Multiple choice: Tracking trails takes work

A trail by any other name is still a trail, right? Charlottesville officials– who officially changed the name of the Greenbelt Trail to the Rivanna Trail on October 2– are hoping so. In fact, they hope that the name change will encourage more local folks to use the path. In the meantime, Albemarle County has upped its efforts to complete the Greenway trail system. Also, back in the woods, the Rivanna Trails Foundation continues to maintain nearly 20 miles of narrow hiking path circling the city.

The Greenbelt, the Greenway, the Rivanna? Whatever happened to the Meadowcreek? Where the heck are these things, and how are people to know if they're heading down the right path? Here's the lowdown:


The Rivanna Trail: This is the name for the 20 miles of trail maintained primarily by the nonprofit Rivanna Trail Foundation, with significant support from the City. The Rivanna Trail is a mostly rugged footpath that– should you feel energetic enough– allows you to completely circle the city on foot. The path exists thanks to various property owners who granted easements to the RTF.

Trouble cropped up in 2003, however, when the RTF failed to obtain permission from property owners on Bland Circle. One of those landowners, Shirley Presley, erected nearly 30 feet of razor wire across the trail to bar hikers from her property, and has thus far refused to take it down. The case led to the subpoenaing of nearly a dozen city employees, as well as this reporter, and remains unresolved. The RTF had to detour hikers away from Presley's property and onto Locust Avenue for a few hundred yards.


The Greenbelt, R.I.P.: This is the former name for the City-maintained section of the Rivanna Trail, which now conveniently bears the same moniker. The Greenbelt, anchored by Riverview Park at the end of Chesapeake Street, underwent a transformation in the summer of 2004 when the City resurfaced and extended the length of the trail. Where once the trail meandered only about a mile and a half north from the park to Cosner Brothers auto shop at Free Bridge, now walkers, bikers, and roller-bladers can continue on under the bridge a half-mile further to the VFW Lodge on River Road.

Rivanna Trail Foundation president Diana Foster says the renaming makes it simpler for trail users.

"The Rivanna Trail runs through six city parks," says Foster, "so it made sense for people to know they were still on this connective trail."


The Meadowcreek Trail, R.I.P.: If you're still using this name, chances are you've been in town a while. "That name changed [to the Rivanna Trail] back in 2000," says RTF's Foster. Before 2000, there were actually two Meadowcreek trails. Meadowcreek East ran from the Rivanna River north of the VFW Lodge on River Road all the way to Park Street, says Foster, and Meadowcreek West took hikers from Park Street to Hydraulic Road.


The Greenway: This is the county's trail system, and while it may be the least well known, Dan Mahon, Greenway supervisor for the county, hopes to change that. A recent $30,000 grant from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation will allow Mahon to upgrade portions of the trail from a rugged Class B to Class A, with boardwalks over wetlands and portions paved in stone dust.

The best known section of the Greenway right now, says Mahon, starts at Free Bridge and heads north to Darden Towe Park. Another section will take hikers from Free Bridge past Woolen Mills to Milton. As if there aren't enough names already, that section will be called the Old Mill Trail, says Mahon, and will be "interpreted" by signage describing the various historic mills along the way.

Though he's still working on getting easements from property owners so that the various segments of the trail can be connected, Mahon says there are already nearly 50 miles of trail. When the system– which he describes as a "linear park"– is complete, there will be upwards of 100 miles of trail traversing the county.

Yes, the trail system is complicated, but reps from the City, County, and RTF say they hope to work together to create a unified system that will keep hikers on happy trails for years to come.

Lots o trails.