Loudoun Coalition Pushes for Countywide Trails Network

Citing strong public support for the measure, the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition on Wednesday formally kicked off its push to create a countywide, accessible system of linear parks and trails.

The Emerald Ribbons initiative envisions an expanded network of public trails and parks along select roads and waterways.

The effort is rooted in public comments generated during the county government’s effort to create a new comprehensive plan and other forums.

“Loudoun County residents, in various surveys and other forms of public input have indicated a very strong desire for more passive parks, trails and recreational facilities,” the coalition stated in the announcement of the program. “However, capital constraints and high land prices have made fulfillment of these goals difficult. The County’s current inventory of public parkland and accessible trails falls far short of County standards and far short of the levels achieved by other communities.”

The trails network would be part of a broader effort to protect the county’s natural and historic assets. “Those corridors, especially the stream flood plains, which are generally not developable land, could be the foundation for an affordable, interconnected and widely accessible system of linear parks and trails reaching all parts of Loudoun County,” the coalition stated.

While the group has developed a map depicting an expanded network, it envisions the trails to be developed over time through cooperation with developers and other property owners. The goals of the plan aren’t only to protect natural features, but also to increase property values, improve health and quality of life, attract business investment, improve security and even provide alternative transportation access for residents.

Thecommittee that developed the plan included representatives from The Piedmont Environmental Council, the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Bike Loudoun and the Coalition Executive Committee.

The proposed next step for the program is to establish a public/private partnership involving county government, other agencies and organizations and private sector sponsors to develop a detailed plan and work with the public.

Learn more about the proposal here.


The Emerald Ribbons initiative envisions an expanded network of public trails and parks along select roads and waterways.

15 thoughts on “Loudoun Coalition Pushes for Countywide Trails Network

  • 2019-01-02 at 1:41 pm

    The concept sounds great, but how will it actually be accomplished? There are a lot of landowners along all those streams and proposed trails. If one doesn’t cooperate, then you can’t have a trail…unless you are going to condemn their property.

  • 2019-01-02 at 4:45 pm

    Not so sure the concept sounds great. Sounds like the “bell the cat” plan to me. For example, I cannot tell by the map, but it looks like the trail program includes Route 15 North. If so, this is just a game playing move to stop the necessary widening of that road. And how many people want to feel the rush of vehicles going 55 mph within feet of them?

  • 2019-01-02 at 5:59 pm

    Indeed. When was anyone going to mention this to the landowners involved here? This plan involves a lot of prime waterfront private property.

    “Bell the cat.” Good one ole’ buddy Lawgh. Very accurate.

  • 2019-01-02 at 7:57 pm

    While overall this sounds like a great idea please consider a couple of comments; 1.) those areas marked out in green represent pathways wildlife in the County use to seek food and shelter, i.e., their inaccessibility provides safety and access to water. 2.) Inviting human traffic into these spaces raises questions about personal safety as well and begs the question – does the County have sufficient funds and manpower to expand: patrol, rescue and firefighting operations? 3.) Increasing access to these areas will also draw from the local population as well as those outside the immediate areas raising the issues of encroachment camping, maintenance, e.g. pathway integrity, lighting, monitoring, trash removal, fire prevention and assuming the liability for unforeseen mishaps.

  • 2019-01-03 at 11:51 am

    You’re exactly correct RichP. These are critical wildlife travel corridors, habitat and nesting areas, aside from the logistics you mention. That LWC would be involved in such a wholesale destruction of these essential habitat corridors is troubling.

  • 2019-01-03 at 6:51 pm

    This concept is a great way to highlight and promote some of the great natural assets in Loudoun County. The ideas of promoting access while protecting habitat are not mutually exclusive. Rather, it’s a great opportunity of providing access and protecting habitat. And, it is an opportunity to educate citizens about responsible recreation in the outdoors. Humans are a part of nature, and people will value and appreciate nature more when they have access to the outdoors. It seems like a natural fit for LWC to be involved to help ensure trails are designed and built in a sustainable way that protects these habitats while simultaneously encouraging responsible recreation. This seems like a win-win for the citizens of Loudoun County and wildlife habitat.

  • 2019-01-03 at 11:49 pm

    Appears as if the BOS wants to make promises and then turn around and destroy the Transition area by allowing dense housing to come in and take away our green space that matters…the space in our backyards. No thank you. This is just another tactic to divert the attention away from the developers interests to re-zone! LEAVE THE TRANSITION AREA ALONE!!

