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October 5, 2016 · OPINION

Warrenton trail priorities again raise questions

The 3/4-mile extension (in red) would connect neighborhoods to the north with the Warrenton Aquatics and Recreation Facility (WARF).
By Mark Nesfeder

For a few months in 2015, it seemed as though the extension of the Timber Fence Trail from its current dead end to the WARF had gained unprecedented momentum.

With school board approval to cross the grounds of Fauquier High School, a celebratory “staking of the trail” and even a town organized “walking of the right-of-way,” things looked pretty good to trail users who have been making U turns at the dead end for the past 13 years. Couple all that with a Fauquier County resolution pledging 10 percent of the construction cost and support for the Town of Warrenton’s 80/20 VDOT grant request, and everyone was feeling very optimistic . . . until a new town council and a revised Warrenton Capital Improvement Program kicked the trail plan can down the road for who knows how long.

With knowledge that a trail design is imperative to gaining the VDOT Transportation Alternatives Project grant, the town has pushed the relatively small cost into future years of the CIP.

The town council’s message — as only Washington Nationals broadcaster Bob Carpenter can say: “SEE YOU LATER.”

A Feb. 1, 2015, email from Councilman Sean Polster (At-large) clearly states his supportive vision for the trail project: “We are going to bring the grant before the (Recreation) committee and aim for approval and then council approval the following week. The plan right now, upon committee and council approval, is for the town to move forward and fund the approximate $10,000 for the design to make this a shovel ready project. This will set us up for moving into the construction phase when monies are appropriated.”

Unfortunately, a design-complete, shovel-ready project was not submitted by the town with the 2016 grant request and the outcome was as expected. The Virginia Department of Transportation 2016 Transportation Alternatives Project requests totaled 98; so there is some pretty formidable competition and the Warrenton’s delay on the design phase will prove costly. Without a design, the 2017 grant application window will soon be gone. As for 2018? Or 2019? Your guess is as bad as mine.

At the Feb. 16, 2016, town planning commission meeting, Commissioner John Kip stated that the “planning commission was familiar with the Timber Fence Trail and that he understands the funding is high, but knows this is a project the community has been wanting that would benefit many citizens, so it needs to be considered.” Note that Mr. Kip’s supportive comments followed the town’s request to budget $50,000 in year one and $35,000 in year two for a Micro Golf Course at the WARF.

I’m pretty sure our newest council members didn’t exactly have parks and recreation projects as one of their campaign priorities, but I am pretty sure they would be surprised how long this trail extension effort has gone on and that their recent CIP vote only created another delay. Unfortunately, our Ward 4 representatives have a long history of not supporting the trail extension as a stand-alone project. So, without their support and encouragement, it’s easy to see how the latest CIP passed without an affordable and critical design element for the trail extension included.

While the town Recreation Committee chairman continues to make efforts to secure the necessary funding to complete the design, I would implore the town council to revisit its previous decision and help secure the necessary funds.
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BikerFriendlyGal · November 8, 2016 at 8:32 am
Supervisor Granger has been engaged throughout the trail extension process...and we are thankful for that. In fact, the county already has the funding for their share of not only engineering/design of the trail but the construction as well...Thank you Chris. Unfortunately the Town has yet to act on their share of the cost.

But that may soon change as the Town Rec Committee has requested the Finance Committee reappropriate funding for the engineering/design of the trail at their November 21st meeting. I hope everyone that supports trail projects can stop by that evening to show support for this initiative.
TooTrue · November 3, 2016 at 9:44 am
Perhaps Chris Granger could help out if he is still engaged with Gold Cup
TooTrue · October 10, 2016 at 10:33 am
The Town Management could have addressed this had it chosen to do so.
TodNehman · October 6, 2016 at 10:04 pm
Im not surprised given they have been unable to extend the "model" Warrenton Greenway even after years of promises to do so....Ever get the feeling that the quality of life of us residents has ZERO priority? BUT IF YOU WANT SHOEHORN 98 townhouses on a 1 acre lot that we can get passed without a problem...I think our government is not serving the citizens very well on many of these types of issues.
BikerFriendlyGal · October 6, 2016 at 6:51 pm
Skewed? Not really. Political. Of Course. That's how things get done around here...and everywhere for that matter.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with Mr. Polster supporting the Micro Golf nor the cost of it. What Planning Commissioner Kip was simply stating was that "it (the trail) needs to be considered instead of the Micro Golf." As in put that cost towards a trail project that has been in the queue for a long time and something the citizens want,unlike the Micro Golf that the Commission doubted would be a viable investment.

Towns do request almost every town, 98 of them, that applied for the VDOT Alternatives Grant did.

Yes, I did forget the Town Manager, who "recommended some changes" to the CIP according to the June 2016 Town Council minutes. These items were moved from 2017 to future years, like 2018, 2019. And the TC voted 6-0 to approve, so it's a done deal.

Sorry to disappoint you, but I didn't mention the failure of Town staff to apply for grant money "for years" because I believe they did the best they could given the timeline of events, at least in year one. The Town only received approval from the School District to cross the High School property late in 2014. You can't very well submit a design without even having secured the right of way. Could a design have been submitted with the 2016 grant request? Maybe, but the fact that none has been completed in time for 2017 grant cycle, due this November, is inexcusable.

There are many "details" that have followed this project for the past 10 years, so yes, many are left out. But for those that have been supporters of this trail connection over all those years they have heard it all before. Welcome to the conversation.

Jim Koehr · October 6, 2016 at 6:42 pm
I think it would be very nice if people who chose to write disrespectful or critical posts had the courage to stand behind their comments with their real name.

- Jim Koehr, Warrenton, VA
robbinnhoodd · October 6, 2016 at 2:14 pm
Councilman Polster supported this yet isn't he the one that suggested the mini-golf and all that money being spent there? Mr. Nesfeder says the Town requested the money. Towns don't request money, people do. No mention of the Town Manager who submits the budget. He doesn't mention the failure of town staff for years to apply for grant money. Seems like there is plenty of detail left out of this letter to make it a skewed, political comment.
TooTrue · October 6, 2016 at 9:54 am
How inept things seem to be.
nonewtaxes · October 6, 2016 at 7:58 am
Lets form a committee to authorize a study and then hire an expert to give us an analysis of the study and then send it back to committee.
Freedom warrior · October 5, 2016 at 8:43 pm
Perhaps the staff and council need a hired consultant to tell them what to do.
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