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Residents question DRBA intent
About recreation plan in Patrick County
Thursday, April 11, 2013
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
A resolution asking the Patrick County Board of Supervisors to commit to voting against a recreational use plan for the county was tabled Monday until the July meeting of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors.
Board Chairman Danny Foley said the resolution proposed by Dan River District Supervisor Roger Hayden will be discussed after the Dan River Basin Association presents a revised version of the plan.
Hayden said Wednesday the resolution was prompted by landowner concerns.
“Landowners wanted me to try to stop the process because they’ve got a whole list of complaints” in the Kibler Valley/Dan River areas “and they wanted me to see if there was a commitment of the board to stop the plan,” Hayden said of the document that was prepared by DRBA.
Brian Williams, program manager of the association, said the plan was requested by Patrick’s Rivers & Trails group. DRBA created the recreational use plan for Patrick County, just as it did for Henry County.
The recreational plan basically is a suggested list of projects that the county can do, if it chooses and providing there are funds and easements, Williams said. He noted there is nothing in the plan that would bind or require the county to do any projects.
Hayden said opposition to the plan mainly comes from the Dan River District.
“Once the people in our area found out about it, they were not really happy about it, especially the people who live on the Dan River and Kibler Valley,” he said. Currently, “the Dan River is our biggest issue” because residents have in the past “had some problems with people trespassing on their property to get to the river.”
He noted that “basically, there is no public property in Kibler Valley except for” land owned by the city of Danville. But the proposed plan “sounds like if this is acted on by the county and adopted by the county for county use, it may have the potential to infringe upon our property rights ... in different ways.”
For instance, if the river or part of it was designated a scenic river, “it would fall under guidelines that would give public access,” he said. Currently, he added, there is no move to seek that designation.
Hayden’s stance on trails and recreation is an about-face from his opinion in 2010, when he attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 4.5-mile Dick & Willie Passage trail in Martinsville-Henry County.
At the time, Hayden said that trails improve communities while spurring job creation. He also noted that a trail was under construction in the Dan River District at the time. “I love trails,” he added then.
But “now, since I’ve found out the cost of them and what we may have with funding and the cost of maintaining them, I’m kind of leery of them,” he said Wednesday.
Before the Monday meeting of the supervisors, Hayden expressed his opinions in an email titled “Important message from Roger Hayden, Patrick County Board of Supervisors, Dan River District.”
The email stated in part that “The Dan River Basin Association and other regional organizations are as dangerous to private property and local representative government as The Crooked Road National Heritage designation,” according to a copy.
The Crooked Road organization has abandoned its four-year bid for the national designation to get federal funds to help with tourism efforts after many in the region felt “that any federal dollars accepted to boost tourism would pave the way for a government land grab of private property within the designated” National Heritage designation boundaries, according to online reports.
In the email, residents also were to “take a look at the regional organizations in your area of the state. Look at their goals and strategies. They could not be any clearer in their intent to target our rivers, natural resources and water rights through acquisition of more and more private property for public use. But it’s much more than that. They are gaining regional control by erasing our borders and circumventing our local representative governments.”
“Planning district commissions” such as the West Piedmont Planning District Commission “are regional governments with no accountability, and regionalism is socialism,” the email stated. “We cannot continue to let them outwit and manipulate our local elected officials, who are our last line of defense for private property rights and local representative government in America.”
Hayden said tea party representatives from Danville wrote the first part of the memo.
“I wrote the second part,” Hayden said of the portion that stated DRBA has held “several public meetings” in Patrick to present “their Patrick County Recreation Plan. I along with several land-owners attended one such meeting and asked pointed questions,” Hayden said he wrote.
“The Dan River Basin Association Recreation Plan and Crooked Road National Heritage Area plans should have been brought to the board of supervisors at conception. Even after the plan was finished, it was not presented to the board. I asked why, and a member of DRBA stated they were going to discuss the plans with individual supervisors. Sounds like back-door politics! And we should not have to rely on news media for information concerning our county,” Hayden said he wrote.
“The recreation plan includes varieties and miles of different types of trails, river access and other recreation areas. West Piedmont study states that Patrick County has more land for public recreation than any other county in the district! Why the need to lose more private property from the tax base for public use? Majority of Patrick citizens I have talked with think trails are unnecessary and will cost taxpayer money, along with possible infringement of property/water rights. Also, elements of this plan have the potential to mandate Patrick County initiate zoning,” Hayden said he wrote.
“From the information received from the presentation and after much research, it is our belief that the Patrick County Recreation Plan may infringe upon property owners’ land/water rights and force more liability on the taxpayer,” Hayden said he wrote. “Therefore, I will not support it.”
He said Wednesday that he will make a decision on whether to support the plan after reading a revised draft that Williams said omits nearly all references to the Kibler Valley area.
Tom Bishop, who recently retired as the director of the Patrick County Chamber of Commerce, is challenging Hayden in the Nov. 5 election for the Dan River seat on the board of supervisors. He said he does not know what DRBA’s plan states and has not decided whether he will support it or not.
However, Bishop said that he is against any group or plan that threatens personal property rights or would encroach on them.