The Greenway Commission will host an open house-style community meeting for the draft 2018 Greenway Plan Update at the Berglund Center on April 19 from 4 to 7 p.m.
The purpose of the meeting is to provide an opportunity for citizens to review and comment on the draft regional greenway plan and maps, including the Tinker Creek Greenway Concept Plan.
The greenway plan was last updated in 2007. Since then over 200 miles of greenways and trails have been added to the network and Botetourt County has joined the Greenway Commission.
“In the 2007 Greenway Plan, the Roanoke River Greenway was designated as the #1 priority,” said Greenway Coordinator Liz Belcher. “At the 2017 public input meetings, we heard strong support for finishing the Roanoke River Greenway. We also heard a demand for more connectivity, so that users can get from one greenway to another. This connectivity can be accomplished by finishing the priority greenways and providing on-road pedestrian and bicycle connections to fill gaps between routes.
“Greenways are important to our quality of life, our economic development, and the social fabric of our communities,” Belcher emphasized.
The draft plan and maps will be posted online by April 13 at www.greenways.org.
The Greenway Commission includes the Cities of Roanoke and Salem, the Town of Vinton, and the Counties of Roanoke and Botetourt. The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission is assisting with this update plan.
According to Vinton Planning and Zoning Director Anita McMillan, for the past few years, the Town of Vinton staff has continued to seek grant funding to expand the town’s greenway network.
“In addition to the Wolf Creek Greenway and Gladetown Trail, the town completed Phase 1 of the Glade Creek Greenway, which extends from Virginia Avenue to Walnut Avenue through a Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Salem District revenue sharing grant and generous contributions from Novozymes, Pathfinders for Greenways, the Roanoke Valley Greenway Commission, Roanoke County, and Vinton funds,” said McMillan.
“Currently, through VDOT Transportation Alternatives (TA) grant funding, town, and Pathfinders funds, and a donated greenway easement from Roanoke County, the design plans for Glade Creek Greenway Phase 2 are being prepared by the Hurt & Proffitt engineering firm hired by the town through a competitive selection process,” she said.
Phase 2 will extend from Walnut Avenue to Gus Nicks Boulevard in Vinton.
“Additionally, the town also received the Regional Surface Transportation Program (RSTP) grant funding to provide bicycle and pedestrian accommodations along Walnut Avenue from 5th Street to Roanoke City Limits,” McMillan said.
According to Belcher, the effort to initiate a greenway program began in 1993 when local citizens of the non-profit Valley Beautiful Foundation in Roanoke became interested in projects they had seen in other states. They met with city officials to encourage development of greenways in conjunction with replacement of sewer lines. Bringing in such speakers as Ed McMahon, director of the American Greenways Program, and Sam Rogers, Tennessee Greenway founder, they began an effort to educate officials and the public on the benefits of greenways.
In the spring of 1995, these citizens persuaded the four local governments in Roanoke City, Salem, Roanoke County, and Vinton to appoint representatives to a Greenways/Open Space Steering Committee. This Steering Committee began by taking field trips to North Carolina and Tennessee to see other communities’ efforts. Convinced that a greenway plan was needed, they persuaded the localities to fund services of a professional greenway planner. The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission facilitated this process and hired the Roanoke Valley Greenway coordinator.
In 1995, the Steering Committee moved to involve the public in greenway planning with public workshops. Using public input on routes and priorities, Greenways, Inc. completed the Conceptual Greenway Plan for the Roanoke Valley in December 1995 and began implementation of a pilot project the following year.
An application for funding under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) was filed for Mill Mountain Greenway, a cross-jurisdictional route from the Roanoke City market to Explore Park.
The committee also convinced the four jurisdictions to fund a staff position to assist with greenway efforts around the valley and Belcher was hired in 1996, working out of the regional Fifth Planning District Commission office.
The Greenways Steering Committee, originally appointed for one year, initiated organization of several groups to carry on the greenway effort. The Roanoke Valley Greenway Commission was established by the signing of an Intergovernmental Agreement on Earth Day, April 19, 1997, and serves as an advisory body with appointed citizen and staff representatives from each jurisdiction. The Commission’s role is to facilitate coordinated planning, development, and maintenance of the greenway network.
A second group for citizens, called Pathfinders for Greenways, was incorporated to be a nonprofit, volunteer organization to assist with greenway education and promotion, volunteer coordination for construction and maintenance, and fund raising.
In addition, the newly formed Western Virginia Land Trust made greenway protection one of its priorities. These three groups work with the local governments, which retain responsibility for oversight of construction and management within their jurisdictions.
As part of its responsibilities, the Greenway Commission is required to periodically revise a greenway plan for the Roanoke Valley.
Voting members of the Greenway Commission include participants from each government involved, a representative from the Metropolitan Planning Organization, and one from Pathfinders for Greenways. Other non-voting members include one representative each from the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy, the Western Virginia Water Authority, and the Roanoke Valley Alleghany Regional Commission, as well as members from other interested organizations.
Vinton’s voting members are Anita McMillan, Councilwoman Janet Scheid, Bud LaRoche, and Rob Lyon.
The Commission meets on the fourth Wednesday of most months at 4 p.m. in the Commission office at 1206 Kessler Mill Road in Salem. Meetings of the Commission and its committees are open to the public. Meetings and other events are posted on the Roanoke Valley Greenways web site http://greenways.org.
The annual Gallop for the Greenways fundraiser is scheduled for May 11 and 12. This is an annual event to support the growing network of pedestrian and bicycle trails. Home base this year will be at the River’s Edge Sports Complex in Roanoke City.
The King and Queen of the Greenway One Miler gets under way on Friday, May 11 at 6 p.m. On Saturday, May 12, there is a free Kids Fun Run of about half of a mile at 5 p.m. (parents are invited to run with their children), along with the 5K Gallop for the Greenways run and a 1.5 mile walk at 5 p.m.
There will be post-race festivities including presentation of awards, music, food, and beverages proper for adults and children.
Register for the events at www.Gallop4theGreenways.com, which includes complete information on the various races and festivities.