Mayor: ‘Reasons to be optimistic’ about rails to trails project

WOODSTOCK – Those hoping to be able to walk, bike or run from town to town in parts of the valley will be pleased to know that the rails to trails committee created by Woodstock Mayor Jeremy McCleary is hard at work trying to make that happen.

Rails to trails works to take defunct or seldom-used portions of railroad infrastructure and transition them into walking, running and biking trails in communities throughout the country. McCleary designed the committee to explore the viability of implementing such a trail in the Woodstock area.

Don Hindman is the chair of that committee. On Tuesday,  he emphasized that the council is exploratory in nature and in no way an indication of a forthcoming trail, but that he and others will do what they can to try to bring a trail to the valley.

“We’re in the information gathering stage still and we probably will be for a good while longer,” Hindman said. “These projects are big. We’re all very enthusiastic about it. It’s a hard road to go down. There’s a lot of potential landmines and goldmines. … We don’t have a budget yet. We’re not taking any donations because we don’t have that status yet. We’re looking into all the things we need to do. We have a strategic plan meeting that we hope to do in the next few months.”

The stretch in question is a roughly 17-mile long bit of Norfolk Southern-owned railroad near Woodstock, Hindman said. The committee, which has met four times since its inception, is gathering information at this point.

“Our committee is just in its infancy and what we don’t know is vast, but we do have a vision,” Hindman said. “We’ve seen some of these things come to fruition in other communities and we say why not Woodstock? Why not Strasburg? Why not Edinburg? Why not our valley?”

McCleary acknowledged that the project has its challenges, but was very positive about the process, namely the economic benefits that would be felt by such a trail.

“I think there’s reason to be optimistic about this,” McCleary said. “There’s a lot of interest in our community about the potential project. I think this could be great for tourism and we had the Bike Virginia, that was a big boost to our tourism and our restaurants were packed, hotels were packed and if we were to have a rails to trails, you could have the sort of impact on a regular basis with people coming out to visit from all over.”

He also said that compromise between the town and Norfolk Southern is critical to the future of such a venture.

“We can only control things on our end. It will take some cooperation from Norfolk Southern, but I think there’s reason to be optimistic,” he said. “Any way we can work with Norfolk Southern, that would be very positive.”

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com.


Correction: This article has been corrected.  Comments from Don Hindman about the project were made during a telephone interview and not during a meeting.