Shenandoah County residents voice concerns about the Shenandoah Rail Trail

Published: May. 6, 2023 at 12:04 AM EDT
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TOMS BROOK, Va. (WHSV) - Shenandoah County residents voiced some of their concerns about the potential impacts of the Shenandoah Rail Trail.

One of the biggest concerns people had revolved around the money backing the project.

“Who is going to end up footing this bill on a yearly basis, maintenance, policing, if the trail comes in... you’re going to have bikes in people’s backyards where they can throw a pop bottle on someone’s back porch. Who’s going to monitor that?” one resident asked. “The taxpayers of Shenandoah County cannot keep on funding funding funding.”

While some did not want the trail being funded with tax dollars, others said that may be best option in terns of regulation of the trail. Another resident explained that private ownership could mean that residents of Shenandoah County could potentially not have a say in what happens to or on it.

“Although we do need to regulate the amount of money we spend, that worries me more than if it goes to an entity like Rails-with-Trails,” he said.

Personal money was not the only discussed. Residents reflected on the fact that whether a rail and trail co-exists or if the trail stands alone, the local economy will be impacted.

Bill Holtzman, a local business man and a supporter of the Rails-with-Trails idea, said taking the rails away would stunt the growth of the County.

“We just don’t have any industry here to help pay the taxes. If we don’t have railroad, we’re never gonna get the industry,” Holtzman said.

He also spoke about how making the railroads active again through short lines freights, commuter trains, and tourist trains could potentially limit the impacts of the projects tot taxpayers since it would eventually pay for itself.

Other attendees questioned why short lines would be a good idea now after the railroad has been inactive for so many years and if the County would even allow the industry to come back.

“You had your rails going through every intersection in this County. This county shut the business down. They didn’t want the industry there. They had the railroad there back then, and all those places are closed and gone... So how’s it going to be feasible if it didn’t work before?” one resident said.

Kevin Walker with the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation charged those in attendance to make the opinions known to the Board of Supervisors before plans for the Rail Trail get finalized.

“I’ll tell you who else isn’t looking at the big picture, the people we’re electing, and we as county residents have got to stop worrying about national politics so much and look at local politics. This is our fault,” Walker said.

Another concern that was spoken about, especially from those living along the trail, was about security.

“Is there any study being done looking into the security of our kids, our animals, our properties? Is there going to be a fence? Who’s responsible for it? What happens when they are using the bathroom in our backyard? Hopefully that stuff doesn’t happen, but you have homeless people, you’ve got drugs. This county is inundated with drugs,” a person living along the current rail said.

One woman who worked in the DC Metro system recalled many similar concerns. She said even though the concern was valid, those concerns never really happened.

There were people at the meeting who did not want the rail of the combination rail and trail, but would rather keep things as they currently are.