Editor’s Note: This post is in no way meant to attack the people working at the County. They are capable, skilled professionals. I think most County staff support shared-use trails at County parks and work to create more opportunities for park users.
It is completely reasonable that inconsistencies in present use at County parks and County code were discovered as County staff reviewed legitimate issues around Ragged Mountain. It is apparent County code is inconsistent with what appears to be long-time, compatible uses at several parks including Ragged Mountain. So instead of involving park users and the public in general in discussions about changing the County code to come in line with long established use, the promoted uses were quietly changed.
Within weeks of discovering their own code deficiencies, the Board of Supervisors is now insisting that the City cannot use its own land in a manner consistent with City code because of conflicting County code the County itself has not been following for many years. The BOS letter only mentions mountain biking. Yet, they make no mention of the other use inconsistencies which include the permitting of boats (which is no longer required by RWSA) or trail running which was also approved by City Council in December.
After a very lengthy and transparent public process, the Charlottesville City Council voted to follow the will of a majority to open up multi-use trails at Ragged Mountain.
This week, the Albemarle Co. Board of Supervisors’s chair Diantha McKeel released a letter to the public raising a number of concerns. I tackle much of that here. However, the biggest revelation is that the County insists the City adhere to Albemarle Co. code that does not allow cycling (or trail running since it is not explicitly mentioned either) at Ragged Mountain and that the County will enforce those regulations on the property regardless of City code. As it turns out the County has not been only ignoring its own rules, it has been promoting the opposite for many years. The County staff have been changing its website information to match County code.
There are three Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority reservoir properties in question. Ragged Mountain is owned by the City. Totier Creek Park and Chris Greene Lake Park are county parks. In her letter, Supervisor McKeel references code section 11-303 that says that activities not expressly stated in the code are forbidden at Ragged Mountain. Section 11-302 and 11-306 make similar rules for Chris Greene Lake and Totier Creek respectively. Since none of those code sections list bicycling as a stated activity, it is now allowed at any of these parks. The problem? Until after the Charlottesville City Council vote to allow cycling and trail running at Ragged Mountain, the County was actively encouraging cycling at both Chris Greene Lake and Totier Creek.
Luckily content on the internet never dies! Let’s go to the video tape, well screenshots anyways.
The legend for the trail map for Chris Greene Lake still shows a condition that has been in place since at least 2011. It shows trails for both hiking and biking.
Hopefully, that will not change.
UPDATE: Since this post was published, the County has changed the park map to remove cycling because it is not one of the expressly stated activities at the park. The new map is dated February 2017. Yet, the dog park continues despite not being officially sanctioned in City code.
However, the map for Totier Creek was changed recently. The previous (at least back to 2011) map legend showed exactly what the Chris Greene map showed:
Now the current version with “biking” scrubbed:
Notice the creation date of new map as January 2017. The old version of the map was up until at least January 2017.
Now for the County’s park activity matrix. The new:
Notice the difference? Chris Greene Lake and Totier Creek mountain bike activities have been removed in the latest version.
The vintage of the current Totier Creek is known because it is dated. Determining when the change of the activity matrix occurred would be tougher if it were not for the Internet Archive.
The last entry in the archive is Feb. 15, 2017. As of that date, the old matrix was still in place. It has been replaced since then.
Here is the Internet Archive record for the Totier Creek map.
The February 9, 2017 record shows the new map. However, the record from December 21, 2016 shows the old one.
The County BOS now insists the property owner, the City of Charlottesville, cannot allow an activity that the County itself did, in fact, promoted for many years at parks that have the exact same County code. They are asking City to suspend our planning process for a shared-use plan at Ragged Mountain. If you live in the County, please contact your Supervisor and ask them to change code section 11-303, 11- to allow both cycling and trail running to match the property owners’ wishes and to change sections 11-302 & 11-306 to allow historic compatible multi-use.