Loudoun Supervisors Embrace ‘Emerald Ribbons’ Parks and Trails System

County supervisors lined up to praise a project to create a system of parks and trails spanning Loudoun during their meeting Thursday.

“Loudoun, you asked for more walking, biking, hiking and equestrian trails and this is your board listening,” said Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge).

The county Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Board will work to create a detailed plan for an interconnected, countywide linear parks and trail system, dubbed “Emerald Ribbons,” with a deadline of June 4. That work would then be incorporated into the county’s new long-term comprehensive plan, which is under development.

A conceptual map prepared by the Piedmont Environmental envisions parks and trails tracing the paths of waterways, the existing W&OD Trail, and reaching to the site of Loudoun’s future state park at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship near Harper’s Ferry.

The plan as proposed would not take any land by eminent domain, instead relying on voluntary donations from private owners and corporations. Many of those areas are along streams and in floodplains, on land where it is not generally legal to develop.

On top of giving the county a network of green spaces, even in its developed suburban areas, based on other communities’ experiences the Emerald Ribbons initiative is expected to increase nearby property values, improve health, draw more tourism, protect natural and historic resources, and even improve safety in nearby communities.

“In the eastern part of the county, we really have very few parks where it’s just meant for green space,” said Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run). “We have parks where there’s fields and such, but we really have few trail parks.”

“The public was invited four times by the county over the last year and a half to give their opinion about the future of Loudoun County, and each time, the residents throughout the entire county have overwhelmingly wanted more parks and trails,” said Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition co-founder Al Van Huyck, referring to public input session on the new comprehensive plan. “Tonight, you have the opportunity to respond by approving this study.”

However, Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn), who brought the proposal to the board with County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), cautioned “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

“One of the things I learned in my last eight years on this board is that making these kinds of things is a lot more difficult than we realize,” Buona said, adding “hopefully the landowners will see the benefits of a linear trails system and work with us.” In particular, he said, it will be difficult to avoid missing links in the system.

And although the county anticipates being able to get that land relatively cheap in Loudoun terms, Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) said it would still cost money.

“We will be relying on [data centers] and our other corporate citizens to help provide significant revenues for this initiative, and we will need significant revenue for it,” Umstattd said.

Although the county is known for having both development and green spaces, Loudoun has relatively little county-owned parkland and only 87 miles of hiking trails. That falls short of the county’s own suggested standard of 0.65 miles per 1,000 residents, or about 260 miles for about 400,000 residents.

“We’ll get this done, and I think 20 years from now people are going to look back and say, ‘man, those people were really smart back then in 2019,” Buona said.

Supervisor voted to start that work 8-0-1, with Randall absent.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

4 thoughts on “Loudoun Supervisors Embrace ‘Emerald Ribbons’ Parks and Trails System

  • 2019-01-18 at 5:27 pm
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    If you’re a private landowner, be afraid. If you care about wildlife in Loudoun, be very afraid.

    No matter what these people promise, they’ll end up stealing private property.

  • 2019-01-21 at 4:34 am
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    Ask yourself what the gun grabbers Buffington, Letnournea and Meyers gain with these trails? Surely there will be restrictions placed on the discharge of firearms near these trails. Just remember how the eminent domain has worked to fill in missing links with roads and do not for one instance believe they BoS would hesitate to take properties to complete this system.

  • 2019-01-22 at 1:39 pm
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    Conceptually, I like the idea but I don’t see how you pull off having thousands of landowners donating land absent condemnation.

    That said, if it comes to fruition, a suggestion is to make the trails wide enough to handle its use. WOD is so pitifully narrow it is uncomfortable to use given the amount of cycling traffic.

  • 2019-01-23 at 11:40 am
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    Big Thank You to these organizations who did the work so Loudoun sustains it’s natural beauty for it’s citizens to enjoy and protect the environment at the same time.

    Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition Member Organizations
    ( https://loudouncoalition.org/coalition-members/ )
    350 Loudoun
    Aldie Heritage Association
    Banshee Reeks Chapter of the Archeological Society of Virginia
    Bike Loudoun
    Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship
    Blue Ridge Mountain Civic Association
    Catoctin Coalition
    Catoctin Creek Scenic River Advisory Committee
    Citizens Committee for the Cavalry Battles of Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville
    Edwin Washington Project
    Friends of Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve
    Friends of Bluemont
    Friends of Claude Moore Park
    Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains
    Friends of the Mt. Zion Cemetery
    George C. Marshall Center at Dodona Manor
    Goose Creek Association
    Goose Creek Historic District
    Journey Through Hallowed Ground
    Land Trust of Virginia
    Leesburg Garden Club
    Lincoln Community League
    Lincoln Preservation Foundation
    Loudoun Archaeological Foundation
    Loudoun Committee for a Sustainable Society
    Loudoun County Civil War Round Table
    Loudoun Equine Alliance
    Loudoun Heritage Consortium
    Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum
    Loudoun Preservation Society
    Loudoun Watershed Watch
    Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy
    Lovettsville Historical Society
    Mosby Heritage Area Association
    Oatlands Historic House & Gardens
    Piedmont Chapter, Virginia Native Plant Society
    Piedmont Environmental Council
    Purcellville Historical Society
    Route 15 Project/Catoctin Coalition
    Save Old Sterling
    Save Rural Loudoun
    Short Hill Historical Society
    Snickersville Turnpike Association
    Sterling Historical and Heritage Preservation Committee
    Sustainable Loudoun
    Unison Preservation Society
    Waterford Citizens Association
    Waterford Foundation

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