Markus Schmidt reported in today’s Times-Dispatch that “the Chesterfield County Planning Commission signed off on a draft plan that calls for 360 miles of new bicycle pathways and trails throughout the county.”
The final hurdle for the ambitious plan is a vote by the County Board of Supervisors. But the interesting thing about yesterday’s approval is that despite the plan receiving broad support, there was a vocal group in opposition.
Wrote Schmidt: John Pettengill with the Chesterfield Patriot Caucus, a group of local conservative activists, called the plan a “progressive entitlement” that only a minority of county residents will use.
And: Howard Nester Jr., president of the Chesterfield Farm Bureau, asked the commission to postpone a decision on the proposal. “Some of us look at this plan and see parts that are good but think that it’s incomplete,” Nester said. “This is a 50-year plan, there is no inflation in the cost of building or maintaining this. I don’t understand why we are in a hurry to do this process; we need to get this right.”
Those of us who are active cyclists, both recreationally and for commuting, could tell Nester why Chesterfield should “be in a hurry” to produce more amenities. Because there aren’t many of them currently, and the benefits of making a region more bicycle and pedestrian friendly are legion. Luckily, as Schmidt reported, many at the meeting explained that to Nester and Pettengill.
Ken Robertson, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army and an avid cyclist, said the plan had a “great ability to attract talent to the area and businesses that want to locate here.”
Jo Gehlbach with the Richmond Association of Realtors said that property values increase when they are adjacent to bike trails and paths, and Ashley Mann of Midlothian said that “building out these trails will improve the quality for all of us.”
Project Manager Heather Barrar said it all when she said that “the interest (in bike trails) is more than we have ever seen in the county.”
The Board of Supervisors has set its public hearing on the bike plan for Nov. 18, and a few board members have set up community meetings in their districts. If you live in Chesterfield County and you support a more bike/pedestrian-friendly approach to transportation in the county, now’s the time to make your voice heard.