Planning gets update on bike, hike plan

Published 11:10 am Thursday, June 21, 2018

The idea of creating a bicycle and pedestrian plan for Southampton County was discussed by the Planning Commission last Thursday.

Beth Lewis, secretary for the panel, reminded everyone that the idea came about in 2015. The Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization had approached the County then about such a plan using only HRTPO funding and with no direct cost to Southampton. At that time, the Board of Supervisors agreed to work with the organization and forwarded information to Planning. Two commissioners were named to a steering committee, and local residents volunteered to participate.

Working with the committee since then has been Theresa K. Brooks, a Transportation Engineer III for HRTPO. She gave the commissioners an update of the draft for the Active Transportation Plan, which is under preparation by the HRTPO.

In July of last year, survey opportunities were discussed and formed. Brooks said input was sought from people at the Franklin-Southampton County Fair (41 responses) and the Franklin Fall Festival (20.) This was denied for Heritage Day, and no connection could be made with the school division, though this might be again attempted.

In March, another round of paper surveys was done at the Courtland library and county administration building, as well as the online (seven) questionnaire at the County’s website and the Franklin-Southampton Economic Development Facebook page.

Another survey was done at the High Street United Methodist Church Community Day this past April 21.

Commissioner Bill Day asked if there were any information, such as number of people who said they would use such trails.

“No, but it seemed that people would use them if available,” Brooks said. “There is excitement.”

Commissioner Lynette Allston asked about the Rails to Trails program, which repurposes former railroad lines into cycling/hiking trails. She referenced a similar trail in Brunswick County.

Brooks said that was a suggestion.

Commissioner Michael Mann asked about any crash data, such as whether or not there were more accidents once bike paths were established.

Brooks said she would have to research.

Commissioner Bruce Phillips pointed out that Southampton High School has a track that is open to public walking. Brooks said she didn’t know it was available to people outside the school.

He also noted that a walking or loop trail is to be part of the Camp Parkway project. Lewis said that was in the master plan, but not the proffer. She added that a sidewalk would not be built until the property is developed.

Allston asked if anyone identified themselves as members of cycling or walking group, adding that an affinity group could drum up interest, funds, etc.

Commissioner Keith Tennessee said, “I would hate to see time and money wasted focusing on trails. Personally, I’d like to see a community center.”

The next step is to look further into comments and meet with steering committee.


Also during the meeting, Allston was welcomed as the new commissioner.

“I’m looking forward to grand things happening,” she said.

She replaced Oliver Parker, who had stepped down for personal reasons.

Chairman Michael G. Drake said that because Parker was not able to attend that evening, the presentation of a resolution in his honor will be rescheduled.