Rivanna Trails Foundation seeks a new path

The Rivanna Trails Foundation wants to build a 25-mile-long paved bicycle and pedestrian path, similar to Arkansas’ Razorback Regional Greenway. PC: Arkansas Tourism The Rivanna Trails Foundation wants to build a 25-mile-long paved bicycle and pedestrian path, similar to Arkansas’ Razorback Regional Greenway. PC: Arkansas Tourism

Snowy roads didn’t stop about a dozen people from making their way to the Carver Recreation Center last Tuesday for a brainstorming session on something that’s been in the works for nearly 10 years: the Three Notched Trail. 

The Rivanna Trails Foundation is spearheading the effort to build a 25-mile-long paved pedestrian and bicycle path from Charlottesville to the Blue Ridge Tunnel (a few miles from Waynesboro), roughly following the path of Three Notch’d Road—a major colonial-era route across central Virginia.

Today, Route 250 follows the Three Notch’d route, but the trail will most likely not be right beside the busy highway. Instead, it may lie a couple miles to the north or south of the original road, potentially starting in western Albemarle County, north of Interstate 64 but south of Garth Road.

Apart from these plans, RTF, which is working with the city and county Parks & Rec departments and the Piedmont Environmental Council, has yet to decide on a specific route location, cost estimate, or completion year, due to numerous obstacles, including a struggle to secure funding and public support.

“[Another] roadblock has been getting dedicated volunteers who are willing to help scout possible locations and find landowners who are willing to share their property [with the trail],” says Allie Hill, a Rivanna Trails Foundation board member. “We would never put the greenway on someone’s property who doesn’t want it.”

RTF, which was founded as a nonprofit in 1992, turned its attention to this project after completing much of the popular Rivanna Trail loop around Charlottesville, and sees the new trail as part of its mission to create greenways throughout the Rivanna watershed. 

In 2015, RTF was able to get the Three Notched Trail included in Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan, as part of the county’s commitment to developing a complete greenway trail system. A feasibility study, the next step in the process, would cost roughly $35,000 just for the first phase of the project, from Charlottesville to Crozet, according to a private firm RTF consulted two years ago. RTF currently has only $3,600 in grants from various private foundations.   

This fall, the group will again apply for feasibility study funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation. If the funding is approved, VDOT would hire its own consultants to do the study. “And if the [study] looks positive, [VDOT] might fund the whole project,” Hill says. 

She notes that VDOT did the feasibility study for and built the highly successful Capital Trail, a 52-mile paved pedestrian and cycling path from Richmond to Jamestown, following Route 5, which RTF hopes to use as a model. VDOT spent approximately $1.5 million per mile to build the trail, but it is being maintained by the counties the trail passes through. 

By the end of this year, RTF hopes to have a feasibility study set in motion, whether it is by VDOT or a private company. In the meantime, Hill plans to host monthly meetings to establish a formal planning group, which will, among other tasks, work on increasing public support for the project and finding landowners willing to share their property with the trail.

Those interested in joining the trail effort can email Hill at info@threenotchedtrail.org.

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