CHARLES TOWN – After years of planning, the Charles Town City Council formally moved forward to begin design work for the first link of a 1.9 mile walking and bicycling trail along Augustine Avenue.
Envisioned during the initial Huntfield housing planning 20 years ago, the trail will run from Washington High School, connect with Page Jackson Elementary School and end in the West End of downtown Charles Town.
On Monday, the city council approved a 20 percent contribution of $29,000 toward the overall $145,000 cost otherwise paid for by a federal grant to hire an engineering firm to survey the trail path and sketch conceptual design for a 1.1-mile portion of the trail from Page Jackson Elementary to the downtown.
Alpha Associates, an engineering firm with an office in Martinsburg, has already been chosen to undertake the design work.
“After four years of effort we have finally gotten to this point,” City Manager Daryl Hennessy said during a council meeting on Monday.
“This is a very, very, very important next step for us.”
“I think it’s a huge deal,” Charles Town Mayor Bob Trainor agreed after the meeting.
A second leg of the Augustine Avenue trail would link Page Jackson Elementary to the Huntfield subdivision. A third, shorter section would extend from Augustine Avenue to an undeveloped five-acre city park called Perry Fields at the end of West Congress Street.
The city also has plans to link Evitts Run Park and its skateboard park off West Street into the Augustine Avenue trail.
Trainor pointed out that Charles Town officials have been pursuing other long-term plans to connect all of the city’s neighborhoods to walking paths to its downtown. The neighborhoods of Norborne Glebe and Crosswinds across U.S. 340 are part of those plans, he said.
“We’re trying to link our city together,” Trainor said. “The more we can link together, I think the more everybody can enjoy the amenities of Charles Town, and it also brings us closer together.”
The Huntfield subdivision now has 400 homes, but 3,200 homes have been approved for the development.
The U.S. Transportation Department has so far committed $700,000 in grant funding toward the overall Augustine Avenue trail. The federal grant requires a 20 percent funding match from the city totaling about $140,000.
Charles Town officials have been working for several years to obtain federal money. The West Virginia Department of Transportation will act as a pass-through funding agency for the grant money.
“There’s a lot of moving parts to make it happen,” Trainor explained of the years-long grant funding process involved. “I’m not a patient guy, but I’ve learned a lot of patience with the job, for sure, because nothing happens quickly.”
If all of the work goes smoothly as planned, Trainor said the concept design stage could be completed within six to nine months. A ribbon-cutting ceremony after construction to open the trail to the public could take place 18 months to 24 months later, he said.