  • 2019-01-03 at 11:59 pm

    The BOS is trying to divert attention away from their re-zoning of the Transition area and allowing dense housing to come in. Let’s protect our backyards and don’t think that this ‘fairy tale trail’ will ever happen. It is based on the ‘hope’ that landowners will turn-over their land and it it will allow developers to bargain with the county in order to keep them from providing our infrastructure needs by providing ‘trail land’ instead.

  • 2019-01-04 at 9:29 am

    This is a big idea! I think it is a great goal for our community. Something we could all be proud of. Of course no one should be forced to donate their land. All participation should be voluntary.

  • 2019-01-04 at 10:29 am

    MM, please explain how a cleared 12 ft. minimum right of way asphalt bike trail, with hundreds of the corporate logo spandex crowd riding up and down them all day long is going to benefit wildlife along essential habitat corridors such a upper Goose Creek, it’s North Fork, and Catoctin Creek.

    These are some of the last and best contiguous habitat zones left in Loudoun. Much of these riparian areas are rarely intruded upon by humans, which is exactly what makes them so valuable to wildlife. The disturbance to migratory waterfowl alone would be significant.

    Are you aware of the topography of upper Goose Creek? There are areas where no trail will fit without major excavation to the stream banks or building bridges to cross over to more suitable land.
    That would be a good thing for wildlife? How?

    Are you a representative of the LWC? The same LWC that’s laments mowing along our highways in order to create more habitat, yet now supports laying down asphalt through actual essential riparian habitat? I’m confused by such a juxtaposition.
    What of the land owners? Has anyone discussed their willingness to hand over their stream side acreage to tens of thousands of strangers?

    I can see the corporate dominated PEC jumping on this poorly thought out endeavor, but the LWC? I thought far more highly of them. It’s disappointing.

  • 2019-01-04 at 12:55 pm

    This idea is not about building 12 foot wide asphalt trails across the county. Think of a trail system like the Appalachian Trail, the Potomac Heritage Trail, or the trails at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship or Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve.

    This idea is not about disturbing habitat, rather about protecting habitat from future development. It would give the county the ability to have a system and structure in place to have developers set aside land via proffers or easements when they’re building new data centers or subdivisions that could be used for the public benefit while protecting habitat and creating more parks, which the public has asked for.

    No one is talking about taking anybody’s land. All participation would be voluntary. For example, HOA’s that currently have trails could opt in to be part of something greater that would benefit their residents.

    This is a long-term plan thinking about protecting riparian areas as the county grows. There is no magic bullet for how this would be built in any particular area, but thoughtful design and planning will lead to a great natural asset for everyone. And, this plan at least gives the county the option to build something like this. Are we going to stand put, not do anything, and say in another 20 years, man, I wish we had more trails or I wish we would have protected that habitat?

  • 2019-01-05 at 3:32 pm

    No asphalt bike trails? That’s a relief. Thanks for clarifying that Mike. However, even with a AT type trail, it still results in a heap of human intrusion into essential habitat where none exists currently.

    Mike, I’m a riparian landowner. I balance human use, such as camping, canoeing and hunting with the needs of the critters. I have enough trouble keeping strangers out. If I only had a dollar for every pile of trash left behind by trespassers I’ve cleaned up. When folks don’t own things, they don’t care. That can’t be lost on you.

    It’s going to be a tough row to hoe for landowners buying into this. As someone who practices and supports conservation, I wouldn’t be on board to allowing thousands of people to ruin my river banks, and as always, drift off deeper into the habitat of my key river bottom woods. It would impact the animals and disturb their cycles.

    I’m still missing how we preserve riparian zones by opening them to massive human intrusion and impact. As you know, Goose Creek is a state scenic river. It already has a 300 foot buffer. Though voluntary, I have hard time believing there would be any significant development approved inside that area. Shouldn’t we be encouraging landowners to improve habitat, nesting sites, and food sources in these areas, rather than encouraging a human invasion? By leaving these corridors as undisturbed as possible, Mamma Nature will protect and improve them far more so than any human will. I appreciate the reasonable conversation you bring to the table. It’s refreshing.

  • 2019-01-08 at 9:09 pm

    This actually would provide a much needed outdoor trail network in Loudoun and will improve the quality of life for Loudoun residents. It will also add environmental and real estate value for all. Let’s do this!

  • 2019-01-11 at 12:11 pm

    What about the “quality of life” for Loudoun’s wildlife?

    How, exactly, would this increase real estate values?

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