STRASBURG — The town is on board with the idea of a Rails to Trails program in Shenandoah County.
At a Thursday night meeting of the town’s Recreation, Parks and Trails Committee, Vice Mayor Scott Terndrup spoke of the town’s intention to pursue a partnership with about 40 other community representatives hoping to set up a trail system using old and unused railroad tracks.
It’s part of an effort that other communities around the country have already put into practice, Terndrup said.
“My purpose tonight is to announce that Strasburg is a part of this,” he said.
The Shenandoah Rail Trail Partnership has been in discussion since 2008, Terndrup said, but it wasn’t until last fall that representatives from Shenandoah and Rockingham counties and all other localities between Strasburg and Broadway gathered to discuss how to make it a reality.
Impressed by what he heard and saw at the gathering, Terndrup, who attended with Town Manager Wyatt Pearson, said the idea received universal support.
“Everyone concerned with where the railroad line connects from Strasburg to Broadway were in this room,” he said. “I’ve never seen it before in all my years of public service, but all 40 people there were in agreement about something, even lunch. They all said, ‘Yeah, we want to do this.’”
Still in the preliminary stages, the Shenandoah Rail Trail Partnership will require support from the Norfolk Southern Railway, which owns the railroad lines.
“Basically, we have to deal with the railroad,” Terndrup said. “How can we convince the railroad that it would be in their interest to donate this to the public for public use?”
In spite of the challenges, which would also include the cost of tearing out tracks to fill in with a footpath and bike trail, Terndrup expressed excitement for those who support the project.
He said the group hopes to remain a grassroots, unincorporated “coalition of public, private and nonprofit organizations” that would purposefully not be organized into a nonprofit.
“It wants to raise awareness right now,” he said. “It wants to get the entire Shenandoah Valley on board with what I think is obvious on its face: this would be a great idea for all of us.”