The group organized called, DeRail the Trail, has accumulated many facts and information to share with people about how the proposed new Scenic Trail in Craig and Botetourt counties will truly affect the land, people, and taxes.
They stated in their brochure, “When someone hears “trail” they don’t envision being in the very same place that vehicles are driving on. In this proposal, bicycles, hikers, equestrians, cars, trucks, and farm equipment will all share the same road! It has never been abandoned in its everyday use. Over 16 miles are used for some form of vehicular traffic, 11 miles are actually declared state roads. It has been used this way for over 60 years and calling it abandoned is very misleading.”
Their questions of the growing cost of $35 million, the concerns about how it will be funded and probably by landowners taxes and also who will continue with the maintenance as the other five trails have not been kept up to date.
They included their concerns:
- no official study has been one on how many will use it
- will raise taxes for all
- limits prime hunting areas
- unsafe for visitors and residents
- drain on emergency services and response times
- wasteful spending, it is a want not a need – surplus of trails now
- reducing quality of life for residents
- minimal benefit for towns it’s supposed to help
- opportunities for crime stop lights will likely be required to handle traffic increase
- increased threat to environment
DeRail the Trail representative, Lewis Hopkins from Oriskany opposes the Scenic Trail. His driveway goes down to the rail bed and he has to drive on the rail bed to get to the paved road.
“What bothers me mainly is that the taxpayers are not getting a chance to vote to decide how their monies will be spent,” he said. “That almost bothers me more than putting the trail in.”
Hopkins shared that he was recently at a meeting in Clifton Forge and Terry Austin shared that he represented 85,000 people.
Hopkins spoke personally to Delegate Terry Austin who personally said to him, “No, the public does not have a right to vote on this. It is state property.”
He added, “I was thinking that if you represent 85,000 voters, then why don’t you send them all emails and ask them how they want their money spent?”
Hopkins also spoke to the Board of Supervisors in Botetourt County.
“I said that we the people should have a right to vote and if the people voted yes, I wouldn’t like it but it is our democratic way and the way our country is supposed to operate,” he said. “We are losing our democracy”.
“When I spoke to the BOS there were probably 80 people in the audience and I asked them, “If you would like for your tax dollars to be spent on this trail, please raise your hand.” Not one person raised their hand.”
Hopkins shared that the railroad was deserted by them 60 years ago.
“I think it should have gone back to the landowners. If the government needed this rail bed for a small emergency, they can take it any time they want it, but to spend this kind of money, 35 million,” he said. “And, when we ask who is going to maintain it and pay for it, no one can answer that.”
Hopkins said that he was in Fincastle the other day and they had three broken down fire trucks out of five, with no money to fix them.
“So, I am thinking, who is going to come to Botetourt for emergency services?” he added.
“I even asked them how many people they feel will use the trail and they told me they didn’t know,” Hopkins continued.” We have been compared to the Virginia Creeper Trail in Abington, which has over 200,000 visitors a year, but there are a whole lot of people that live in that area. Another trail in Covington called the Jackson River Scenic Trail that get about 28,000 a year which turns out 60-70 people per day.”
Hopkins said, “This is proposed as economic development, yet they are exploiting our community for the benefit of others under the guise of economic development and when they are already free to bike, hike and ride horses now.”
Their group has public meetings at King Memorial Church, 12704-12998 Craigs Creek Rd, Eagle Rock, VA 24085. Their dates and times are on the Facebook page.