LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Both Bike Trails of Benefit
Since the completion of the Chancellor Street and South King Street/Route 15 bike trail survey, I have seen a lot of activity in the "Letters to the Editor" section of the paper. And quite honestly I am surprised at the slant that the letters have taken. So I offer the following information.
Many of the statements provided by the residents of Chancellor Street have expressed the opinion that the connection of the Chancellor Street trail to the Washington & Old Dominion trail would be unsafe due to the secluded area that the path would follow. Also, it has been implied that only a small portion of the southwest quadrant of the city would benefit from this trail. There are problems with both of these arguments.
First, traveling in a secluded area is a valid concern; however, the South King Street/Route 15 trail also runs through the secluded wooded area of the old Izaak Walton Park. Why, then, is the South King Street/Route 15 trail safer than the Chancellor Street trail? When asking yourself this question, think also about traffic patterns in a quiet neighborhood versus the traffic patterns on a four-lane highway that supports a high volume of truck activity.
Second, the statement that the Chancellor Street trail would only serve portions of the southwest area of Leesburg is completely false. The Chancellor Street connection would provide path access to all citizens of Leesburg. This path is part of the Town of Leesburg's plan of constructing a path that would circle the entire city, thus providing all citizens with access to the W&OD, Ida Lee Park and the numerous parks and points of interest in between. With this in mind, the entire city should have been surveyed to determine if providing this type of path would be welcomed by all citizens.
Another misconception is that the Woodlea Manor Conservancy sent false information with regard to part of the South King Street/Route 15 bike trail sharing the road. After reading these accusations, I was deeply troubled that any group would knowingly provide false information to sway public opinion. Therefore, I went to the Parks and Recreation Department offices to research this topic.
First, it is important to understand that there are no concrete engineering plans for this trail. There is only an engineering study with numerous recommendations on how a bike trail can be built alongside South King Street/Route 15. In the report by Paciulli Simmons and Associates, there are two locations in which sharing the road with the trail are options. The first is near the entrance of Linden Hill, near the emergency spillway. Here, one of the options is to "locate the trail at the edge of the street." The other location is along the South King Street Bridge, which is near the intersection of South King Street and Clubhouse Drive. In dealing with the crossing of Tuscarora Creek, there is an option of "creating a narrowed trail between the bridge railing and a narrowed shoulder on the bridge," thus having the trail share the road with traffic.
I am surprised that individuals against the Chancellor Street trail use the actions of the Woodlea Manor residents to block the change of rezoning land near the entrance of their community as ammunition. The comparison between attempting to block the rezoning and the attempts to block the Chancellor Street trail is like comparing an apple to an orange. The land that sits south of the Woodlea Manor entrance is in Loudoun County, not within the town limits of Leesburg. The developer desires that our town annex this land and provide water and sewage services. Also, the developer is requesting from the county to change the zoning from A3 to R4. This land has maintained an A3 zone for years and the residents are simply attempting to maintain the current zoning. The Chancellor Street trail has been zoned since 1985. In fact, it is my understanding that the planned trail is a result of residents fighting against the town's plan of extending the street to Dry Mill Road. The compromise at the time was building a trail and, due to the recession, it is only now that the funds are finally available to implement this project. I would understand this comparison by the residents of Chancellor Street if the trail was a change in the current zoning, but it is not.
After spending time reviewing the South King Street/Route 15 trail and the Chancellor Street trail, along with speaking with individuals at the Parks and Recreation offices at length, I concur with their stance of building both trails. Building the South King Street/Route 15 trail will be more expensive and, from reviewing Paciulli Simmons & Associates recommendations, there will be a lot of reconstruction of the area alongside Route 15. But each trail provides something different to each individual. If you want a nice safe family bike ride without a lot of traffic, a faster route toward Purcellville, a transportation path to Ida Lee Park, easy access to Loudoun County High School, or you reside in another area of Leesburg and you desire to have a nice bike ride that will take you around the entire city safely--Chancellor Street is perfect. If you are without a vehicle and you need to safely walk to the store, desire to go to the old Izaak Walton Park or attend a function at the Douglass Community Center--the South King Street/Route 15 trail will best serve your needs.
I hope that all citizens of Leesburg take an active role in discovering what happens with this trail, because it affects every citizen of Leesburg, not only those of us who live in the southwest area of the city.