Illustration by Scott DuBarMartinsville used to build chairs. Now the town builds trails. The former thriving furniture and textile hub once had the highest rate of per capita millionaires in the country. But with industry moving abroad, the small city in Southern Virginia’s Blue Ridge foothills is now focused on utilizing the vast natural beauty that surrounds it.“We now have a clean slate,” says resident Brian Williams, member of the Dan River Basin Association, who’s helping to spearhead recreation development. “We have a perfect opportunity to reinvent the way we do things here.”The former furniture mecca and NASCAR hotbed is getting a new reputation for outdoor recreation. A 44.5-mile section of the Smith River bisects Henry County, as it travels from the 3,000-acre Philpott Lake (Virginia’s largest Smith Mountain lake is actually Virginia’s largest lake) down to the North Carolina border. Williams has helped develop multiple access points for paddling and a growing accompanying trail system.Town culture is also changing. Part of Martinsville’s 15,000-person population now visits uptown coffee shops and lives in loft apartments. An arts scene is budding at Studio 107 and the Piedmont Arts Association. There are bluegrass shows and independent movies at the Rives Theater and plays at the Black Box Theater.“People here are starting to realize how much potential there is with community arts and our natural surroundings,” adds Williams.Williams’ Outdoor Picks:Paddle the Smith River Henry County has eight easy access points to get onto the Smith River. A popular class II stretch is the 6.5-mile run from Philpott Dam to Bassett. A quiet flat stretch is the 3.5-mile run from Merribone to Mitchell Bridge. The town celebrates the river every August with the Smith River Festival.Rail Trail Recreation Locals have been taking advantage of the new Dick and Willie Passage, a rail trail that’s popular for running and cycling. The six-mile out-and-back Fieldale Trail offers a more wooded riverside stroll with seasonal spring rhododendron blooms. Both of these trails are part of the growing Smith River Trail system, which will eventually run for 45 miles down to the North Carolina border.Hiking at Fairy Stone Nearby Fairy Stone State Park has a range of hiking options, including five miles of footpaths in the Stuarts Knob trail system and 13 miles in the Little Mountain trail system.Ride the Roads Martinsville has an active road cycling scene led by the Henry County Bike Club. The club leads open 25-mile group rides on the idyllic country roads around Martinsville every Tuesday and Thursday evening. For a longer ride, complete the 60-mile course of the former Tour de Scholar metric century.Jamison Mill SingletrackMountain bike clubs in surrounding counties recently banded together and added newly constructed singletrack to the Jamison Mill Recreation Area around Philpott Lake, giving fat tire freaks a rolling six-mile wooded maze to spin their wheels.
The Trojans continue at home tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. with a double header against UC Davis and the University of San Francisco. In the opening match, USC will look to overwhelm a young UC Davis team that has only one upperclassman. It will, however, be a tricky matchup, as the young Aggies have a 6-0 record heading into tomorrow’s matches. USF comes in with an undefeated record as well, although they have only played one match. USC will look to best its result against the Dons last year, when USC won 5-2. The USC men’s tennis team continued its recent success in the ITA Weekend Kickoff Tournament last weekend. After returning from a trip to Australia, the No. 5 Trojans defeated Cal Poly Saturday and defeated UC Santa Barbara in the final on Sunday. USC went up against Cal Poly in the first round and swept them 4-0. All three Trojan pairings started off slow in doubles, with sophomore Daniel Cuckierman and freshman Bradley Frye losing their match 4-6. Juniors Brandon Holt and Riley Smith were able to overcome their slow start, however, and came up with a 6-4 victory. The deciding doubles match came down to the wire, but seniors Laurens Verboven and Jack Jaede were able to clinch the set with a 7-5 win. Holt and Cuckierman both played out their matches and in the end, Holt won his match 7-6, 4-6, 6-4. Cuckierman was the last to finish with a hard fought 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 win. At the end of the day, USC won both of its matches over the weekend and qualified for its 11th consecutive ITA National Indoor Championship, which will be held in Chicago on Feb 15. Smith secured a quick victory once again in singles with a 6-2, 6-2 win. Similarly, freshman Mor Bulis won 6-3, 6-2 in his match. Santa Barbara was able to get 1 point back, as Verboven lost 6-2, 6-3. After Holt and Cuckierman split sets in their matches, all of the attention turned to freshman Jake Sands to clinch USC’s win. Sands stood strong under the pressure and pulled out a gritty 6-4, 6-4 win to give USC the tournament. The singles matches were much more straightforward, as the Trojans got three straight set wins from Holt (6-4, 6-0), Smith (6-3, 6-2) and Cuckierman (6-1, 7-5). This completed the sweep and secured USC’s place in the championship match on Sunday against the Gauchos. The doubles on Sunday against Santa Barbara proved to be much easier for the Trojans. Holt and Smith dominated with a 6-1 victory, which Cuckierman and Frye followed up with a straightforward 6-2 win. With the doubles point easily secured, the match turned to singles. “As a team, we were all just ready to go, and we are excited for this year,” Smith said. “I think we are going to compete our butts off. I think we really have a chance to just do something special this year. Tournament is nothing different to us, and we are just going to go out there and compete.” The good news continues to come in for the Trojans. It was announced Tuesday that Holt won Pac-12 Player of the Week honors following his undefeated record this past weekend. Women’s tennis junior Angela Kulikov also won the same honor this week, marking the first time since 2015 that USC tennis has had a men’s and women’s player take Player of the Week honors in the same week. Junior Brandon Holt won Pac-12 Player of the Week honors after snagging two doubles and two singles victories in the ITA Kickoff Weekend. It is the second time in his career Holt has earned the honor. (Emily Smith/Daily Trojan)