CCAC: Master Planning for Parks, Trails, and Paths

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The plan for future trails connectivity includes trails linking Old Trail east to the Lickinghole Basin area and north to Mint Springs Park, shared use paths along Rt. 240 and Rt. 250 and bordering Likinghole Creek, and bike lanes extending north of Crozet. Parks are shown in dark green. Courtesy Albemarle County Planning Department.

County planners and Crozet residents discussed the outlook for future trails, shared-use paths, and bike lanes at the Crozet Community Advisory Committee (CCAC) meeting February 10. As part of the ongoing Master Plan process, county staff presented their recommendations with the goal of conserving and enhancing Crozet’s natural areas via an integrated system of parks, trails, and greenways. 

Several parks and trails were highlighted, beginning with the long-awaited Western Park—proposed for 36 acres along Old Trail Drive just north of the neighborhood’s pool. “The county is pursuing development in multiple phases,” said planner Tim Padalino. “Phase 1-A construction will include the entrance and parking areas, stormwater management facilities, landscaping, and shelters.” He said the county seeks to form a partnership to fund the park, either with private developers or by using crowdsourcing or private contributions.

A draft map of the Green Network in Crozet, comprising sensitive environmental features such as flood plain and stream buffers, habitat connectivity, and areas with enhanced biodiversity and tree canopy. Planners noted that “people-walking” trails would not extend all the way to the eastern part of Lickinghole Basin where sensitive bald eagle nests are located. This network comports with Albemarle county’s Biodiversity Action Plan by identifying priority natural sites.

To allow access to the park space as soon as possible, the county is also proposing a “Phase 1-ASAP,” which would use Old Trail proffer funds to install some amenities such as playground equipment, signage, site furnishings, and smaller shelters. “The idea is that opening the park more quickly, even in an incomplete stage, is ultimately better than waiting until it’s all done to open,” said Padalino.

An “Eastern Park” was referenced in the 2010 Master Plan for a location near the Lickinghole Basin on the eastern end of the Crozet Connector trail, just north of what is now the Foxchase neighborhood. When asked about the prospects for that park in the current plan, Padalino said that such a space would not be a formal recreation area but more like a “natural or greenway park typology,” with low-impact multiuse trails. “We are not really recommending that park right now due to environmental considerations,” said Padalino.

The site of the future Western Park lies along the east side of Old Trail Drive just north of the pool. Plans for the site include a Phase 1-A for parking, stormwater management, and landscaping, and a Phase 1-ASAP for playground equipment and smaller shelters, to be accessible earlier than the 1-A infrastructure. Courtesy Albemarle County Planning Department.

With regard to bike and walking trails, CCAC member Joe Fore put in that, at least from his vantage point in the Highlands on Rt. 240, “it is very difficult for us to access the trail system. Realistically, to get on the trail I have to drive somewhere like over to Western Ridge to access it.” Fore requested more dedicated vehicular access to trailheads, “perhaps on Crozet Avenue where construction vehicles are often parked by the bridge,” near the Slabtown Branch crossing. 

Encouraged by planners to “think big” about trail connections across Crozet, CCAC vice chair Shawn Bird offered an expansive vision. “What I would love to see is for us to extend a true off-road option for a walking trail connecting our water resources all the way west to Mint Springs and all the way east to Beaver Creek,” said Bird. “I’ve often thought that Parrot Branch is sort of an untapped route that could connect Starr Hill and Rt. 240, so you could literally walk from downtown Crozet to those two areas. That would be a true connected community with its green spaces. Powell’s Creek could also be a route.”

To watch the meeting video, go to the Albemarle County page on YouTube.com, and find the CCAC February 10 meeting under the “Videos” tab. The public is encouraged to share feedback through the county’s PublicInput questionairre, open through March 10, at https://publicinput.com/H8002. 

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