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Trail advocates ask county to support state purchase of DHRT trail as a park

Deed contains restrictions that make it unlikely for state acceptance

David Jones is one of several proponents petitioning King George to support the purchase of the Dahlgren Heritage Railroad Trail (DHRT) by the state to make it into a state park.

Jones is the president of the Friends of the DHRT. He was among seven speakers in favor of the idea at last week’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors on March 20.

The others were Ed Veazey, Warren Veazey, Sylvia Hudson, Gary Golden, James Lynch and Paula Van

Alstine.  

At the same meeting, five speakers stated opposition about the trail becoming a public park, with four of them also stating their concerns about its current use, saying that it results in trespassers and trash on their adjacent property, among other complaints including personal safety issues, vandalism and noise. Those speaking in opposition were Gail Gullotta, Dick Asbell, Joy DeBernard, Tom Kramer and Pam Bramel.

PETITION
The petition provided by Jones and posted on the DHRT website states in part, “Please help us make the DRHT a part of the state park system. The approval of the King George County Board of Supervisors will allow us to go forward and seek grant funds to enable the trail to become a better public resource.” As of this week, there were 440 electronic signatures on the petition.

Warren Veazey was on the meeting agenda to provide a presentation about the request. Veazey’s slide presentation to Supervisors ended saying, “Please send a letter of support to the DCR asking them to purchase the property and make it a State Park.”

His slide reference to the idea of getting the state to purchase the property was in contrast to the speakers at the meeting and comments from the website and copy presented to the board, instead asking supervisors to “approve” or “accept” the trail.

COUNTY COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
Several years ago, the Board of Supervisors took the stance to not include the trail as a public recreation asset in the county Comprehensive Plan for land use because it is privately owned and a “permit-required” trail.

Access to and use of the trail is prohibited without a valid DRHT Recreational Use Permit that must be obtained from the owner David Brickley.

That current county plan is now under review by the Planning Commission with revisions being considered for the next update on which public hearings will be held later this year.

At its last joint meeting with the Board of Supervisors on the topic this past October 2011, there was consensus from supervisors to make no changes to include language about the Dahlgren trail in the county Comprehensive Plan for land use.  

Several reasons were cited, including that it goes through peoples’ backyards and the terminus points no longer exist to connect it to other trails.

NUMEROUS DEED RESTRICTIONS
Supervisor John LoBuglio is the primary opponent to the trail on the Board. At the meeting, he questioned Veazey about ownership of the trail, saying that no one has been able to locate a record at the county Clerk’s office that it had been sold by Joe Williams to Brickley.  (See “Background” below.)
Veazey stated that it had been sold to Brickley with Williams retaining some media rights “underneath it” and utility easements. LoBuglio said restrictions would deter the state from wanting to acquire it.

This week, a copy of the 2008 “Deed of Conveyance and Easements, Reservations, Covenants & Restrictions” was supplied by Jones to members of the Board of Supervisors. That document lays out several restrictions, including a 30-foot wide perpetual and exclusive utility easement down the centerline of the entire property retained by Williams. Among numerous other restrictions, it states that the property “shall not contain any paved trail portions that exceed 12 feet in width (except for parking). There are also several reservations regarding future profits that would accrue to Williams, including payment to him of 75 percent of any proceeds above the sale price of $442,500, in the event of any future sale of all or a portion of the property.

The deed is a public document and has been posted here.

BACKGROUND ON THE TRAIL
The 15.7-mile private hiking and biking trail is on a former CSX railroad bed, which runs northeast from Route 605 in Sealston through most of the length of the northern portion of King George County, nearly to US 301.

The railroad corridor had been established in 1942 by the United States government by condemnation, as part of the World War II war effort. It was acquired in 1964 by the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railway Company (RF&P). In 1992, RF&P sold it to CSX Transportation, Inc. In 1997, CSX sold the land to King George resident Joe Williams. In 1997, Williams sold a portion (13.28 Acres) of the rail bed to Monmouth West Limited Partnership.

David Brickley acquired the rights to the trail from Williams in 2005. And purchased it from Williams in 2008 for $442,500. Brickley is a former Director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. With assistance from a group of county residents, Brickley and volunteers converted the rail bed to a hiking and biking trail.

VA OUTDOORS PLAN
Trail proponents want the trail to be included in the Virginia Outdoors Plan. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is conducting a series of meetings across the state to gather public input for development of the 2013 Virginia Outdoors Plan.

The Virginia Outdoors Plan is the Commonwealth’s comprehensive plan for meeting the state’s needs for outdoor recreation, land conservation and open space. The plan is reviewed and revised every five years, with the current plan developed in 2007.

As a result of community input last time around, the state’s current, 2007 Outdoors Plan, posted at the state website contains no mention of the DRHT. It was mentioned in a previous version. There is information about a corridor that contains what is called the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail (PHNST).

About the section that runs through a portion of the localities in this region (Planning District 16), the state plan says, “The 50-mile segment of the PHNST in Region 16, following the Potomac River through King George and Stafford counties, will link the area to state and county parks, wildlife refuges and wetlands. It will provide access to historical and cultural features along with marinas, schools, commercial areas and neighborhoods along the Potomac River waterfront. A link to the City of Fredericksburg is included in the plan, and a link to Barnesfield
Park in King George County is recommended.”

The current 2007 Virginia Outdoors Plan can be viewed online at www.dcr.virginia.gov/recreational_planning/vop.shtml

 

Phyllis Cook

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