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March 10, 2014 · OPINION

New vision needed for trail expansion in Warrenton

Town of Warrenton Comprehensive Plan Greenway and Trail Plan
By Mark Nesfeder

On March 10, 1998, the Warrenton Town Council took an important step toward providing their citizens with a unique and ambitious recreational opportunity. On that evening, the council unanimously approved $402,098 for funding the construction of the Warrenton Branch Greenway. This National Recreation Trail has become one of the most assessable and popular recreational facilities in Fauquier County, with the much anticipated one-mile greenway extension soon at hand.

Across town, another trail extension has also been long anticipated. Connecting two of Warrenton's most popular recreational facilities, Rady Park and the WARF, the extension of the trail adjacent Timber Fence Parkway across the Fauquier High School grounds to the WARF will serve walkers, cyclists, runners and fitness enthusiasts on par with the Warrenton Branch Greenway.

Unfortunately, some members of the present town council and other appointed officials do not share the same vision or financial generosity of their predecessors towards this long proposed project.

One reason being offered up is that the anticipated route would not be constructed on land owned by the town and is therefore a school/county project and should be funded as such. Proponents for the trail connection have already reminded the naysayers that although not on town owned property, the entire trail project would remain within the town limits, serve many town residents, including Fauquier High School students, and should therefore have partial town funding.

Additionally, the proposed trail connection between Rady Park and WARF has long been identified in the towns Comprehensive Plan as a priority trail connection with even a detailed map showing the proposed route, despite claims otherwise by town management.

The town council should be reminded that the maintenance of the Warrenton Branch Greenway, also contained completely with the town limits, is not funded by town personnel, equipment or resources but by Fauquier County Parks and Recreation and therefore county funding. Certainly the council has not lost any sleep with the knowledge that each and every resident of Fauquier County has paid his or her share of tax revenue towards greenway maintenance over the past 15 years for a recreational asset usually associated only with the town. Additionally, the future cost for milling and repaving the entire greenway next year will also be borne by each and every Fauquier County taxpayer.

With zero dollars appropriated in the town’s Capital Improvement Program for trail development and construction over the next five years, it certainly appears the present town council, mayor and manager don’t get it; so it’s our job to get new council members and town management in place that do. With town elections quickly approaching, everyone should be assured that the candidates they vote for will act swiftly to approve financial support for the expansion of the towns trail system as well as other recreational opportunities.
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Ford Prefect · March 10, 2014 at 8:39 pm
To put the current network in perspective, one only need to look at the current "connector" between Rady Park and the WARF. It is a joke, and not a funny one at that. After departing Rady Park, pedestrians are directed away from the Timber Fence trail (and very well-marked pedestrian crossing) and told to walk the narrow sidewalk alongside Bear Wallow Road towards Broadview Ave. At Gay Road, there is a fading crosswalk, where they are directed to use a hidden connector path behind the runoff pond to reach Gay Road. There, the sidewalk ends, and the next 1/3 of a mile is to be walked in the road until the trail behind the FHS football field is accessed.

While it would be a little longer, following the Timber Fence trail and then through the Old Gold Cup neighborhood would at least provide any pedestrian with continuous sidewalk access and the security of relative safety from oncoming traffic.

Such decisions reflect the lack of vision that this commentary addresses. Thank you for signaling out the need for a new vision. Civic projects like this have too much benefit to our community to be overlooked. If this vision cannot be realized with the current makeup of council, then perhaps it is time bring new vision to town council. Two candidates have announced their bid for at-large seats. If this issue is important to you, then please take the time to contact the candidates and ask them what they plan to do about it. If this is important to you, then please let the candidates know. And then hold them to it... (the election is May 6th...voter turnout does make a difference, especially and most importantly in local elections!!)
Ford Prefect · March 10, 2014 at 8:11 pm
Local trails are a vital component of any modern town planning, and Warrenton is lagging behind the trend. More and more, we are turning towards activities that would greatly benefit from a comprehensive and lively trail network. From runners and cyclists to families looking for walking access to local services to people walking their dogs, trails are in great demand. As it stands now, one only has to leave the trail by about a 1/4 mile before any given sidewalk ends, thus forcing increased dangerous traffic crossings or walking on the side of the road). Just look at can access practically all of the county's parks and major attractions via their extensive and connected trail network. Granted, that is an unfair comparison, but still, the point remains: trails are a vital component in today's localities; they are cost efficient; and they are cherished by the residents.

Furthermore, they can be an attraction to out-of-area tourists. We already see out of town visitors making use of the Warrenton Branch as a launching point to group cycling rides. Those who do, often spend time before or after frequenting the businesses in Old Town, which is obviously of great benefit to some local merchants (not to mention adding tax revenue). Extending the trail system would extend these benefits to more merchants throughout town. The potential for a well-publicized and well-maintained trail network to financially benefit the town by drawing more recreational visitors to our town is vast. And since many of these people are likely to include a trip to a Fauquier winery or another one of our fine towns, the reasons for making this trail network happen are too compelling to dismiss.

Finally--back to the rising numbers of people participating in recreational running--the need for a safe, traffic-free, continuous trail network is a county-wide need. County residents, for lack of alternative, often choose to run on narrow roads and risk the ire and deadly risk of oncoming cars (the story of Meg Menzies' death in Richmond this year is a stark reminder of this). A comprehensive trail network would not just be something for town residents' use: it would be something for the whole county to enjoy and to share. It would be yet one more thing to show off how great it is to live in Fauquier County.
Van · March 10, 2014 at 7:16 pm
All local trails are a boon to the county. I've seen too many sedentary lifestyles cut short too many lives. Gotta get out and do it! Makes you feel good too. Makes the pups feel even better!
SunnyReynolds · March 10, 2014 at 3:23 pm
Mark I was on the council when the Rails to Trails project began. I voted for the contract then and I fully support the project now!
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