As the city of Lewisburg is set to begin a $63 million water project, some citizens are concerned about what that means for The Greenbrier River Trail.
The upcoming water project is set to begin next month and will include construction of a new water intake system located approximately two miles upstream on the Greenbrier River from its current location just above Camp Alleghany. Funding for this project is through U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA).
The current intake system is located adjacent to the Greenbrier River Trail, less than a half mile north of the Caldwell trailhead, and new water lines will be laid six feet under the Greenbrier River Trail for nearly two miles to the new intake building that will be located near the Hopper area.
A portion of the Greenbrier River Trail will be closed to the public while construction takes place. It is unclear whether the entire two-mile section of trail will be closed.
Engineering plans show that there is a stretch of water lines that are planned to run adjacent to the trail as they near the site of the new intake building.
The project will be performed by Chapman Technical Group, and the contract between Chapman and the city indicates that the project is scheduled to be complete after 790 days.
The length of the contract includes the entire water project, and it is unclear whether the trail is set to be closed that full length of time.
Greenbrier County citizen Robert Gronan is a longtime supporter of the Greenbrier River Trail and has voiced his concerns over the closure of the river trail and the possible long-term damage that construction may incur.
Gronan is a founding member of the Greenbrier River Trail Association but is clear that he is voicing his concerns as an individual, not as a member of the association. (Neither the Greenbrier River Trail Association nor the Greenbrier River Trail Foundation have spoken publicly about the construction or closure.)
Gronan says his concerns with the trail closure and construction are twofold: he says he feels the city of Lewisburg has not been forthcoming about the trail closure, and he worries that when the trail is rebuilt, it may not withstand the elements.
“There are likely to be impacts from this project on the physical structure of the trail,” Gronan said in a letter provided to The West Virginia Daily News.
“Even with compaction during construction, subsidence of the backfill over the pipeline will occur during the next several years. … There is no provision in the contract for periodic replenishment of the gravel fill, if needed, to keep the trail surface level, or repair other damage that becomes apparent after conclusion of the project.”
Gronan has sent the letter to the city as well and has requested that the city of Lewisburg enhance its trail mitigation plan to include monitoring and repairing the trail for four years after the completion of the project.
Additionally, he has requested that the city pave the first section of trail, between the Caldwell trailhead and the current intake building at Camp Alleghany, to make it more accessible and to help it withstand the uptick in use he predicts will occur once the section of trail closes.
Lewisburg City Manager Misty Hill pushed back against Gronan’s requests and his assertion that the city has not been forthcoming regarding the trail closure plans.
“We did post everything; those were posted (as legal advertisements) in The West Virginia Daily News, as well as the Mountain Messenger. There was a lot of opportunity to look at that. Also, with the USDA, everything has been mapped out, and has been presented and has been available,” Hill said.
“There have been many council meetings on this, and unfortunately, the citizens haven’t participated in those, and that would have been helpful,” she said.
“Unfortunately, I think everybody’s worried about the trail,” Hill said, “but I’m really concerned about supplying water to everyone.
“We’re just excited to finally have the ability to upgrade a system that has been failing the community for quite some time, with the water advisories that we have continued to have due to the age of our equipment,” she said. “We can’t say how appreciative we are of of everyone that has played a part and the ability to do this $63 million project.”
Hill said the city is still partnering with the Department of Natural Resources to finalize post-construction, trail mitigation plans.
She also said that she could not confirm the 790-day project timeline and whether or not the trail would be closed for that amount of time.
“The terrain that’s there, and the inlets and everything else, that we have to dodge and miss, might play into the timeline,” she said.
She also clarified that the contract with Chapman Technical Group is not the only contract that the city is having to honor.
“That’s not the contract with the state. (The state) has not given us the date of when the closure is going to be. So, (the Chapman Technical Group contract is) a vague contract that states the two years is for the whole water project. That’s how long we’re predicting that it’s going to take us to get the whole project finalized. I don’t have specific dates on the trail closures.”
Hill also stated that Gronan’s request for the city to pave the southernmost section of the trail is unreasonable.
“We can’t negotiate something on a piece of property we have no ownership on. He would have to request that from the DNR,” Hill said.
Hill said that the city is planning to hold a groundbreaking for the water project this week, and that the city would be able to answer more detailed questions after plans had been finalized with the DNR and the USDA.
She did not yet know the date of the meeting.