An application for state grant monies for the initial stretch of a multi-use trail fell just short of being funded in the latest round of considerations by the state Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB), an arm of the Virginia Department of Transportation.
But Jane Whitfield, organizer of the trails project, remains optimistic.
In both an email and phone call Wednesday, she explained that the granting process has many steps, and that the lack of funding by the CTB does not signify failure. In fact, she said, many projects fail to qualify their first time out. If completed, the trail would connect the towns of Washington and Sperryville.
The initial segment would connect the county’s elementary and high schools.
According to a fact sheet issued February 12 about the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), under which Whitfield and Rappahannock Trails applied for state funding in the category of “Safe Routes to Schools,” 134 applications were received from around the state.
All applications are scored independently along several criteria by VDOT staff. The highest possible score is 300. Each of the state’s nine transportation districts is allocated state funds to award to projects, from the highest scorer down, until such time the funds are depleted.
Of the eight projects in the Culpeper district — which includes Rappahannock County — the CTB funded six with scores from 247.5 to 185.5. Rappahannock Trails’ score was 177.8.
Whitfield stressed that the CTB selections are tentative, as only the district representatives have weighed in. Between now and the final decision in June, at-large members, who also have funds available, will be able to make allocations.
The Rapp Trails project has met with much opposition from the community, especially around the issue of whether the county will be required to pay for any portion of the multi-year effort. In October, at a marathon Board of Supervisors meeting attended by over 100 people, the board approved a resolution supporting the intent of the project.
Many people at the meeting and around the county objected to language in the resolution that appears to hold the county responsible for 20 percent of the costs of building the trail.
Whitfield has insisted all along that no county funds will be used.
“Most government grants require that the grantee provide some kind of matching funds, and this grant is no exception,” Whitfield said in her email. “The grant requires a 20 percent match, which in this case is about $205,000. The match can be provided by a partner organization, such as RappTrails. There is no requirement that the funds come from county revenue. RappTrails committed to raising this match with private funds to ensure that no county tax dollars would be required for the project.”
To date the organization has raised $207,000 from local community members and foundations and has commitments to raise an additional $50,000 for future costs and maintenance.
“These funds cover the entire 20 percent match required by the grant,” Whitfield said. “The ongoing community support has been heartening and I look forward to continuing our work to connect the schools with a safe biking and walking path. We are hopeful that the project will be selected for funding during the next round of deliberations, which happens in April.”