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Sports · July 12, 2013

Warrenton Greenway finally ready for extension

Map/Piedmont Environmental Council
The breakthrough will allow a one-mile extension to the county-owned Stafford Property on Meetze Road. From there, a dirt trail leads to Lord Fairfax Community College.
File Photo/Fauquier Trails Coalition
Cyclists assemble at the Fifth Street trailhead for the Fauquier Trails Coalition’s annual “Great Pumpkin Ride” fundraiser in October.
File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Built along a former railroad spur line, the Warrenton Branch Greenway extends 1.5 miles from the heart of downtown across the Eastern Bypass.
The connection between the Education Farm, Lord Fairfax Community College, and downtown Warrenton is an exciting improvement to the existing trail network around Warrenton.
— Julie Bolthouse, Piedmont Environmental Council
The long-awaited extension of the Warrenton Branch Greenway has taken a giant leap forward.

After nearly 15 years of on-and-off negotiations, county officials have obtained a 60-foot wide right-of-way, about a half-mile long, across property owned by the Leonard family of Midland.

The acquisition will link the existing 1.5-mile-long greenway to the county-owned Stafford property, home to the Fauquier Educational Farm on Meetze Road, about a mile southeast of Warrenton.

Fauquier officials plan to extend the popular hiking and biking trail across the Leonard and Stafford tracts, adding close to a mile of paved pathway.

“This is a good day,” Parks and Recreation Director Larry Miller said Thursday. “We’ve been working on this for a long time.”

Center District Supervisor Chris Granger said Thursday that he and Cedar Run District Supervisor Lee Sherebyn decided about six months “to get serious” with negotiations for the Leonard property right-of-way.

Patty Leonard of Midland “got an appraisal that was in the ballpark, so we moved ahead,” said Mr. Granger. “It will be great. Making that trail longer will be a huge improvement.”

The Leonard right-of-way cost $58,000.

The Piedmont Environmental Council donated $30,000. Parks and Recreation will cover the other $28,000

A $428,000 Virginia Department of Transportation grant will cover the costs to design and build the one-mile trail extension on the old Orange & Alexandria Railroad. Mr. Miller expects the project will be completed in two years.

Although the paved trail will end on the Stafford property, hikers and bikers can continue for close to a mile on a dirt path to Lord Fairfax Community College campus.

“PEC appreciates the opportunity to work with groups like the Fauquier Trails Coalition and the Fauquier Education Farm to assist the county in completing this excellent project,” Julie Bolthouse, the organization’s Fauquier field officer, told the county supervisors Thursday night. “PEC has committed these funds to further our mission by promoting active outdoor recreation, bridging the connection between urban and rural environments, and creating a multimodal opportunity to connect residents to learning and volunteer opportunities at the Education Farm.

“The connection between the Education Farm, Lord Fairfax Community College, and downtown Warrenton is an exciting improvement to the existing trail network around Warrenton.”

A round-trip walk from the greenway trailhead on South Fifth Street to LFCC and back would cover about seven miles, said Mr. Miller.

The existing greenway, a joint town-county venture, has received National Recreation Trail designation from the National Park Service. Mr. Miller received an American Trails 2013 advocacy award for his efforts to create a network of recreational trails in the county.

The county has approximately 14 miles of trails, created with support from the Fauquier Trails Coalition, a private, non-profit advocacy group, and the Pedestrian-Bicycle Greenway Advisory Committee, which serves as an advisory group to the Parks and Recreation board.

Referring to the Warrenton trail and its extension, Mr. Miller said, “We've got pieces like that everywhere. There’s a real network of trails in every service district.”

The 2009 Fauquier-Warrenton Destinations Plan for cyclists and pedestrians calls for an elaborate network of trails, connecting all of the service districts, plus links to popular sites. A spur from the Warrenton Greenway, for example, would connect to a proposed 72-acre sports complex, with 11 athletic fields, on the northeast side of Meetze Road and to the Fauquier County Fairgrounds at 6209 Old Auburn Road. Future Greenway extensions would lead to Green Road and eventually wind to Crockett Park near Midland.

A countywide trail network would be “good for the environment, good for people's health and good for the community,” Mr. Miller said.
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TodNehman · July 12, 2013 at 1:53 pm
Al, you are right it is expensive...but I guess the property owner Patty Leonard got her $$$ after blocking this needed improvement for 1.5 DECADES!!! I mean sure its her property and she should be paid but I think she could have shown some community pride in the process....but whatever to each their own...now we just have to wait for the build out.....Since its Christmas could we get the path the Com College paved too? wink
janzivino · July 12, 2013 at 12:08 pm
Congratulations. Finally, what was envisioned some fifteen years ago will be realized. My hat is off to Larry Miller for his perseverance to stick with it.
Southcountyguy · July 12, 2013 at 11:29 am
This is fantastic news! I have been waiting for this for a long time! A great boost to cycling in the county.
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