Have you had a chance to take our survey about the idea of a shuttle service to McAfee Knob? Time is running out! The survey will close on December 15th – this Sunday.
McAfee Knob is one of the most photographed spots in the Roanoke Valley, receiving thousands of visitors every year.The Virginia Department of Transportation is working with the National Park Service, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club to install a pedestrian bridge across Route 311, a busy roadway which separates the trailhead parking lot from the trail to the McAfee Knob peak. This project will reduce parking spaces during construction, but will ultimately protect your safety. We’re not expecting long-term parking impacts at this time, but construction will take nine to twelve months. At this time construction is expected to start in 2023.
As part of this project, the Roanoke Valley – Alleghany Regional Commission is reaching out to collect information about how you learned about McAfee Knob. We’re also looking at alternative ways to help you reach the trailhead during construction.
Greenways are a great asset to the Roanoke Valley. Our community loves walking, biking, and skating on greenways throughout the valley. These trails range from the heavily used Roanoke River Greenway, which extends past Roanoke Memorial Hospital in the City of Roanoke and also contains sections in Salem and Roanoke County, to the winding cinder path of Wolf Creek Greenway in the Town of Vinton. While the size and shape of greenways may vary, all of them are part of a conceptual network for the broader Roanoke Valley which was created with the 2007 Greenway Plan Update.
Now the Greenway Commission and its member localities, with help from RVARC, are ready to revisit that vision. You can participate in shaping that vision by attending one of the meetings below.
Meetings will be broken into two types for this update. Regional Meetings, which focus on the broader regional vision, will be held on March 21st at the Greenfield Education and Training Center in Daleville, and on March 30th at Fishburn Elementary School in Roanoke.
Additional local meetings will drill down into specific, local greenway networks. One will be at Mountain View Elementary in the Hollins area, and will focus on Tinker Creek Greenway. That meeting takes place on March 27th. Two other meetings in Roanoke County will take place at the Glenvar Middle School on April 6th and South County Library on April 3rd. The Town of Vinton will also hold an input meeting in conjunction with Roanoke County at the Vinton War Memorial on April 10th. Additional local meetings may be scheduled by Botetourt County and the City of Salem.
Attendees of all meetings will have a chance to speak to new regional connections and priorities for greenway construction. All meetings will be held at 6:30 pm.
If you cannot make one of these meetings, we encourage you to take the online survey. It should take you about 10-15 minutes on a computer, and a bit longer on a smartphone.
RVARC staff recently attended a training held by the USDA at the Greenfield Training and Education Center on new review processes for assessing the environmental impacts of USDA funded projects. This training followed adoption of a new set of environmental policies and procedures on the part of the USDA Rural Development Agency (the Rural Utilities Service, the Rural Business-Cooperative Service, and the Rural Housing Service) that went into effect on April 1st of this year. These regulations meet the requirements for the USDA to “assess and consider the impacts of proposed federal actions…to the human environment in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and other applicable federal, state, and local environmental laws.” (RD Instruction 1970-B, Exhibit C)
The new rules can be found under code 7 CFR 1970, and replace previous regulations 7 CFR Part 1794 and 7 CFR Part 1940-G. The rules simplify the review process, bringing reviews for all services and projects under the same regulations. Recipients of assistance from the Rural Development Agency will find their project classified as following one of three review paths. Projects will require documentation in the form of Categorical Exclusions (CE), Environmental Assessments (EA) or Environmental Impact Statements (EIS). An applicant to a Rural Development program is responsible for consulting with agency staff to determine which track they should follow early in the process. They are also responsible for contacting relevant state and Federal agencies as appropriate. Applicants should be aware that the USDA environmental review process does not replace other required review processes at the state or local level, and should contact the relevant officials accordingly.
The USDA Rural Development programs offer valuable opportunities in the form of grants and loans to localities, businesses, and individuals. More information about their programs can be found here. RVARC staff is happy to provide more information to the public about the new review process as requested.