Town cuts ribbon on trail

By Alex Bridges

Front Royal leaders celebrate the official opening of a town trail Monday.

Town Council and staff plan to commemorate the completion of the first two phases of the Happy Creek Trail project by holding a ribbon cutting at 6 p.m. in the Royal Plaza Shopping Center parking lot on U.S. 522.

The town and its contractor completed the phases of the trail along Remount Road and Commerce Avenue from East Criser Road to Prospect Street — a little more than a half mile.

The concept of the Happy Creek Trail came up about 30 years ago, Town Manager Steve Burke said. The town built the first phase of the trail on South Commerce Street (U.S. 522) from Main Street to Prospect Street.

Front Royal began construction of the first phase of the trail, from Main Street to Prospect Street, years ago. But it took more time for the town to secure the land — easements and rights-of-way — needed for the next section of the trail. The town split the next phase into two sections. Front Royal workers constructed the first section from Prospect Street to South Street beginning in the summer of 2013. Racey Paving & Excavating of Woodstock built the second section from South Street to Criser Road from October 2013 to February.

Front Royal continues to work on the rest of the trail. Town officials are determining what easements and rights-of-way Front Royal would need to obtain to build the next phase of the project along Criser Road. The town would be responsible for the portion of the trail section in Front Royal. Warren County would handle the rest of the trail on Criser Road.

Phase II of the Happy Creek Trail cost approximately $130,000. The town spent about $20,000 on its portion of the trail from Criser Road to South Prospect Street. Front Royal did not receive grant money for the Happy Creek Trail project.

Burke said the town would be looking for grant opportunities that could help pay for the cost of the remaining trail work on Criser Road.

The Happy Creek Trail and other connections are part of the larger Royal Shenandoah Greenway, an initiative spurred by the Front Royal Tree Stewards.

Warren County has completed the first two phases of its Eastham Park Trail planned to connect with Greenway. Phase I runs from Front Royal’s pocket park on Luray Avenue to the Norfolk Southern Railroad crossing. The second phase extends from the crossing to Skyline Vista Drive.

The final phase extends the trail to the intersection of Skyline Vista Drive and U.S. 340-522. Trail users can cross U.S. 340-522 east into Shenandoah National Park. Warren County Grants and Special Projects Coordinator Brandy Rosser said intersections would be upgraded for pedestrian safety.

The county’s trail plans call for the addition of a sidewalk along the west side of U.S. 340-522 from Skyline Vista Drive to Criser Road.

Warren County received $252,549 in transportation enhancement grants to help cover the cost of the third phase of the project.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com