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  1. #1
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    Action alert: BRP access threatened

    ACTION NEEDED: IMPROVING ACCESS TO BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY


    The Federal Government’s Blue Ridge Parkway administration in Asheville, NC is about to adopt a plan that will seriously limit access for hikers, equestrians and cyclists (both road and mountain) to the Parkway road and trails for the next 20 years. The Parkway has published its latest version of the Roanoke Valley/ Blue Ridge Parkway Trail Plan Environmental Assessment and is taking comments only until September 12. This plan would:
    · eliminate the eastern extension of the Roanoke River Greenway through Roanoke County to Explore Park

    · close approximately 40 social trails that currently give hikers, equestrians and bikers access to the Parkway from adjacent rural roads, and

    · abandon plans for allowing mountain biking on the Chestnut Ridge Trail.


    The Parkway encourages comments to be submitted on line at NPS PEPC - Roanoke Valley / Blue Ridge Parkway Trail Plan Environmental Assessment during the comment period, which closes on September 12, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. You may also mail comments, but to be considered they must be received on or before September 12, 2011. Address your comments to: Blue Ridge Parkway, ATTN: Suzette Molling, 199 Hemphill Knob Rd., Asheville, NC 28803.

    Please take a moment to ask the parkway administration to improve access for hikers, equestrians and cyclists. In addition to background information on this issue, we have also provided both a sample letter and more than 30 additional specific comments compiled by local cyclists that can be used to provide a more detailed submission.

    We are also soliciting letters to Congressman Heath Shuler of North Carolina’s 11th district, Congressman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia’s 6th Congressional District, and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia on the issue. If you live in Virginia, or in Mr. Shuler’s district in North Carolina, click here to take action: http://capwiz.com/lab/issues/alert/?alertid=53359506


    SAMPLE LETTER


    Dear Ms Molling:

    Thank you for providing the opportunity to comment on the Roanoke Valley/ Blue Ridge Parkway Trail Plan Environmental Assessment. I welcome the willingness of the Parkway administration to develop a partnership with the local community for expanded trail use.

    I appreciate the thorough environmental assessment that has been completed for each alternative, and note that the assessment indicates all environmental impacts from expanded trail use and expanded trails are manageable.

    Therefore, I ask you to do two things to enhance the visitor experience of the Parkway:

    A. Modify the Preferred Alternative (Alternative C in the Plan) to include the eastern extension of the Roanoke River Greenway to Explore Park and the one year pilot project to allow shared use of the Chestnut Ridge by hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers.

    B. Leave the social trails open – they clearly indicate a need for access so that the community and visitor may have a positive experience of the Parkway. If it is possible to identify which of the social trails are causing resource damage, perhaps it would be possible to organize volunteer labor to construct access paths to Parkway standards.


    I urge the Parkway administration to be a good neighbor by collaborating with the community in providing a truly great integrated system of trails and greenways for all residents and visitors to the Roanoke Valley.

    Thank you for your consideration of my comments.

    Yours truly,



    Background
    In 2002 the Blue Ridge Parkway began to explore options for development of an integrated system of trails that would link the local greenway system with Parkway trails to provide the public with a greatly enhanced range of trail opportunities in the Roanoke Valley. In 2004 a draft trail plan was completed that recognized greenway trail connections to the Parkway trail system at Mill Mountain, the Roanoke River and Wolf Creek greenways. In addition, the draft trail plan recommended construction of several new trail sections and re-construction of extensive sections of Parkway trail. The 2004 trail plan recommended a one year pilot project to assess the feasibility of developing a shared-use trail network that would allow mountain bicycles as well as horses and hikers. Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail was suggested as a pilot section for shared use. Currently, bicycles may be ridden only on paved road surfaces and parking areas within the Parkway boundaries. Bicycles, including mountain bikes, may not be ridden on trails or walkways. Also in 2004, the Parkway and Greenway Commission obtained a Virginia Recreational Trails grant and constructed and relocated sections of the Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail with the objective of making it more sustainable and better suited for shared use by bikers, hikers and equestrians. However, no formal actions to adopt the plan or undertake the pilot study occurred.

