By Alex Bridges
Avid walkers and bicyclists can expect Warren County's Eastham Park Trail to grow longer this summer.
Construction of the project's second phase should begin soon, according to County Administrator Douglas Stanley.
Grants and Special Projects Coordinator Brandy Rosser said by email Wednesday the county gave the contractor, Kickin' Asphalt, of Strasburg, the go-ahead to proceed on the next phase. Construction is estimated to take 30-60 days, according to Rosser.
The first phase of Eastham Park Trail follows a path along the South Fork of the Shenandoah River south to the Norfolk Southern Railroad. The second phase adds approximately ½ mile to the existing trail, beginning at the railroad track and curving around the southern end of Skyline High School. Phase II ends at Skyline Vista Drive, according to Rosser.
Stanley noted that a need for trails remains a high priority for the county.
Since taking over the parks and recreational facilities in 2000, the county has constructed other trails, such as Carson Trail by the Front Royal Golf Club. The county also envisions extending the Eastham Park Trail north.
"Phase I of the Eastham Park really shows you what we can do on the Avtex site once we're allowed to do that, and that we'd be able to continue it on and up through the Avtex site to the north," Stanley said.
Eastham Park Trail ties in with the larger Royal Shenandoah Greenway project that connects walking, hiking and biking paths through the county and town.
At a Front Royal Town Council meeting Monday, Vice Mayor N. Shae Parker asked Stanley if the county would work with Norfolk Southern to see if the railroad company could open up a spur in the area of Manassas Avenue and 6th Street for part of the trail. Stanley told council he didn't want to pursue that route because the railroad had been working well with the county to allow for the trail to cross under the trestle by the river - a task not previously thought possible.
For years, the town has worked with the railroad to see if the company would grant Front Royal an easement along the spur. Council brought up the issue at a recent work session attended by railroad representatives, but the railroad representatives said such an easement did not seem likely. The railroad still uses the section of track in the spur.
Despite paying for some of the costs, most of the revenue for the trail project comes from other sources.
The engineer estimated the second phase would cost $229,407.
However, the lowest bid, submitted by the Strasburg firm, came in at $278,291, Rosser said. The county had received a grant of $216,000 from the Virginia Department of Transportation's Transportation Enhancement Program, now called the Transportation Alternatives Program. When the bid came in higher than estimated, the county transferred $47,884 from the VDOT grant awarded for the project's third phase to help cover the cost to construct the second trail section, according to Rosser.
The county submitted a second grant application to VDOT in an effort to make up for the funding taken from phase III, Rosser said. VDOT typically announces awards for the program in June, she said.
The total price of $278,291 includes $253,884 in federal funding committed to the project and the required local match of $63,471, according to Rosser. Design costs and in-kind services provided by the county's Parks and Recreation Department staff will cover the local requirement, Rosser said.
Designs show phase III continues from Skyline Vista Drive to Criser Road, near the town's trail. The beginning of phase III at Skyline Vista Drive also connects to the Shenandoah National Park Trail.
As Stanley explained, the county's trail would serve a wider group of users, including bicyclists, because it has pavement. The trail also features other amenities that may attract nature enthusiasts.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org