Submitted by Nancy Harris, Lewisburg
City of Lewisburg officials and city council, past and present, have worked hard to obtain financing for the anticipated water system upgrade. We are all beneficiaries of their efforts, directly or indirectly, and they deserve our praise and appreciation. To those city officials: We are very grateful for your efforts!
Part of the water system improvement project adversely impacts 2 miles of the Greenbrier River Trail from the pump station at mile 3.8 on the Trail (which is just 7/10’s of a mile from the beginning of the Trail in Caldwell) to Harper Rd. at mile 5.8. As a daily Trail user, I have concerns for the Trail for the immediate and the long term future.
My points of concern are:
1) Keeping the trail open and usable as much as possible during the construction period, by asking the contractors to be considerate of people using the Trail before and after work hours and on weekends and holidays AND whenever possible, during the workday. That respectful arrangement worked well in 2017 when the entire width of the Trail for a 10 mile distance was being rebuilt after the serious damage caused by torrential rains in 2016. That coexistent type of arrangement has also worked for Trail repairs of shorter duration and it has reportedly worked elsewhere when similar types of projects were being undertaken. It means trail users must be alert, careful and considerate of construction workers and vice versa. There needs to be signage warning Trail users of the 2 miles of disruption ahead and the fact that they need to use extra caution. Only a small portion of the 2 mile distance will be an active work zone at any given time. Trail users only need a narrow path through the active construction zone. The construction crew needs to be alerted to the fact that people will be using the Trail while they’re not there, so they can leave a pathway for Trail users, just a narrow portion of the Trail, unencumbered by tools and equipment, dirt, rocks, and debris, to the degree possible.
2) Expediting the project to minimize the length of time the Trail will be disturbed. The Lewisburg Water System Improvement Project is a huge project and only part of the project involves the Trail. Get that part done as quickly as possible. Dig it up, move the dirt out, and fill in the ditches as expeditiously as possible, and restore the surface of the Trail to its current condition. Better yet, consider laying the pipe on the existing stable surface of the Trail and covering it with the recommended layers of stone, which would be advantageous to the Trail for drainage purposes, would eliminate the problem of getting past the culverts, would eliminate the need to dig, chip, pound, blast, and haul off rock and dirt, and it would eliminate the potential disaster of a sinkhole or diverting subterranean aquifers, and would only need a 500 foot gradual slope at either end to maintain the 1% grade of the Trail and be almost imperceptible to Trail users. Win/win.
3) Mitigation: the Trail is being damaged by a project of the City of Lewisburg. There will be subsidence, sinking and grooving, in the 2 mile disturbed section of the Trail, for several years after the waterline project ends. The city, as the perpetrator of the damage, needs to monitor and repair the Trail surface for those several years. State Parks does not have the money to adequately maintain the Trail as it is, and this will be an added burden that State Parks shouldn’t have to bear. Mitigation is a normal part of repayment for the use and disruption of a public and environmentally fragile and vital area. As mitigation, we are also asking that the City of Lewisburg coordinate efforts with WV DNR/State Parks to pave 7/10’s of a mile of the Trail from Stonehouse Rd. to the pump house, to make that portion of the Trail more accessible for people with mobility impairments, those who use walkers and wheelchairs.
4) Communication: City officials and city council need to be open, receptive, upfront, honest, and communicative with the Trail using public, about the waterline project and how it will affect the Trail, and they need to be open to suggestions as to how the adverse effects can be minimized. City officials need to appreciate how important the Trail is to the health and well being of those of us who use it regularly and how important it is to those who benefit from the business it brings to the area. The Trail offers a less impactful surface than asphalt, a smooth and level surface, a safe, serene, peaceful, beautiful environment, that is healthful and nurturing in a special way. Many Trail users only have a limited amount of time to use the Trail, around busy schedules of work, school and study, and family activities. Osteopathic School students, faculty, and staff are a major constituency in that category. They just do not have the time to drive an additional 30 minutes each way to access the Trail at Anthony. There are also Trail users who cannot afford the expense of driving an additional 30 miles a day to access the Trail at Anthony. And there are daily Trail users who already drive an hour or more from Monroe, Summers, and Mercer counties and from Western Greenbrier County, for whom an extra half hour drive each way to and from Anthony to access the Trail, makes it prohibitive, or at least limits the number of times they can come to the Trail. Parking at Anthony is even more limited than parking at Caldwell. If the City insists on closing the southern end of the Trail, some people from out of state and from other parts of West Virginia, will still come to the Trail, but they will make their home base and take their business to Marlinton and Cass, where lodging, dining, bike sales/service/shuttles, music, arts and crafts, and a warm welcome are readily available within walking and biking distance of the Trail. They can enjoy the Cass Scenic Railroad, Beartown, Droop Mountain Battlefield and Watoga State Parks, Seneca State Forest, the Cranberry Glades and Cranberry back country, the Greenbank Observatory, and all of the activities and amenities of Snowshoe. Their vacation needs will be satisfied elsewhere and they will have no reason to travel 40 or more miles to come to Lewisburg and White Sulphur Springs. That will be a significant financial loss for some businesses and once that tourist traffic is lost, it will take time, effort, and money to get it back.
On behalf of all who use and benefit from the Trail, to whom the Trail is a very special life giving resource, we ask city officials to work with us toward a co-existent mode of Trail use during the construction period, an expedited schedule of construction for the portion of the project that involves the Trail, a willingness to address reasonable mitigation, and an attitude of mutual respect and open communication.
The Greenbrier River Trail may be closed from the pump house at mile 3.8 to Harper Rd. at mile 5.8 (a distance of 2 miles) for as long as 790 days (2 years and 2 months) for the Lewisburg Raw Water Intake Extension project. 24” pipe and conduit will be installed in a 5’ by 5’ ditch dug in that section of Trail. Work may begin as soon as Sept. 19. If this section of the Trail is closed, even during non-work hours and on weekends, it will mean that Trail users will have to go to Keister or Anthony (a 15 mile, 30 min. drive) to access the Trail. If you have concerns about the impending closure of the southern end of the Trail and/or have suggestions about how this might be handled differently, please come to the Lewisburg City Council meeting at City Hall on Tuesday Sept. 20 at 7:00 p.m. to voice your concerns and express your ideas. Be sure to sign in when you arrive. This is NOT about protesting, impeding or delaying the water system improvement project. This is about figuring out ways to maintain Trail access for Trail users during the construction period.