Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

What's Next for the Monticello Connectivity Project?

This diagram combines the theory-of-change logic model I designed last year with VDoT's excellent Community Trail Development Guide and is part of the Practicum report's conclusion. Right now, we are in the yellow portion of the process.

The Charlottesville to Monticello Connectivity Study was well-received by many people we respect, including stakeholders in government, non-profits, academia and—best all—the community. We didn’t start this venture but I think we helped move it forward.

The next step is for the stakeholders to prioritize issues we developed and get to work on them and there has already been some progress on that front. A subset of our advisory group got together a few weeks ago and looked at priorities. Here’s some of what they came up with:

Our plan recommends building a full network of connections, but some segments are easier or more important, so we suggest a phased approach. (Map layout by Monticello Practicum Team) [Details about all routes]

  1. The Old Monticello Road route, with a side spur along the Blue Ridge Hospital site to the current Monticello-Saunders Trail head (segments 6 and 3 on the Phasing Map) is appealing and worth pursuing. (Note: this intriguing route inspired the whole process.) Engineering for the complicated tunnel/stream-crossing is essential so the next step will be a detailed feasibility study and getting that funded/scheduled is the next order of business.
  2. The Piedmont Environmental Council and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission recently received a grant for regional trail advocacy and planning. This could dovetail well with that effort. At the same time, the TJPDC has finally gotten to work on their regional bike/ped master plan and this can contribute to it, as was our original strategy. It’s great to see that convergence--it's exactly what needs to happen. More on that soon.
  3. We kept hearing from the community (and we all agree) that Piedmont Virginia Community College is a critical piece at the center of everything. It is a very significant destination in its own right but also an important connective opportunity. In combination with the several nearby schools and other public uses, it is a recreational resource that looks and acts just like a park, with several quasi-formal trails that can, with a few improvements, connect populations to opportunities (1 and 2 above). PVCC needs to be brought into the conversation as soon as possible and will probably be the next actual thing we do.
  4. The Avon Corridor (segments 4 and 5 above) is also a crucial link and a high priority. The sections of that route that need improvement are almost entirely in the County, so a multi-party process is not needed for that and the County is already working on it. We will contribute any way that we can.
  5. The Woolen Mills connection (segment 8) will be addressed in conjunction with a future Rivanna River crossing.
  6. Adding bike/pedestrian facilities to Route 20 (segment 7) remains on the map, in conjunction with an interchange redesign. But connectivity will not need to wait for that--priority #1 above will also address the goal.

It would be fairly easy to link PVCC (and its parking and neighborhood connections) to the Saunders-Monticello Trail. (Visualization by Julie Murphy)

For my part, I plan to pursue a few different angles:
  1. I will find a way to present the Practicum report to PVCC and get them involved. I’m working with Dan Mahon (the County’s Trail Manager) and others on what that involvement might look like. PVCC has a new Campus Plan that makes little mention of connectivity or accessibility but actually can be quite harmonious with our goals. I'm already scheduled to present to Preservation Piedmont this today.
  2. I will be keeping an eye on the emerging trail planner/advocate role. Successful projects tend to have a single point-of-contact champion or institution—and it seems right up my alley.
  3. We'll keep tabs on the engineering study as it moves from idea to action.
  4. I think we should reach out to Carter Mountain Orchard about re-examining their no-pedestrians-or-bikes policy. They used to be relaxed about it but had issues with pedestrians on their the road, which is steep and can induce white-knuckles. But now that both Monticello and Highland have well-made trails that approach their fence line, there are some exciting possibilities for Carter’s Mountain as both connection and as a food/drink/fun destination for trail users.
  5. Aaaannnnnd I’m working with a team of Morven interns and staff to study the feasibility of trails to/at Morven, with a connection to James Monroe's Highland and potentially with our network too. That is going to be cool--and the subject of my next story. 

Hypothetical route for a trail extending to Morven via Highland. (Map layout by Maura Harris)

Lots going on.

Update: Piedmont Environment Council is hosting a webinar and discussion entitled, "Getting to "Yes" on Greenway Trails in Your Community" on Thursday, July 20. There will be good information and some good allies for anyone interested in these topics. [info]

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