The Craig County Board of Supervisors received an update during its Feb. 1 meeting from Woody Lipps about the proposed Craig County Railbed Trail.
The project would be a rails-to-trails coversion allowing recreational access to a graded roadbed that carried a C&O Railway branch line paralleling Craig Creek until the branch was abandoned in the early 1960s and donated to the Commonweath of Virginia.
If completed, the trail would extend between Craig County High School and Eagle Rock in Botetourt County.
The Commonwealth Transportation Board in September 2022 authorized up to $1 million to support preconstruction planning activities for the trail.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) said it “continues to collect data and conduct site visits and field reviews. The cost estimate is still being refined and a specific schedule for construction has yet to be determined. “
“Although high-level studies for the rail corridor have been conducted in the past, engineering plans for trail are still in the early stages of development. Preliminary design is ongoing and many details about the trail have yet to be determined. Both Botetourt and Craig counties have formed citizen committees to assist with the planning phase. The committees have been meeting regularly since December 2022.”
VDOT says the benefit of this project is to develop a multi-use trail for walking, running, biking, and horseback riding that utilizes a former railbed and some low-volume secondary roads.
Lipps told the county supervisors that the planning timeline is
now until spring to survey and document of environmental and cultural resources. In spring or early summer 2024, a public review and public hearing on draft environmental documentation will be held.
In the summer of 2020 the focus will be on specific design work with final design around fall 2025.
The proposed trail has generated controversy and opposition from some citizens, including property owners close to the rail corridor who have long since used the abandoned right-of-way for their own residential or agricultural purposes, or for access.
“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,” a local group called DeRail the Trail has stated.
The group believes the railbed should be in the hands of landowners instead of for public use.
Lipps presented some statistics during his remarks to the county board about data gathered during the information assembly and analysis part of the planning process.
About 1.2 miles of this is currently state secondary road – Allegheny Circle, Old Railroad Ave., Mill Circle Lane
64 private landowners to join the section of railroad bed in Craig County
Four government agencies on land adjacent – the county school system, the Public Service Authority, the Economic Development Authority and the U.S. Forest Service
Twenty-two of the total 68 land owners adjoined it where it is now a state secondary road
Twelve residents either cross or use part of the drill bit for primary access
Six farm roads cross or use sections of the railbed
Fourteen homes are within 100 feet of the edge of the state corridor. Four additional homes are immediately adjacent to the edge of the corridor.
The state owned corridor is a minimum of 100 feet wide in Craig County and up to 200 feet in one section
There are two railroad bridges in Craig County Barber’s Creek in Mill Creek
Along our existing one-mile trail there are 5 adjacent landowners, two homes immediately adjacent and three farm road crossings.
The county supervisors thanked Lipps for his presentation but made no additional comments about the trail proposal.