We believe it is time for Albemarle County to increase investment towards greenways, open space, and trails within its Growth Area.
The County Comprehensive Plan has long held that public infrastructure spending shall be directed toward Ablemarle’s designated Development Areas. It also calls for a Development Area where people can “live, work, and play” with “parks and trails [that] provide respite and recreation.”
However, despite that laudable goal, only two of the county’s thirteen parks are located within the Development Area. Further distancing itself from its goal, the county has retained a consultant to develop a plan for yet another Rural Area park, located on the the 340 acre “Hedgerow” property on Route 29, south of I-64. Preliminary estimates would require an investment in excess of $2-million and approximately $82,000 annually for maintenance and operation.
Urban Greenways = Transportation + Recreation
Roughly two-thirds of the county’s population lives in the Development Area –a constituency clamoring for urban amenities that they can bike or walk to. As mentioned before, there are only two Growth Area parks and the trails, greenways, and paths needed to link people to them–and to other urban destinations–are, where they even exist, inadequate. Within the urban area, while there is a need for additional athletic fields, funding and completing the planned greenways and trails would serve the dual purpose of providing both transportation alternatives and recreational space.
We believe a commitment to completing a system that connects Growth Area residents to the places they live, work, shop and play, would be of greater value to the residents of Albemarle than additional Rural Area parks.
Additional Numbers to Consider
Currently, Albemarle residents have access to 11 county-operated parks and recreational areas, totaling 3,305 acres. The two that are located in the Development Area–Charlotte Humphris Park (25 acres) and Darden Towe Park (113 acres); combined represent less than 5% of the county’s accessible parkland. The nine remaining parks are all located in the Rural Area. While Simpson Park is located within the Esmont community and easily accessed by those residents, the other rural parks are accessible only if you can drive to them. This list does not include the 2-acre Dorrier Park, operated by the town of Scottsville; the 980-acre Ragged Mountain Natural Area, owned and operated by the city; and the county’s planned parks, both in the Rural Area, at Buck Island, 112 acres, and Hedgerow Park, 340 acres.
When it comes to what’s in the public interest, PEC applauds the goal of providing additional recreational and open space access. However, as with most things in life, resources and funds are limited, so prioritization needs to happen!
A few years ago, Albemarle County accepted a gift of 340 acres located south of Ragged Mountain Reservoir for use as a future rural park. The property had been held by the Nature Conservancy since December 2006. It formerly belonged to the late Jane Heyward. If funded, the entrance would be off of Route 29, approximately two miles south of I-64, and accessible only by car.
During the spring of 2017, the Board authorized a conceptual engineering study to address potential issues that have design and cost implications to the county. W.W. Associates of Charlottesville developed the conceptual engineering study and presented the completed study to staff in June 2017. Site Assessment Report for Hedgerow Park >>
On August 2, the Board of Supervisors held a work session to consider allocation of over $2-million to construct the park’s trails, access, and parking. At the conclusion of that meeting, no decision was made other than to request additional information on cost, potential grants and other funding options.
As expressed below, we are concerned the county’s enthusiasm for rural parks comes at the expense of opportunities that exist in the Growth Area:
PEC Statement to Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, August 2, 2017
(delivered by Jeff Werner, PEC’s Albemarle land use representative)
In a moment you will again review options for a park at the Heyward Property. As I said in April [see below]—and I’ll repeat much of that today–PEC applauds the goal of providing additional recreational and open space. However, what is the county’s plan for making this park accessible to bike and pedestrian traffic? It is disappointing that this project has seemingly moved ahead—or is certainly moving faster than–other park and trail projects that would directly serve the Growth Area.
The county has a growing urban population and the Comp Plan calls for investments within the Growth Area. That urban community is clamoring for recreational amenities that they can bike or walk to.
Planning and funding for these Growth Area amenities is also a critical element of modern economic development; these are the very amenities that young professional and entrepreneurs look for when choosing where to live and work. In fact, recall that one of the incentives that Deschutes requested from Roanoke was the extension of city’s riverfront trail to their new plant site.
