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TWO PATHS ON TRAILS?


 Brandon and Juliann Newton walk along the Heritage River Trail in Fredericksburg while their son, Jack, rides ahead of them.
SUZANNE CARR ROSSI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 2/4/2013

BY JEFF BRANSCOME

A plan to develop a network of trails in Spotsylvania County appears to be at a standstill.

A majority on the seven-member Board of Supervisors say they support a long-term county guide called the Trailways Master Plan that identifies about 100 miles of potential trails.

But some want assurances in writing that Spotsylvania will not invoke eminent domain to build paths. County staff said they never intended to condemn land for trails.

Supervisors Timothy McLaughlin and Ann Heidig also say they're concerned about the cost to the county, including staff time, of pursuing and maintaining trails.

Board members discussed the trails plan on Jan. 22 and may decide whether to continue with it at a meeting next Tuesday.

"This sounds like a county project that the taxpayers are going to pay for eventually," said McLaughlin, who asked whether the county would rather pay for trails or public safety and education.

A potential cost-saving measure identified in the trails plan is to partner with the Rappahannock Regional Jail to assist with maintenance and litter cleanup.

It's been about two years since supervisors unanimously approved the trails guide and subsequently signed a memo of understanding with the nonprofit Spotsylvania Greenways Initiative, which supports trail efforts.

But the political dynamic of the board has changed since then. The four-member majority of supervisors, who took office in January 2012, ran on conservative platforms that emphasized low taxes and property rights. Those supervisors are Heidig, McLaughlin, David Ross and Paul Trampe.

County Planning Director Wanda Parrish asked supervisors at the Jan. 22 meeting if they wanted to continue with the trails plan, which would include applying for grants and seeking easements. She also asked them if they planned to keep working with the Greenways Initiative.

Supervisor Gary Skinner moved to proceed with the plan, and Supervisor Benjamin Pitts seconded the motion.

"This is perfect for our tourism," Skinner said, noting the county's Civil War history.

Skinner later withdrew his motion after some expressed concerns about cost and eminent domain.

The board asked Parrish to provide the cost to the county--including staff time--of pursuing trails and to revise Spotsylvania's agreement with the Greenways Initiative to state that eminent domain will not be used.

The county hasn't spent local money, other than staff time, on the trails plan.


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