What kind of trail network do you want in Western Loudoun?
This fall you are going to be able to tell Loudoun County exactly what features you would like.
For years Loudoun County residents have been talking about a network of trails and linear parks throughout the entire county. As early as September 1994 the County Board of Supervisors formally adopted County Greenways and Trails Policies.
Of course, in Loudoun we already have many wonderful trails including the 45-mile W&OD from Purcellville to Arlington County; eleven miles of trails at Claude Moore Park; The Appalachian Trail through FBRM’s region from Harper’s Ferry to Shenandoah National Park at Front Royal. Currently the Parks, Recreation and Community Services (PRCS) Department is developing a recreational trail along Goose Creek linking Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail (PHNST) and other Loudoun County Parks
Despite these amenities, Loudoun has relatively little county-owned parkland and only 87 miles of hiking trails. That falls short of the county’s own suggested standard of 0.65 miles per 1,000 residents, or about 260 miles for about 400,000 residents.
In 2018, the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition (LCPCC) – of which Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains is a member — adapted The Emerald Ribbons concept for a countywide interconnected system of linear parks and trails, built along streams and other natural corridors and going through all districts of the County. The concept – including a detailed map prepared by the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) — was presented to numerous community and conservation organizations and to the County Board of Supervisors. The concept has been widely embraced and is included in the newly adopted Loudoun Comprehensive plan.
The County has now taken the first steps to move beyond concept to implementation. It is in the process of awarding a $350,000 contract to a consulting firm to develop detailed feasibility plans.
The consultant’s report must address a number of issues including: describing in detail the key features of the trail network; the program and techniques for building it; how the project can be managed and how the trails will be managed; the timetable and financing plan.
As currently envisioned, the project will not take any land by eminent domain, instead relying on voluntary donations from private owners and corporations. Many of the potential trail areas are on land where it is not generally legal to develop such as along streams and in floodplains.
In a separate but related effort, the Loudoun County Rural Economic Development Council (REDC) is considering ways to encourage home builders to include trail development as part of their cluster design.
For Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains one of the most immediate components of the consultant’s work program will be to conduct a number of public input sessions in which individuals and community groups will be invited to describe exactly what they would like to see in a trail network.
Would you like to be able to ride your bike directly from Lucketts to the W&OD? What about riding your horse to all of Loudoun’s historic villages? Should walking, biking and equestrian trails be separated? Do you as a landowner have concerns about trails adjacent to your property? How can/should those concerns be dealt with? Would you like to see trail designs suitable for backpacking and connecting directly with the Appalachian Trail? What about a walking or biking tour of Loudoun’s wonderful vineyards? Is that appealing? How can a trail network benefit your business?
Over the coming months you are going to be invited to share your thoughts on these and any other trail related issues that are on your mind with the consultants and with the County staff.
The exact format and timing of those community input sessions has not yet been determined and of course will depend in part on health conditions over the next twelve months.
However, please know this is an issue that Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountainsis going to follow closely and we will make sure you have all the relevant information to participate in the trail planning process.
Thank you to Dr. Kelly Foltman (DVM) who provided considerable background for this article. Dr. Foltman is the Vice Chair of the Parks and Recreation Open Space Committee and directly involved in reviewing the consultant proposals. Dr. Foltman is also vice-chair of the Loudoun County Rural Economic Development Council (REDC).