    In 2006, following the unexpected closing of some informal and unauthorized “social trails” that hikers, bikers and equestrians use to get to the Parkway and its trails from adjacent roads and properties, the Parkway launched a second trail planning process. Parkway staff formed a Roanoke Trails Group made up of citizen representatives of various trail user groups including road bicyclists, mountain bicyclists, horse riders, hikers, runners and staff from the Roanoke Valley Greenway Commission, Roanoke County and the City of Roanoke. That process led to a inclusion of a proposal by the Parkway in late 2007 to allow mountain bike use on Chestnut Ridge for a trial period of one year. The Parkway took comments on that proposal through December 1, 2007.

    Summary of Current Document
    The Roanoke Valley/Blue Ridge Parkway Trail Plan Environmental Analysis assesses three alternatives and the environmental impacts of each. In general, the impacts are not considered major by the National Park Service. The Parkway’s preferred alternative is C, which provides the most development. However, it is not the same as the Alternative C presented at the public meeting in November 2007 and considered in the draft 2008 Environmental Assessment. The current Alternative C proposes new mountain bike trails near Explore Park, to be constructed by local volunteers, and eliminates the eastern extension of the Roanoke River Greenway to Explore Park.



    Actions Needed
    Review the plan at NPS PEPC - Roanoke Valley / Blue Ridge Parkway Trail Plan Environmental Assessment. This is probably the last time to express your feelings about the Parkway’s plans for trails in the Roanoke area for the next twenty years. You should submit written comments either through that website (preferred) or in writing to: Blue Ridge Parkway, ATTN: Suzette Molling, 199 Hemphill Knob Road, Asheville, NC 28803. Ideas and concerns expressed by those who comment will be used to prepare the final proposal and impact analysis.