We understand the enthusiasm to take advantage of the Heyward property, it is a wonderful gift to the county. However, we believe it is shortsighted to neither plan for, nor recognize the importance of, making new parks easily accessible to urban residents. Again, a robust urban trail and park network has a direct correlation to your economic development goals. You have plans for Growth Area parks and for the trails, greenways, and paths to connect them. That is, to build a system that, without the need of a car, connects Growth Area residents to the places they live, work, shop, and play. We believe a commitment to completing that system would be of greater value to the Comp Plan goals than another Rural Area park.
By focusing time, resources, and limited funding—in fact, the CIP lacks the full funding needed to complete and operate this park—but by focusing on this project limits the county’s opportunities for the well-planned, Growth Area investments that will produce very real and positive dividends.
PEC statement to the Albemarle County BoS, April 12, 2017
(delivered by Jeff Werner, PEC’s Albemarle land use representative)
Earlier you reviewed options for a new county park at the Heyward Property. We applaud the goal of providing the community with additional recreational and open space. However, in your discussion there was nothing about making this park accessible to bike or pedestrian traffic. In fact, it was made clear that it would only be accessed by driving to it.
The county has a growing urban population and the Comp Plan calls for investments within the Growth Area. That urban community is clamoring for recreational amenities that they do not need a car to get to.
Planning and funding for these growth Area amenities is also a critical element of modern economic development these are the things that young professional and entrepreneurs look for when choosing where to live and work. Recall that one of the incentives that Deschutes requested from Roanoke was that the city’s riverfront trail be extended to their new plant site.
We understand the enthusiasm to take advantage of the generous gift of the Heyward property, but it is shortsighted to not plan for–let alone not even recognize–the importance of making future county parks easily accessible to urban residents, and the very real correlation this has to your economic development goals. Just the other day, the Daily Progress wrote about the need to complete in the growth Area the long-planned linear parks and bike/ped corridors that would connect people to the places they live, work and shop. There must be a commitment to implementing these existing plans. And there must be a plan for how all of these parks and trails are to be interconnection and accessible, even without a car.
I know that my colleague, Rex Linville, and I sound like a broken record on this matter, but this goal cannot be accomplished with a catch as you can, ad hoc approach. Because when that happens, the county is missing opportunities for well-planned, Growth Area investments that will produce very real and positive dividends.
Numerous county parks still waiting for funds
Charlottesville Tomorrow, November 21, 2016
Albemarle supervisors set advertised property tax rate, talk Hedgerow Park
Charlottesville Tomorrow, March 07, 2017
Is Hedgerow a no-go? County pushes for biking park that bikers don’t want
Charlottesville Tomorrow, March 15, 2017
North-south bike trail will take greater buy-in and political will
Charlottesville Tomorrow, April 9, 2017
Excerpt: As the urban population of Albemarle County continues to increase and as new road projects are completed, some residents want a network of continuous trails that would allow for cycling from downtown to the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport. “In a progressive town like Charlottesville, why isn’t there an option for people to bike and commute?” asked Greg Kastner, a University of Virginia graduate who spent several years in Washington before moving back to Charlottesville. “A huge part of my life in D.C. was being able to bike to a lot of the places I needed to go for life and work and everything,” he said. “Then I came back to Charlottesville for a job on the U.S. 29 corridor. One of the things that is completely lacking is an ability to travel north and south in town on a bicycle.” The lack of a unified trail system is not due to a lack of planning. “We’ve just got to get it done,” said Will Cockrell, a transportation planner with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. “There’s been so much talk and it’s time for action.” […]
Supervisors OK study for Hedgerow Park project
Charlottesville Tomorrow, April 12, 2017
Biking battle continues: Supes give the okay on studying Hedgerow
Charlottesville Tomorrow, April 19, 2017
Pedestrian connections desired by urban Albemarle residents
Charlottesville Tomorrow, May 05, 2017
Albemarle supervisors seek new information on future Hedgerow park access
Charlottesville Tomorrow, August 2, 2017
Supervisors ask for more options for Hedgerow Park entrance
Daily Progress, August 2, 2017