The Crozet Community Advisory Committee meeting on September 19 began with a reminder from county Board of Supervisors (BOS) chair Ann Mallek about the role of advisory bodies like the CCAC. “Back in 2005, there was a lot of angst about how the master plan turned out, and so community advisory committees were formed to help implement the plan,” she said, “and the Board appreciates them.”
Mallek passed out copies of the CAC charter, noting that “we are reminding everyone that the basis of [this and other advisory committees] is that we have to work with the adopted master plan,” and that CCAC meetings are not the place to try to change or subvert the plan. CCAC Vice Chair Shawn Bird added that “if someone has an issue with some aspect of the plan, there’s a different outlet to make those suggestions,” which is during the five-year review period, expected to get underway in 2019.
Crozet Trails Crew
Crozet Trails Crew chief Terri Miyamoto then took the microphone to give an update on the latest activities of the volunteer organization, whose mission is to plan, build, and promote multi-use trails in the Crozet community. The CTC is not an exclusive club, explained Miyamoto. “If you are walking or biking on the trails, using and enjoying them, then, hey, you’re part of the trails crew!”
The past twelve months have been busy as volunteers logged more than 2,500 hours of building and maintaining (and sometimes rebuilding) local trails and pedestrian bridges. New trails include an extended creekside trail to Jarmans Gap Road, and a trail detour at Eastern Avenue (in Westhall) because of construction.
Trail improvements ranged from an upgraded Mauzy Bridge at one end of the dog park, a set of wooden steps on a steep spot near Lickinghole Basin, and a Western Ridge bridge replacement, to installing anti-slip treatments on bridges and wayfinding signs for trail users. There’s always ongoing maintenance needed, especially with this year’s heavy rains, in the form of mowing, pruning, and storm clean-up.
“Trail building is also community building,” said Dan Mahon of Albemarle County Parks and Recreation. “We’ve been working with groups all over the county who’d love to replicate what this group is doing.” The CTC puts on a 5K trail race (coming up this year on Saturday, October 6) both as a major fundraiser and as a way to introduce people to the trail system, and it hosts guided trail walks. The group also volunteers at community events such as the Crozet Independence Day celebration and the Crozet Arts and Crafts Festival.
Looking ahead, “we want to make more connections,” said Miyamoto. “We’d like to fill in missing links in the trails and grow the map, and our ultimate goal is to connect Mint Springs all the way to the Lickinghole Basin.” The CTC would love to forge trail links to neighbors in areas like Fox Chase, Cory Farms, and across Crozet Avenue to the Meadows, and to establish “pocket parks” along the trail system.
The slowest part of the work is getting approvals, said Miyamoto. “Just because a trail is on the master plan doesn’t mean the easements are there, so there’s a lot of paperwork to acquire property rights.” But the CTC will press on and can always use more volunteers, so check them out online at crozettrailscrew.org.
The final speaker of the evening was David Oberg, White Hall representative to the Albemarle County School Board, who warned of coming overcrowding in the western feeder pattern schools. “I’ve been saying that our schools are going to become overcrowded for a long time, but county planners rely on formulas that are only now starting to agree,” said Oberg. “We are a growing community, and growth without infrastructure is a problem.”
Oberg described the School Board’s decision to utilize a new type of “high school center,” instead of a building another traditional high school, because a center is quicker and cheaper to establish and can be used more flexibly. “It’s effectively an office center for juniors and seniors to do independent studies, internships, and other collaborative work,” he said. He also lauded technical education centers such as CATEC, while noting that it is not optimally located for Western students to get to and from each day.
The School Board asked the Board of Supervisors for a $96 million bond referendum this year to fund capital improvements including the new centers, but only half of that was approved, so the School Board pulled the request and is “taking a step back,” said Oberg. “If we did everything we really should be doing in a Capital Improvement Program (CIP), we need more like $200 million.” Crozet Elementary, for instance, is on the CIP for an expansion, but the project is far down the list.
Ann Mallek commented on the high school center capital funding from the BOS’s perspective by acknowledging that “priorities have changed over the last ten years, and we have a lack of understanding being articulated to us of how it will all work.” Opinions differ as to the ultimate efficacy of some of the proposed models, she said, and “a 7 cent increase on the tax rate [based on the $96 million bond request] is a huge amount of money for lots of folks in the county to pay.”
Crozet resident Bob Dombrowe summed up the issue concisely. “This has got to be a priority for the community,” he said. “We need an active, vibrant, and educated populace, and it’s a balancing act as to whether people want to pay for it.”
Video recording of this and other CCAC meetings is available at crozetgazette.com and on our YouTube channel.