Friendly City Trail connects 3 schools … let’s start building a trail to connect the new high school NOW

When a great project takes way too long to complete, do you still celebrate the result? I think you must! You must celebrate what has been done and push for the next great result not to take as long.

My hat is off to the City of Harrisonburg for completing a major phase of Harrisonburg bike/ped plan, The Friendly City Trail.

If you have not been on the new trail system, I encourage you to get out and experience one — or even all — the legs of Harrisonburg’s newest bike/ped facility.

In a few Saturdays, June 11th to be exact, the Harrisonburg Parks and Rec will hold Pop Ups in the Park at Hillandale Park. This event, at the unofficial City bike park, will be a great chance to bring your bike or walking/running shoes and experience the connectivity provided by the Friendly City Trail. Unlike the remote and secluded feeling you can get in the Rocktown Trails, you will most likely be greeted by others on the Friendly City Trail. Each time I have pedaled or run a portion of this trail, I have enjoyed the experience of seeing others happily using the new paths. The one thing you won’t see is cars!

In all honesty this trail should have been built in 2005 when Harrisonburg High School first opened its doors on Garber Church Road. There were folks in the Harrisonburg bike community pushing for the trail to be built when the foundation was being poured for the high school. Unfortunately those advocates had to wait too long for their kids to be able to enjoy a safe bike ride to high school. Instead, we are celebrating the trail opening 17 years after the completion of the high school, 38 years after the middle school opened its doors, and 3.5 years since Bluestone Elementary was opened. Even though this trail is long overdue, we still must celebrate!

There is a simple question I have continuously asked through construction projects of our schools … We would not open a school that we cannot drive to, so why do we open a school to which we can not safely walk or ride? We need to make the commitment when we decide to build important destinations within our City that we make them connect for all users, not just the car users!

Unfortunately, we have broken ground on the Friendly City’s newest school, Rocktown High School, with no plans to connect this school safely for all users. This thought hit home the other day when I was driving by with my 13 year old son, Ethan. As we drove down South Main Street, I pointed out the new lights hanging above the yet-to-be-built athletic fields, and I said, “maybe you will be playing under those lights soon.” Ethan asked, “will they have a trail?” I had to tell him that there are no plans yet. After seeing how much he enjoys the new trail, I was saddened that he would not be able to pack his soccer ball on his bike to ride to his new high school.

As we enjoy and celebrate the Friendly City Trail, let’s put an arm around our City workers and leaders, give them a squeeze of gratitude, but also give them a pinch to remind them not to wait so long for the next great result.

Open PDF of Friendly City Trail