    Points to Consider in Making Detailed Comments
    1. Extension of the Roanoke River Greenway - The completion of the Greenway entirely across Roanoke County is our area’s number one recreational goal. Past Parkway planning documents have been supportive of that goal. Encourage the Parkway to maintain an option of allowing the Roanoke River Greenway in the alignment developed by the Greenway Commission during the 2002 and 2007 planning processes.
    2. Extension of the Roanoke River Greenway - An interconnected trail system is important to local healthy living initiatives, quality of life and unique community brand. Diminishing the greenway is contrary to the Roanoke Valley’s economic future.
    3. Extension of the Roanoke River Greenway - The alternative for developing mountain bike trails along the road connecting the Parkway to Explore Park and to eliminate the Roanoke River Greenway extension to the park was developed by the Parkway without consulting Roanoke Valley Greenway Commission.
    4. Extension of the Roanoke River Greenway – The Roanoke River Bridge was excluded from the analysis. The plan should clearly specify that a trail bridge is needed at the river. Support the Greenway Commission’s request that the Parkway include the bridge in the plan and the environmental assessment in order to make it possible for the Greenway Commission and local governments to apply for grants for its construction.
    5. Rutrough Road – Support the Greenway Commission’s request and encourage the Parkway to consider alternatives for this crossing as the current location shown on the maps has limited sight lines.
    6. Closure of Social Trails – Closing approximately 40 social trails severely limits access to the Parkway and its trail system by hikers, equestrians and cyclists who live in the surrounding community. Providing such access promotes healthy activity is desirable, not undesirable.
    7. Closure of Social Trails – With the encouragement of the Parkway administration local bicycle club members have helped to plant trees along the Parkway. Closing social trails by cutting down trees to block them is counterproductive, will create damage and will place demands on limited Parkway resources.
    8. Closure of Social Trails - The Parkway proposes new paved access points to the Parkway motor road at: the Ranger Station from Mountain View Road; from Hardy Road (from church); from the proposed Roanoke River Greenway west of the Roanoke River Overlook at mile post 115; from Pitzer Road; from Yellow Mountain Rd (near Mill Mountain) to the Parkway Spur Road; from Falcon Ridge Road; from Buck Mountain Road; from Starlight Lane (near Merriman Park); and from Raintree Drive at the Mason’s Knob overlook. These paved connections should reduce, but probably will not eliminate usage Social Trails.
    9. Closure of Social Trails – If the proposed new paved connections are constructed and they are feasible, the existing unofficial trails will quickly “return to nature” on their own without cutting down trees to block the trails or other formal action.
    10. Closure of Social Trails - From the cyclist’s perspective, this is a major safety issue. If these trails are closed, there is no guarantee that they will be replaced, and bicyclists will be limited to accessing the Parkway from the Mill Mountain Spur Road or routes 220, 24 or 460. The last three are not viable access points since the traffic on those roads makes them unfit for use by bicycles.
    11. Closure of Social Trails – The majority of local road cycling activity takes place between the Peaks of Otter at MP 85 to the top of Bent Mountain at MP 135. The social trails between these points make it possible to ride a variety of loops that combine portions of the Parkway with other low traffic rural roads. If the social trails are closed, the only safe access point for cyclists will be the Mill Mountain spur road. The effect of this will be to eliminate these loops and force riders to do out and back routes to and from the spur. This will concentrate virtually all cycling activity on the Parkway into a much smaller area that also serves as a busy commuter thoroughfare through the Roanoke Valley.
    12. Closure of Social Trails - Alternatives B and C both propose to close over 40 social trails, but only offer 8 replacement access points. This is not a reasonable trade-off.
    13. Closure of Social Trails - The trails are serving a need and desire for citizens to access the Parkway for enjoyment and recreation. Eliminating the trails will not eliminate the demand. Unless more popular alternatives for access are provided most of the trails will reappear.
    14. Closure of Social Trails - Most of the unofficial social trails are short, virtually invisible, have been in place for many years and have minimal environmental impact. Closing them by cutting down trees to block the trails will create damage and place demands on limited Parkway resources.
    15. Closure of Social Trails - Encourage Parkway to build the proposed paved connection for bicyclists through the Ranger Station before any closure of the “Deer Trail” and to allow hikers and equestrians to use the trail from Mountain View Road to the horse trail.
    16. Closure of Social Trails – If viable paved or unpaved alternative trails are provided, the existing unofficial trails will quickly “return to nature” on their own. There will be no need to expend resources closing them.
    17. Closure of Social Trails – Nearly all trails on the Parkway are constructed by volunteers. Consider letting the Parkway know that you are willing to volunteer in building, relocating or improving social and other trails.
    18. Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail – The Parkway did not analyze the previous recommendation which proposed mountain biking on Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail. Assessment of that alternative might have helped users understand why the Parkway ruled it out without further consideration. Ask why this alternative was not analyzed in this Environmental Assessment.
    19. Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail – The Greenway Commission and volunteers expended substantial funding and labor rebuilding that trail to the standards requested by Parkway staff to accommodate shared use by hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers. The Parkway should respect those efforts and live up to the expectation that shared use by hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers receive a fair evaluation and an effort to find a way for all user groups to share the trails, as they do on the adjacent Mill Mountain trails.
    20. Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail – The Roanoke Valley is becoming known as an outdoor destination and a place for healthy living with great natural amenities. Integrating shared use of Chestnut Ridge supports the quality of life and economy of the local area and provides a great opportunity for the Parkway to partner with local communities to promote healthy lifestyles.
    21. Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail – Continuing to restrict Chestnut Ridge is a disappointing limit on the local community, Parkway visitors and Roanoke Campground users.
    22. Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail – Connecting trails is an important strategy for encouraging recreational use, spreading out the impact of users over a wider area. It is important to allow mountain bikes to access Chestnut Ridge. With that connection Roanoke has over 15 miles of first-rate mountain biking suitable to all levels of cyclists within minutes of downtown and the City’s Mill Mountain Discovery Center.
    23. Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail – Carvins Cove and Mill Mountain provide local examples of trails that are being shared by hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers and can provide management models to the Parkway.
    24. Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail – Trails are built by volunteers. If you are willing to volunteer to participate in trail development, user education, trail monitoring or other strategies needed to evaluate the pilot project, please let the Parkway know. If you are offended that the Parkway appears ready to renege on its previous plans, let them know that, too.
    25. Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail – Point out that the Environmental Assessment notes that mountain biking and hiking have similar environmental impacts, and that those impacts are less than equestrian impacts.
    26. Chestnut Ridge Loop Trail – The Parkway sometimes uses the phrase multi-use or shared use to mean just hikers and equestrians. If you support shared use of trails by hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers, make sure that you clearly state that shared use or multi-use trails include mountain bikes.
    27. Other – The Parkway needs to live up to its previous commitments to cork with local communities to develop a trail network. It needs to listen to and respect the requests of the citizens of the Roanoke Valley.
    28. Other – The Parkway Trail Plan depends on volunteers for construction and maintenance. If the Parkway hopes to continue to receive volunteer labor, then it needs to listen to and respect the requests of the Greenway Commission, the trail volunteers, the cyclists and others who have built and love the trails.
    29. Other – Contact your congressional representatives to let them know how you feel about the Parkway’s plan.
    30. Other – The Parkway between routes 24 and 220 carries significant commuter traffic. Consider requesting that the Parkway evaluate lowering the speed limit through this urban area to 35 miles per hour.
    31. Other – Draw on your experiences in other parks and trails to explain why the Parkway should support expanded use of the Parkway trails.
    32. Other – Encourage the Parkway to support healthy recreational activity in the use of its trails by supporting the shared use trail project that includes mountain biking.

