UPDATED: Biking greenlit at Ragged Mountain

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If approved, hikers and bikers will have access to 13 miles of trails at Ragged Mountain Natural Area. City of Charlottesville If approved, hikers and bikers will have access to 13 miles of trails at Ragged Mountain Natural Area. City of Charlottesville

After a year of debate, and a plea last week from the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to delay a decision, the Charlottesville City Council voted 3-2 December 19 to allow mountain biking and trail running at Ragged Mountain Natural Area.

“We are looking forward to working collaboratively with the city parks staff and all the friends of Ragged Mountain to be good stewards of this treasured public area for the benefit of all of our community,” said Jon Ciambotti via e-mail the day after the vote. Ciambotti was speaking on behalf of the Charlottesville Area Mountain Bike Club, which has already built a number of the trails at the natural area, though its members were prohibited from riding on them.

Councilor Kathy Galvin gave CAMBC a nod at the recent meeting, saying that erosion is caused by poorly built trails, not by the activities taking place on them.

Mayor Mike Signer and councilors Kristin Szakos and Galvin voted yes to allowing biking and running, while councilors Bob Fenwick and Wes Bellamy voted no. With the majority vote, they also passed a resolution to have city officials, within the next six months, determine whether biking and hiking should be allowed on the same trails and to study the best ways to maintain trail traffic. In addition, they passed an ordinance to ask the county to support their decisions.

“The county’s existing regulations applicable to [Ragged Mountain] do not allow biking with the express purpose of preventing pollution of the public water supply,” county spokesperson Jody Saunders said in a press release December 15. “The Board has asked for the deferment to allow for the possibility of more discussion and assessment regarding this issue.”

While Ragged Mountain is owned by the city, it’s located in Albemarle County, and Signer said at the meeting that each locality’s legal staff has disagreed on who gets to call the shots.

Members of the public using Ragged Mountain “will be confused as to what activities are allowed if the city’s and county’s regulations are in conflict with each another,” Saunders said in the county’s statement. “This, in turn, will create enforcement problems for the county if the city is, in effect, inviting bikers into RMNA despite the county’s regulations.”

Currently, Ragged Mountain’s rules are enforced by the city, says city spokesperson Miriam Dickler.

But Szakos says City Attorney Craig Brown indicated at the December 5 City Council meeting that the council had received all the necessary information to make a final decision, and should feel comfortable going forward with it.

“The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority has said that they have no concerns about the water quality,” Szakos says, debunking the county’s main reason for asking for a decision deferral. “I would hope [the county] would take that up with the authority.”

Albemarle’s request that the city defer its decision comes at a time when city/county relations are not at their most cordial. On December 14, county supervisors okayed a consultant to study, among other things, locations to move general and district courts from the city because of parking and cost concerns about remaining in Court Square.

 

Updated December 20 at 12:30pm. Original story below.

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While the majority of City Council has publicly supported giving mountain biking at Ragged Mountain Natural Area the green light, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors is asking them to consider stopping their decision in its tracks.

“The county’s existing regulations applicable to [Ragged Mountain] do not allow biking with the express purpose of preventing pollution of the public water supply,” county spokesperson Jody Saunders said in a press release. “The Board has asked for the deferment to allow for the possibility of more discussion and assessment regarding this issue.”

City Councilor Kristin Szakos says City Attorney Craig Brown indicated at their December 5 meeting that council has received all the necessary information to make a final decision, and should feel comfortable going forward with it.

“The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority has said that they have no concerns about the water quality,” Szakos says. “I would hope [the county] would take that up with the authority.”

But City Council’s potential noncompliance may not matter.

Citing Virginia Code, Saunders says the city, as the locality-landowner, is prohibited from adopting regulations that are in conflict with the county’s since Ragged Mountain is located there.

Members of the public using Ragged Mountain “will be confused as to what activities are allowed if the city’s and county’s regulations are in conflict with another,” she says. “This, in turn, will create enforcement problems for the county if the city is, in effect, inviting bikers into RMNA despite the county’s regulations.”

Says Szakos, “That’s a difference of opinion.”
The request comes at time when city/county relations are not at their most cordial. County supervisors yesterday okayed a consultant to study, among other things, locations to move courts from the city because of parking and cost concerns about remaining in Court Square.

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