Battlefields Foundation Seeks Trail

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October 19, 2018
For the Daily News-Record          10/19/18
NEW MARKET — The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation has a vision for New Market.
Keven Walker, chief executive of the foundation, told Town Council on Monday he envisions a 3-mile greenway walking trail that fits into comprehensive plan.
Walker said the foundation is looking at some space it owns along the eastern side of Interstate 81, along with some land it needs to purchase.
“We began looking at plans for acquiring and protecting that land, and then putting a greenfield walking corridor through that area,” Walker said. “This project, as far as the battlefields foundation is concerned, is well underway.”
To continue forward with the project, however, the foundation will need funding for purchasing land and constructing the trail. The project could cost up to $1.5 million, according to Walker.
Purchasing the land not already owned by the foundation could cost up to $750,000, Walker said. Construction costs, he estimates, will be at least another $750,000.
At Monday’s presentation, Walker let the council know the foundation will request preemptive conservation easements to apply for grant money.
Councilman Peter Hughes asked Walker how long the project was going to take. Walker said the timeline was almost entirely dependent on whether he could apply for grants or whether he would have to find private investors.
If the foundation can apply for grants, Walker said it would like to put in the first leg of the trail construction next summer.
“If we can get a leg done, not only will it provide an immediate opportunity for our town, but it’s a lot easier for me to raise money for the rest of the trail,” he said.
The foundation faced a battle trying to place a small parcel of land into a conservation easement last month. When the foundation purchased the parsonage at 9276 N. Congress St. to convert it into a museum and gift shop, Planning Commission and Town Council were leery.
Before dealing with the issue of conservation easements, council members asked Walker about how he was going to deal with the rights of way and Virginia Military Institution land the proposed trail is going to run through.
Walker said the foundation was already in talks with the housing developments the trail would run through and that VMI is having internal discussions about how to work with the foundation.
“They’re very much in favor of the trail system,” he said. “They’re just wrestling with how they’re going to change their paradigm for collecting money. They’re a little nervous about people being able to use the park for free.”
While the foundation is taking the lead on this first step, Walker said he hopes its involvement will spur others to get involved.
“We don’t want this to be a battlefields foundation project,” he said. “We want this to be a project that the battlefields foundation is helping to bring to New Market, but becomes a New Market project.”