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Old Mills Trail


Old Mills Trail, Charlottesville, VA, USA

Best Nature Play Themes

Park Narrative Summary & Directions

The park was accessed from the condo parking lot off of Riverbend Drive behind the Pantops shopping center, though this parking is likely private. You can access the end of the trail easier from Darden Towe Park via the Rivanna Trail. The trail runs by the Rivanna river on the southside. There is a lovely sandy area near the edge of the river that has a magical branch construction and forms a natural room with an open, flat clearing. There is easy access from this space down a steep, sandy bank to the river’s edge. Further downstream, a gulley transects the trail and there is an opportunity to follow a wooden bridge off of the trail and up the steep embankment. Below the Pantops shopping center, there is a steep hill that leads down to a nice meadow for picnicking, though the undergrowth is rather thick and the area is cut in half by a concrete drainage gully. Off to the side of this meadow, there is a wonderful forest area with open undergrowth that really embodies the magical threshold ethos.

All Nature Play Themes

Risk Play Opportunities

Vines and thick undergrowth near the trail entrance off of Riverbend Drive make for good risk opportunities. Water play by the river can be risky especially during high river levels. The meadow has uneven terrain to add risk to running/playing, as well as the risk associated with the steep hill that descends from the shopping center

Transportation Infrastructure

Walking, Biking, Parking Lot

Accessibility Considerations

The main trail itself is flat but the central entrance from the condo area is a bit steep and rough. The sandy area by the river bank has a steep bank that makes access difficult. Overall, there aren’t many places to sit, aside from a few logs in the sandy area before you enter the room by the river bank. The sand also would make accessing the area difficult with a disability. The meadow below the shopping center parking lot is also fairly inaccessible because of really thick underbrush. Overall, not incredibly accessible aside from the central trail path.

Safety Factors

The central entrance to the Old Mills trail is right behind a condo complex, making it feel safe with its proximity to people’s homes. The sand flat down by the river is hidden by the rise in the bank and is therefore somewhat isolated from the other rooms

Ecological Educational Opportunities

There are some invasive species such as the autumn olive in the undergrowth of the forested area along the trail, and the ecotone is heavily trafficked. The riverbank below the main trail bath is eroding heavily in places, and the sandy flat by the river offers a good opportunity to talk about flood plains.