Pro­posed bike trail lands $150,000 grant com­mit­ment

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By John M caslin Rappahannock News staff

Rappahannock Trails, which be­gan as a pri­vate un­der­tak­ing to con­nect the sev­eral vil­lages of Rappahannock County by multi-use re­cre­ation paths, has landed a sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment for phase 1 of the project from the char­i­ta­ble PATH Foun­da­tion.

Rap­pTrails says War­ren­ton-based PATH ap­proved a “$150,000 com­mit­ment” to sup­port lo­cal ef­forts to con­nect the county’s two public schools with a walk­ing, jog­ging, and bik­ing trail called the “Schools Con­nec­tor.”

"The Path Foun­da­tion is very happy to sup­port this com­mu­ni­ty­based ef­fort to pro­vide a safe and con­ve­nient recre­ational trail that will en­hance the health and fit­ness of all of Rappahannock’s res­i­dents and vis­i­tors, and con­nect im­por­tant com­mu­nity as­sets in the cen­ter of the county, and even­tu­ally, other parts of the county,” said John McCarthy, chair of the PATH Foun­da­tion board and for­mer long­time ad­min­is­tra­tor of

Rappahannock County.

If built, the con­nec­tor would re­al­ize a 1.2 mile stretch of multi-use trail be­gin­ning at the Ele­men­tary School, crossing Rock Mills Road, con­tin­u­ing by the Flat­wood Refuse Cen­ter, and end­ing at Rappahannock High School. The ef­fort has re­ceived wide­spread sup­port, in­clud­ing res­o­lu­tions from both the Rappahannock County Board of Su­per­vi­sors [BOS] and the School Board.

When awarded in 2018, the grant will help meet the 20 per­cent match­ing re­quire­ment for an up­com­ing VDOT Trans­porta­tion Al­ter­na­tives Pro­gram grant ap­pli­ca­tion to be sub­mit­ted by the county. The VDOT pro­gram of­fers fund­ing for non-mo­tor­ized trans­porta­tion such as trails and side­walks, and has spe­cial em­pha­sis on safe routes to schools and in­creased public safety.

Fund­ing from VDOT is an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of paying for the construction of the trail.

Mean­while, there will be a roll-call vote at this Mon­day’s BOS meet­ing on whether to au­tho­rize the ap­pli­ca­tion for the es­tab­lish­ment of the VDOT trans­porta­tion set-aside project — in this case the “Con­nec­tor Trail” — which re­quires an ap­proved county gov­ern­ment res­o­lu­tion.

The BOS, at the same time, would be vot­ing on whether to pro­vide the min­i­mum 20 per­cent match­ing con­tri­bu­tion, plus “any ad­di­tional funds nec­es­sary” for the com­ple­tion of the ini­tial schools trail.

Some county res­i­dents have made it clear, in­clud­ing in pub­lished let­ters to the ed­i­tor of this news­pa­per, that they ei­ther have con­cerns or else are op­posed to the trails project as it has been pro­posed. At least one res­i­dent made it known to the BOS that he and oth­ers who are ques­tion­ing the project will be on hand at Mon­day’s BOS meet­ing.

If the res­o­lu­tion passes, and fund­ing even­tu­ally is ap­proved, the BOS as­sures VDOT that the county will “pro­vide the nec­es­sary over­sight to en­sure the project is de­vel­oped in ac­cor­dance with all state and fed­eral re­quire­ments for de­sign, right of way ac­qui­si­tion, and construction,” as well as as­sume re­spon­si­bil­ity for its “main­te­nance.”

“It is such a priv­i­lege to be part of a project that will al­low county res­i­dents and vis­i­tors alike to get out­side and en­joy the nat­u­ral beauty that makes this county such a spe­cial place," said Cliff Miller IV, a co-leader of the trail plan­ning com­mit­tee.

“The ben­e­fits of this project to the school di­vi­sion are two-fold,” agreed Rappahannock County Schools Su­per­in­ten­dent Shan­non Grim­s­ley. “First, it pro­vides an av­enue for phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and healthy liv­ing, a ma­jor fo­cus of ours through our Com­mit to Be Fit pro­gram. Sec­ond, it ad­dresses a se­cu­rity con­cern about al­ter­nate means of egress in haz­ardous sit­u­a­tions for the high school.

“Fund­ing to ad­dress these con­cerns is lim­ited in terms of construction of a safety path and clear­ing and paving al­ter­nate routes for ADA com­pli­ance. This project presents an op­por­tu­nity that will move us for­ward in meet­ing our safety goals, as well as pro­mot­ing the school di­vi­sion’s em­pha­sis on health and well­ness.”

Rap­pTrails has committed to rais­ing funds to meet the re­quired VDOT match and to pro­vide on­go­ing main­te­nance of the trail. In ad­di­tion to the Path Foun­da­tion com­mit­ment, the group has raised $30,000 in pri­vate gifts, with more ex­pected.

If funded, the project will take sev­eral years to com­plete, although Rap­pTrails is al­ready de­vel­op­ing part­ner­ships with lo­cal com­mu­nity groups to pro­vide vol­un­teer op­por­tu­ni­ties for those in­ter­ested in help­ing main­tain and beau­tify the trail. The goal is to have a main­te­nance fund and vol­un­teer plan in place prior to its com­ple­tion.

Jane Whit­field, founder and co-leader of the lo­cal ef­fort, is ex­cited about pos­i­tive re­sponses to the ef­fort.

“It has been heart­warm­ing to see the com­mu­nity com­ing to­gether over this project. Nearly 70 peo­ple at­tended our in­for­ma­tion event ear­lier this month. That’s a great turnout and we are look­ing for­ward to work­ing to­gether on mak­ing the Con­nec­tor trail a re­al­ity. It’s been great to work co­op­er­a­tively the su­per­vi­sors and the schools.”

Asked about con­cerns ex­pressed in one let­ter to the ed­i­tor last week about po­ten­tial law­suits re­sult­ing from ac­ci­dents on the trail and who would be held re­spon­si­ble, Whit­field replied: “Li­a­bil­ity has been raised as a con­cern and is an is­sue we have planned for.

“For­tu­nately, as a public en­tity, the county has an um­brella in­surance pol­icy that pro­tects mu­nic­i­pal ac­tiv­i­ties and fa­cil­i­ties,” she said. “Sim­i­lar to the Rappahannock county park, the li­brary, ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fices, county roads, and other pub­licly owned prop­erty, the trail can be added to this gen­eral li­a­bil­ity pol­icy. The county’s pol­icy is held with VML In­surance and should not in­cur any ad­di­tional pre­mium cost.”

The mis­sion of Rappahannock Trails is to make the out­doors ac­ces­si­ble for Rappahannock County res­i­dents and vis­i­tors of all ages through the es­tab­lish­ment of a public trail sys­tem. The trails will al­low users to safely en­joy walk­ing, jog­ging, and bik­ing to pro­vide ed­u­ca­tional, health, fit­ness, and com­mu­nity ben­e­fits.

Ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease, Rap­pTrails is an un­in­cor­po­rated non­profit, work­ing un­der the aus­pices of fis­cal spon­sor, the Rappahannock League for En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion (RLEP). Rap­pTrails has no paid staff. All work is com­pleted by a vol­un­teer plan­ning com­mit­tee.

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