For three decades, the Town of Round Hill has been responsible for maintenance of the 200-foot-long pedestrian tunnel that passes underneath Rt. 7 and connects the town with Lakepoint Village. But until recently, existing town leaders had no idea the tunnel was a town liability.
The tunnel, which has been used as the area’s largest graffiti canvas for 30 years, connects Newberry Crossing Place on the north side of Rt. 7 with Marbury Street to the south via a pedestrian path. It offers residents a convenient and safe way to walk in and out of the town but hasn’t been the cleanest route of travel in recent years.
That’s because the existing Town Council and town staff was unaware of the maintenance agreement the town entered with VDOT in March 1989, in which VDOT allowed the town to build the tunnel if it agreed to also maintain it. Mayor Scott Ramsey said town leaders were under the impression that the Round Hill Owners Association was responsible for it, since it was named in the HOA’s rezoning proffers.
But recently, VDOT produced the decades-old agreement, prompting the town to resume maintenance.
Ramsey said he discussed the situation with HOA President Joe Luppino-Esposito and that the town agreed to assume responsibility for the tunnel and would repaint it “very soon.”
Luppino-Esposito said he hopes the fresh coat of paint will last longer that it did a few years ago when the HOA painted it on a Monday and woke up Tuesday to find graffiti that read,“thanks for the blank canvas.”
Moving forward, Ramsey said the town would repaint the tunnel as often as necessary and encourage the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office to deter future vandalism with targeted enforcement.
Aside from the aesthetics inside the tunnel, the HOA also recently cleared brush from areas around the entrances and plans to remove graffiti from the trail.“We want to work cooperatively with the town and with the county,” Luppino-Esposito said.
In the more long-term, Ramsey said the town might seek a zoning determination from the county regarding the proffers to see who should be responsible for the tunnel’s maintenance moving forward. But that won’t happen until the town and HOA complete the necessary short-term maintenance.
“Neither of us want any disagreement over final responsibility to deter necessary maintenance,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey said the town, HOA, county and state all agree that permanent lighting should be installed in the tunnel, since it’s a key connection in the town’s and county’s long-awaited Franklin Park Trail Project—a project that will see a selected construction firm install sidewalks and trails linking Round Hill’s Main Street and Loudoun Street with Purcellville’s Franklin Park by October 2021, with work set to begin in April next year.
Ramsey said the town would take the lead on identifying and designing the lights and associated power connection and plans to request funding assistance for those lights from the county once it finalizes a design.
As for the notion that the tunnel will almost inevitably be vandalized in the future, one option to deter it could involve the implementation of an art competition among area school students. Luppino-Esposito said the HOA previously tried to get schools to participate in such a program, but none would commit because of the responsibility to purchase paint and other supplies.