2008 still impacts our revenue, and business/industry is hesitant to invest as they did in the past. This results in flat County revenue and limits funding for County services and programs.

ACG: What do you think of the Old Train Depot becoming a Visitor’s Center and office for the Amherst Chamber of Commerce? What has to be done before improvements and construction take place?

Monday: I have heard and respect that the Train Depot Project is of varying opinions with some supporting renovations and other opposing County involvement. Whatever path is chosen going forward, it must be right for the County, Chamber, and community. This could have a positive impact for our County, and if done collaboratively, I see great potential with this property whether a visitor’s center and/or in other roles. This of course is a policy decision of the Board of Supervisors, and the staff will support such decisions. Once VDOT grants final approval, construction will begin soon for this second phase of the project, and funds must be sought for the final and third leg of the project.

ACG: You probably noticed, before you took this job, that there have been several County Administrators that have come and gone in recent years…do you plan to stay a long time?

Monday: Since starting my career in local government in 1984, I have only worked for two employers prior to coming to Amherst County. Changing jobs and relocating is challenging, and my plan is to stay here for the long haul.

ACG: What are a couple of long-term goals you would like to see attained while you are here in Amherst County?

Monday: I do not want to be labeled as another County Administrator that comes and goes so I have already been thinking about long-term County goals including enhancing our tourism and economic development efforts, maintaining up to date strategic and capital improvement plans, further professional development of the County staff, and ensuring that Amherst County is known as a top-notch County of choice for people to live in central Virginia.

ACG: I see that you are a marathon runner. How often do you run them, and what is your best time so far?

Monday: I started running when I was 20 and did not start running marathons until 2006. Since that time, I have completed six marathons with a personal best time of four hours, ten minutes. My goal is to run at least four more and get my time under four hours.

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