Trail Blazing

Something not everyone may know about PEC is that we’ve been working to increase public access to parks, historic sites and a number of different trail networks. This type of work helps provide more options for people in the region to enjoy the beautiful outdoors and connect with the land. Trails in urban settings can also provide a more sustainable and healthy way of traveling in and around neighborhoods. These benefits are why we have raised funds for the extension of the Warrenton Branch Greenway in Fauquier County and partnered with James Madison’s Montpelier and Grelen Market to facilitate the creation of the Montpelier-Grelen trail, to name a few.

This map shows the unopened Biscuit Run State Park, the 5th Street Station shopping center, and the 2.5-acre property that was donated to PEC by John and Dudley Macfarlane in an effort to join the property with the Park and help connect a network of trails.

At the beginning of this year, it came to our attention that a 2.5-acre property adjacent to the unopened Biscuit Run State Park was available for sale. A seemingly small parcel, one might think, but — given the adjacency to the State Park — it was important to protect and secure this land for public use. The acquisition would also help ensure that other conflicting uses would be avoided on the property in the future. Sometimes, even a small plot of land can have a big impact.

“The property is landlocked, with the State Park just to the east, and it has a historic right of way along an old roadbed that could be used for access,” says Rex Linville, Albemarle County’s land conservation representative for PEC. “We reached out to the Department of Conservation and Recreation to see if they wanted to add the land to their park boundary, and they showed interest.”

“The property would make a wonderful addition to the Biscuit Run State Park,” says Clyde E. Cristman, director for the Department of Conservation and Recreation. “The land’s potential right of way could provide recreational access to the park along the Biscuit Run stream corridor, and it would facilitate an important element of our master plan for the park.”

With DCR excited about the potential addition, we strategized on how to acquire the land. John and Dudley Macfarlane expressed a desire to help with the project, and they purchased the property this past September from the prior owner and then donated the property to PEC.

“My wife Dudley and I were excited about the land acquisition because it achieved two important goals — preserving open space and connecting a network of trails for sustainable mobility,” says Macfarlane.

The historic old roadbed (on the left) runs along the 2.5-acre property near the unopened Biscuit Run State Park, which could act as a potential right of way to the Park. Photo by Rex Linville.

“Without the Marcfarlanes’ help and charitable contribution, it would have been very difficult for us to protect this property,” says Linville.

We plan to hold the 2.5 acres until the property can be incorporated into the State Park.

Another unique aspect of the property — it’s only one mile away from the 5th Street Station, a new commercial development with businesses such as Wegmans, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. If a trail corridor could be established, it would connect the park to the shopping center.

Due to the potential of trail connections in this area, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission secured a transportation grant to fund planning and construction associated with helping the 5th Street Station shopping center act as a bicycle-pedestrian hub. This could allow residents to do things like go for a bike ride through the park and swing by the grocery store on their way home.

PEC facilitated the transfer of a 27-acre property to the City of Charlottesville (shown in orange), earlier this year. The parcel acts as an important link to the Rivanna Trail corridor, along Moores Creek and to Azalea Park.

Looking at the even bigger picture, earlier this year we finished a multi-year effort to facilitate the transfer of a 27-acre property to the City of Charlottesville. The parcel runs along Moores Creek and is immediately across Old Lynchburg Road from Azalea Park. The land acts as an important link along the Rivanna Trail. It also opens a section of the trail corridor that was previously routed along city street, since there was no access permitted on the north side of the creek. At one point, the property was slated for a 280-apartment complex, but it was a challenging site because of steep slopes, a large floodplain and poor access.

“After years of working with the family that owned the property, we were eventually able to connect them with musician Dave Matthews and his band manager, Coran Capshaw, who were interested in acquiring the property and donating it to the city as parkland and as part of the future Moores Creek greenway corridor,” says Linville.

The two different properties are about 2 miles away from each other. However, Moores Creek and Biscuit Run — the water corridors that border the properties — intersect at the 5th Street Station shopping center.

There are a number of other possible acquisitions in the works, along Moores Creek in particular, that would tie into the overall effort. Biscuit Run State Park also has another desirable parcel by it that is landlocked, along the same right of way as the 2.5-acre property.

“We are encouraging the state to open Biscuit Run in some capacity soon, instead of waiting on the $42.5 million called for in the master plan. A softer launch would come with a much lower price-tag, and might include a parking area, some trails, signage and day-time access to the park” Linville explains with a hopeful voice.

This article was featured in our Winter 2016 Member Newsletter, The Piedmont View.