The idea for a Three Notched Trail (TNT) connecting Charlottesville with Crozet, and eventually to the Blue Ridge Tunnel and beyond, has been explored for a number of years, but has recently taken on new life. Rip Verkerke, president of the nonprofit Rivanna Trails Foundation (RTF), is spearheading the effort, and RTF board member Allie Hill has volunteered to manage the project. The RTF has successfully created a lovely and well-used greenway encircling Charlottesville, and now hopes to extend that benefit into western Albemarle County.
The TNT is still in its early planning stages. “Our goal is to create a scenic and safe walking and biking route from the Rivanna River near Monticello to the Blue Ridge Mountains, following the path of the historic Three Notched Road,” states the RTF website (www.rivannatrails.org). The original Three Notch’d Road (sometimes called Three Chopt Road) “ran from Richmond to the Valley as a main east-west route from the 1730s to the 1930s, when it was superseded by U.S. Route 250” (Virginia Highway Transportation Research Council report, 2003). “Probably originally an Indian and game trail, it derived its name… from a system of marks” consisting of three notches cut into trees to blaze the trail—which crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains at Jarmans Gap.
On November 13, Hill and Verkerke met at the County Office Building with Joel Danunzio and John Bolecek of the Virginia Dept. of Transportation (VDOT), as well as Chris Gensic of Charlottesville Parks and Recreation, Dan Mahon of Albemarle County Parks and Recreation, and Kevin McDermott of Albemarle County Transportation, to identify next steps. Others in attendance included Jessica Mauzy of Land Planning and Design Associates (LPDA), Peter Krebs of the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), Terri Miyamoto of the Crozet Trails Crew, and citizen trails advocate Jim Mandell. This meeting focused on identifying the trail’s possible location and the need for a feasibility study to determine easements and identify challenges in the terrain. “We are seeking $45,500 to hire a local, professional firm to develop a feasibility study and master plan for the trail,” explained Hill. LPDA has proposed such a study, and Jessica Mauzy attended the meeting as their representative. The feasibility study, once begun, will require 6 to 9 months to complete, including stakeholder meetings with affected landowners.
“The study area we presented to the Board of Supervisors was very wide; the trail may move well off 250,” Mahon explained. “We are looking at a corridor from I-64 to Garth Road.” A western greenway is already included in the Virginia Outdoors Plan as well as the Albemarle County Master Plan. The trail’s purpose would be for both commuting and recreation, and will be either paved or surfaced with crushed stone. The consensus was to develop the TNT in segments, focusing on areas where easements already exist—for example behind the Christian Aid Mission off Broomley Road—and then work on connecting them. There was lengthy discussion of the bottleneck that will occur as pedestrians need to cross the 29/250 bypass at Ivy Rd. VDOT is already planning a sidewalk and bike lane project from the bypass to St. Anne’s Belfield, but connecting it with the existing Rivanna Trail will be a challenge. Another issue is who will own and maintain the trail? Since it will be open to the public, it will need to be a collaboration between the county, the city, the university, and RTF.
The VDOT representatives were asked how they might be able to assist in this effort, and what opportunities might exist for state funding. One possible model for the project is the Virginia Capital Trail, a paved bicycle and pedestrian trail between Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Richmond that resulted from a partnership between VDOT and the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation. Similar trail networks have also been developed in Roanoke, Raleigh, and Massachusetts. Bolecek recommended that we create a “100 percent shared use path the whole way, without changing the facility type,” as opposed to shifting from road shoulder to sidewalk to off-road trail. Since their patrons and employees would benefit, the University of Virginia’s involvement will be pursued. For example, a multi-use pathway from Birdwood to campus might reduce vehicular traffic for University events.
The Rivanna Trails Foundation (RTF) is also partnering with the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) to develop a network of greenways connecting Charlottesville with Albemarle County. The partnership received a grant earlier this year from the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation for a three-year project to plan and begin implementation of this trail network. The project launched in July 2017 with a screening of “Getting to Yes on Greenway Trails in Your Community,” followed by a well-attended public kickoff event at the Jefferson School on November 8 featuring speakers Chuck Flink of Greenways Inc. and Max Hepp-Buchannan of Bike Walk RVA and a second event on November 16 with the Charlottesville-Albemarle Community Foundation (www.pecva.org/our-region/albemarle-charlottesville/walk-bike/1336-packed-room-for-greenways-project-kickoff-event).
The next Three Notched Trail meeting will focus on planning a fundraising campaign and applying for grants. For more information, contact Allie Hill at [email protected]. You can also sign the petition calling for a more connected community, donate to the RTF (while mentioning TNT), or join the Crozet Trails Crew, which is involved with the planning.