New park, new name… new future for City trails?

In January, the City Parks & Rec department ran a contest of sorts, seeking possible names for a new park/trail on an island of land between the Skate Park on McIntire Road and the Recycling Center.

Last Friday, as part of an Arbor Day celebration, Mayor David Brown planted a tree on the site and finally unveiled the park's new name: Schenk's Greenway. Chosen by Downtown resident (and retired UVA spokesperson) Louise Dudley, the name refers to the ailing urban creek that cuts through the property, Schenk's Branch, which was named after Dutch merchant Cornelius Schenk (technically pronounced "Skank"), who owned the property around the time of the Revolutionary War.

Trail planner Chris Gensic says he received over 40 name suggestions, including one from "Thomas Jefferson."

"He wanted to call it the 'Lewis & Clark Practice Trail,'" Gensic laughs.

Actually, the name would have been apt, as the trail ends abruptly at both ends. However, according to Gensic, it's simply another addition to the City's Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan, which will eventually link all the city's parks and public spaces with walking and biking trails.

Completed last December, the trail went nameless as the Parks & Rec Department, with the help of the Charlottesville Master Gardeners, installed flower beds, planted trees, and coordinated the placement of new ArtinPlace sculptures, including a herd of grazing elks made of discarded rebar. Gensic says the County has plans to continue the trail from the Recycling Center to the County Office Building, and that it will eventually hook up with the Greenbelt at Riverview Park. In the meantime, there are plans to install a crosswalk across McIntire, a doggie pooper station, and maybe even a bridge over the creek.

According to Gensic's counterpart in the County, Dan Mahon, there's a plan in the works to continue the trail in front of the Lane baseball field. In fact, he says a landscape architect is drawing up plans now for the project, which will include intermittent rain gardens to mange run-off from the County Office building's parking lot, which now goes into Schenk's Branch. "It's intended to complement and continue what the City started," he says.

As detailed in a Hook story last year, Schenk's Branch, which, according to Gensic, is on the state's "impaired waterway" list, was adopted by the Living Education Center for Ecology and the Arts eight years ago in a effort to clean up what school director Ernie Reed called a "drainage ditch." Indeed, as our recent photos show, the creek is still filled with litter. And that's not the only thing finding its way into the creek, which drains directly into the Rivanna.

"It's on the state's impaired waterways list," says Reed, "because it has such a high fecal coliform level, which comes from runoff under the city, mostly human waste. There are cracks in the system, so to speak."

Gensic agrees. "Schenk's Branch has suffered the fate of other urban streams," he says.

Eventually, both Gensic and Reed hope the creation of the park will lead to heightened awareness of the creek's plight, and renewed clean-up efforts.

To that end, Gensic says he will be leading a hiking tour of the park on Saturday, May 21, to educate anyone interested in learning more about the City's Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan and the Schenk's Branch.

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1 comment

I love Charlottesville and I love living here. Finally a place that tries to improve the entire livability of a place. So many local governments try to just create jobs at the cost of everything else. Living somewhere isn't just about having a job, it's about enjoying life and being proud of your town. Some people may think Cville is backwards or slow to change - I'm from Alabama - you don't even know how bad it could be.