SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The first phase of the Great Dismal Swamp Trailhead Project kicked off in Suffolk on Tuesday, April 12.

The City of Suffolk, the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and several local and regional stakeholders are leading the initiative. Once complete, the project will establish more visible and accessible recreational and educational assets at Refuge’s Jericho Lane Trailhead located along White Marsh Road.

The ultimate goal of the project will be to showcase the history of the Indigenous and African-American people at the swamp.

Officials held a fundraiser at the trailhead entrance Tuesday to kick off the project and to raise money for a welcoming pavilion, signage and interpretive kiosks.

As part of the project, volunteers with Dominion Energy will repair a kiosk damaged by bears over the years.

“This is our history. It’s not just one person or one or the other. It’s all of our history in the United States. And that’s what we at Dominion want, is for the environment, for educating people, what happened here and how to maintain what we have and protect our environment,” said Melanie Beale, with Dominion Energy.

“We’re not reaching the urban community. Some people don’t like to go into the refuge where there’s bears and venomous snakes and the biting flies and insects. So this project moves the trailhead out to the road where you can still hear traffic, you can see street lights, you have cell phone coverage,” said Chris Lowie with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.