More Hard Surfaced Trails for C-ville (hopefully)

The city has about 5 miles of soft-surface trails — made from dirt or stone dust — and 3.5 miles of hard-surface trails, excluding the Rivanna trail network.

The city’s goal is to build 10 more trail miles by 2015. Increasing the network is partly a result of recommendations from the city’s Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan, adopted by City Council in 2003.

“We’re not just grabbing at thin air in terms of trying to plan,” Svetz said.

Four of the 10 upcoming trails are planned to go near Moore’s Creek and others are planned on Emmet Street, the future Meadowcreek Parkway and near Pen Park, but the city does not own much of the land away from city streets.

Svetz said the city is looking into either purchasing the land or obtaining easements, but the situation has created some unwanted obstacles for trail development. Land purchases will ultimately be decided by City Council.

“If we were able to do it from scratch, that’s one thing,” Svetz said. “We’re dealing with a lot of private properties.”

Construction of all proposed trails is planned to begin by 2011, with many set for this year and 2009. But available funding could also become an obstacle.

Though the city is good to go for the next five years, the project will need to remain in the city’s Capital Improvement Program for two more years in order to complete the trail network by its 2015 target date. And Svetz said trail building is expensive due to material, labor and possible land costs — even the trail at Schenck’s Greenway, a quarter-mile path that runs along Schenck’s Branch Creek between Preston Avenue and the C’ville Coffee shopping center at Harris Street, cost $25,000 to build.

Some in the community think the area is begging for more trails, and having them may ultimately change residents’ transportation habits.

John Holden, vice president of the Rivanna Trails Foundation, said the 20-mile Rivanna network should be better connected with city trails.

“There’s an attempt to connect them all,” he said. “Everywhere needs more trails.”

Zachary Shahan, executive director of the Charlottesville-based Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation, thinks the city’s trail network is limited and is in need of more development. According to the 2000 census, nearly 2 percent of Charlottesville residents biked to work — about five times the national average — and 16 percent of employed people older than 18 walked to work.

“It’s decent compared to other places in the United States, but we would like to make it a much more common mode of transportation here,” Shahan said. But he added, “It’s hard to change habits. You sort of have to go beyond what’s needed.”

via Rachana Dixit, Daily Progress

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