  2. #2
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    This movement in Roanoake is a case study that will likely impact the entire BRP at some point. IMBA is drawing up an official response but will also need members to comment; this one comes from the League of American Bicyclists.

  3. #3
    "Ride Lots" Eddy Merckx
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    Done and done...thanks for posting.
    "Big Gulps huh?...Allllriggghhht....Welp, See ya later!"

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the info, I have heard rumor of a similar movement in the Asheville area, I'll post if I hear anything solid

  5. #5
    CrgCrkRyder
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    Nicely done Crossboy.

    Thanks for posting this here as what happens in Roanoke will likely have an effect on future plans for trails in North Carolina. Hope you don’t mind, but I am going to cross post this on the VA forum as it includes a lot more information than I had put up in a previous post.

    Chestnut Ridge should allow bikes - Roanoke.com

    Mark did a nice job of explaining our frustration with the BRP’s plan. A couple of horseback riders state that they don’t want to share Chestnut Ridge with bikes and the Park Service nixed opening up the trail as had been previously agreed upon in an in depth planning session. Chestnut Ridge is a 5.5 mile loop right on the edge of Roanoke City that has been rebuilt for multiple use and the addition of mountain bike riding. It is a beautiful trail with some woopdedoos and begs to be ridden (hence the large amount of poaching). Alternative C, the only one that gives any mountain biker access, is as fixated on trail closings as trail opening. It opens up a 3.5 mile stretch of new trail near Explore Park, but does not open up the Chestnut Ridge loop.

    I attended the public meeting last week and spoke with several of the park officers. They did not appear to be anti-bike, but seemed most concerned about resources and funding for taking on a new user group. I fear that there are some officials further up the ladder that are anti-bike. I think we are a pretty low maintenance group that would be very involved with any trail work needed (take a look at Carvins Cove trails).

    Last edited by CraigCreekRider; 09-05-2011 at 08:14 AM.

  6. #6
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    Done. Thanks for spoon-feeding us the links and letter. It only takes a minute, everyone should help out, it could be our favorite spot next time.

  7. #7
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    Here is IMBA's "official" talking points for those of you who haven't participated yet ...

    Action Alert: Blue Ridge Parkway Plan
    NPS Blue Ridge Parkway Plan Has Shortcomings

    Deadline for Comments this Monday, Sept. 12.

    As you as you may have seen in an earlier alert, the National Park Service (NPS) has released their final trail plan for the Roanoke Valley unit of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

    The plan, while making some strides toward better trail connectivity, still needs improvement. Of particular concern is the removal of a pilot project to allow mountain bikes on the Chestnut Ridge Trail, a 5-mile connector that would have made it possible to ride from town to Mill Mountain. In its place, the NPS is offering to allow just over 3 miles of disjointed trails to be constructed to connect with Explore Park. Tell them, politely but firmly, that they can do better!

    Take Action! The NPS is taking public comments on their website until Monday September 12. They need to hear the following from you;

    1) The plan lacks a realistic assessment and solution for the social trails that are used by local residents to access the Blue Ridge Parkway.

    2) Alternative C has been dramatically altered from the 2007 draft without public participation.

    3) The new Alternative C has potential but needs to be improved and fully developed in conjunction with a plan for Explore Park if it is to provide a quality mountain bike experience.

    4) The removal of the Chestnut Ridge proposal is abrupt change in direction. Especially considering the mountain bike connectivity of the trail system, the work done by IMBA's Trail Solutions group to make it a true multi use trail, and the organization of a National Mountain Bike Patrol group specifically to patrol the Chestnut Ridge trail.

  8. #8
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    Bump -- you have until 10 p.m. Eastern today to make comments via the web site.

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