Quarry Expansion Raises Trail Questions

A proposal to expand the Luck Stone quarry pit near Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park has raised questions not only about protecting the wetlands around Goose Creek, but about the potential for a trail along the state scenic river.

The quarry owners have applied to the county to expand the pit by 27 acres to the west, and reduce the quarry pit limits by 13 acres to the south. In the land where the quarry limits are to be reduced—having never actually been dug up—the owners propose developing Google data centers.

Goose Creek, which runs between Luck Stone quarry pits, is one of the stream valleys targeted in the new county comprehensive plan for a system of trails and linear parks across the county, part of what is sometimes called “Emerald Ribbons.” The applicant in this case has offered to provide the county a 14-foot-wide easement along Goose Creek—between the two quarry sites, within a 300-foot buffer around the creek—whenever another easement is connected to the north of the property. Goose Creek already connects to a trail easement on the southern end of the property.

Eventually, there are plans for a trail connecting to the W&OD Trail to the north.

But some people wondered why the easement should wait.

“Why do we need to wait for somebody off-site to have a connection before this is done?” said Gem Bingol of the Piedmont Environmental Council during a Feb. 12 public hearing. “The Emerald Ribbons project, or linear parks and trails, won’t happen if everybody’s waiting for somebody else to do something.” She also expressed the council’s concerns about possible impacts to water quality in Goose Creek and in the nearby Goose Creek reservoir.

“Let’s dream big,” said Dennis Kruse of Bike Loudoun, pushing supervisors to do more for the trail. “We have the opportunity to truly create a unique asset of stream valley parks, or what many of us refer to as Emerald Ribbons, that can be enjoyed not only by us but many future generations. Please take the time to do this one right, provide the county the necessary linear parks that could be obtained now, but [would be] much more difficult to get in the future.”

But county staff members have recommended approving the plan, saying the applicant has satisfied their concerns about environmental protection. That includes a 200-foot setback from storing “overburden”—which could include piles of coal, lumber, and building materials—near floodplains, and 50-foot buffers around steep slopes on the property.

Supervisors largely applauded the application. Supervisor Caleb A. Kershner (R-Catoctin) called it a perfect example of various industries and government working together.”

“Everybody wants to see our parks and our trails open and eventually, ultimately, correctly, and I hope various industries that are represented here will keep that in mind as we go forward,” he said.

“If you look at the overall map of the linear park and trails program, it could be such a draw to Loudoun County,” said Supervisor Michael R. Turner (D-Ashburn). “It could be such a signature project, and I would really like Luck Stone and Google to really think seriously in the near term about associating your brand with a signature linear park system that will be second to none in the U.S. when it’s finished.”

But Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian) pushed to defer a decision a few weeks to continue work on the application. Although that was unsuccessful, she asked county staff members work with Luck Stone to expand the width of the trail easement from 14 feet to 50 feet.

Supervisors were expected to approve the application at their meeting tonight, Feb. 18.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

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