In Rappahannock, where residents fiercely defend the county’s rural and scenic nature, who could possibly object to a trail connecting the county’s villages, schools and recreation area? But several attending the Oct. 19 planning commission meeting did object, also fiercely, following a presentation for just such a path.
Before the public comment period, Jane Whitfield and Cliff Miller IV shared with the commission their proposal for a walking, jogging and biking trail — a project to be funded by private donors and foundations, and state or federal grants, but no local tax dollars.
“We envision this as a multi-use trail for all residents and visitors to enjoy the outdoors, walking, biking, jogging and being active in a safe environment that’s a separate path from the road,” said Whitfield.
The heart of the Rappahannock Path, and the first section proposed, explained Miller, would be a paved five-mile stretch between Washington and Sperryville. The 8- to 10-foot wide path would start at the Rappahannock County Park across U.S. 211 from the town of Washington and run west along the four-lane highway, connecting with the elementary and high schools, and terminating at the Sperryville Schoolhouse.
William T. Wayland of Sperryville was the first to comment on the proposal. “I’m against it 100 percent,” he said. “If you come in 20 feet [the proposed space between the trail and the roadway] you’re going to damage my farm. I’m a farmer, I’ve been here for 74 years and I’ll fight it. ”
James Shaw, who lives on the north side of 211 near the high school, echoed Wayland’s sentiments. “If you come in 20 feet from the highway, you’re going to come in my driveway… I’m totally against it,” he said.
Another resident on Lee Highway near the high school said he is “completely against it,” complaining that the trail would divide his property in half. He also spoke of people using 211 and throwing trash on his property “I’ve had people throw trash in my yard. People let their dogs go to the bathroom in my yard. [This trail] would invite people into my yard. This is going to be a nightmare and I’m going to fight it tooth and nail.”
Jan Makela, a member of the trail planning group along with Whitfield and Miller, tried to temper the negative mood. “I think essentially the idea for this is a wonderful thing for this county,” she said. “Maybe the location isn’t ideal. Maybe that needs to be looked at and adjusted in some way so that it doesn’t intrude on people’s property” close to the highway.
She shared her experience of living in a home adjacent to a bike path in Virginia Beach… and it was wonderful for that community and that part of the city. It was a community builder.”
The agenda and copies of documents for this and other county meetings are available at boarddocs.com/va/corva/Board.nsf/Public. A video recording of the meeting can be found at youtube.com/watch?v=d3MeBQTyfM0, courtesy of Kaitlin Struckmann’s Rappahannock Record YouTube channel.