The new proposal of a scenic trail that runs approximately 26 miles, has caught the attention of local citizens, with many concerned about its impacts.
Recently, meetings have started being held in neighboring Botetourt County and Oriskany. They are inviting any interested person in the community to the meetings to discuss the project.
Lewis Hopkins is the contact person for the meetings. His email address is [email protected].
He sent the following email about the topic:
“Dear neighbor – VDOT, Botetourt, and Craig counties are planning to convert the old Craig Valley railroad bed into a 26-mile-long Rails to Trails project. They are planning to spend millions of tax dollars without taxpayer input to build this project,” he shared. “The project will include multiple parking areas with gates and restrooms as well as regrading and gravelling the 26-mile-long rail bed from New Castle to Eagle Rock.”
He added that currently, he believes that approximately one-third of the rail bed is being used as a state road for people to access their homes and properties and believes that the trail project will create many safety issues for the public.
“If you are opposed to this government intrusion, or not interested in seeing hundreds of tourists hiking, biking, or horseback riding beside your property, we need your help,” Hopkins said. “We have formed an opposition group called Derail the Trail that currently meets at the King’s Memorial Church in Oriskany.”
He added that they meet on most Sundays at 3 p.m.
“We would like to invite you to help us oppose this unneeded, intrusive, and wasteful use of taxpayer money. Please join us or contact me for more information,” he said.
Though it has been stated that the Rails to Trails project final design will not be expected before the fall of 2025, landowners are already experiencing people unannounced on their properties, surveying and looking at the proposed trail, leaving their signs of being there behind.
One landowner has even experienced someone there, looking like they were surveying, saying they were not connected, yet to later find out that it didn’t appear that they told the landowner the truth.
It has also been stated from the county administrator that costs of planning, engineering and construction will “represent a substantial investment in the community.”
The Rails to Trails speakers have shared, “Work is ongoing to develop cost estimates for future maintenance and where those funds will come from. Likewise, work is being done to look at potential economic impact for the communities involved. There are many such trails around the state and across the nation, with hundreds of studies covering many aspects. Data and analysis from these studies, along with local input, can be used to predict outcomes here should the trail be built. Of course, there will be environmental documentation required. All this effort takes time.”
Though a wonderful idea for some, many landowners are concerned about their loss of privacy, increased noise and vehicle traffic, increased trash and greater chances of fires from those who are not conscientious of throwing a cigarette butt out or making a safe roadside campfire.
Though the counties are attracted to the $12.5 million dollar investment in the communities, some landowners do not appear to take this lightly or with open arms.
“We came to this part of the country because we love the quiet, the outdoor calmness and the privacy,” one landowner shared. “Having strangers at our back door is not what we signed up for, nor will we approve. We have children that can freely play in our back yard for acres right now. I do not feel this change will allow us to let them roam freely any longer, losing the reason we love Craig County and where we live.”
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