Buttermilk trail to remain open for now

It appears that until the city grants a liability easement to the property owner this will be the case.

Update #2 — May 15, 2014; 8:41 AM

Last minute scrambling by the city means that the trail will be open and there will not be any re-routing of the Dominion Riverrocks race.

From RTD

Instead, Richmond agreed Wednesday to add the owners of a crucial property at the south end of Boulevard Bridge to its liability insurance policies for a year to allow time to work out a permanent easement for public access to trails on their land.

“I feel like this is a step in the right direction,” said Josh Rogers, who, with his wife, Carrie, had informed festival organizers and city officials that they no longer would allow public access from Westover Hills Boulevard through their property to the city’s Buttermilk Trail in James River Park.
“If they do that, I’m certainly happy to let (the trails) remain open,” Rogers said.

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Update #1 — May 14, 2014; 12:33 PM

We were alerted that the homeowners have responded on Facebook and thought it was worth sharing.

Thank you all for posting this update. And thanks to everyone for getting involved in helping to get this easement established.

My husband and I are the property owners involved in this issue. We have been trying to establish a recreational easement with the city since 2007. Other cities, like Roanoke, have them, but Richmond has not been responsive to our requests.

Our goal is to continue to make the trail available for everyone to use and enjoy, but we cannot continue to assume 100% liability for the thousands of trail users every year.

Please let the city know how much the trail means to you by contacting them at the number JROC has been kind enough to provide.

We have also set up a page at rvatrails.org to answer your questions.

Once we establish this easement, it is our hope that more landowners will allow the city easements so that our amazing trail system can continue to expand and be fun–and safe–for all.

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Original — May 14, 2014

The section of trail in question is pictured above and can be seen on this online map posted on RVA More, a local bicycle advocacy group that spends countless hours riding and working to improve local trails.

On Facebook, Richmond More explains why this is happening and asks that all trail users respect the property owner’s decision.

The owner of the property west of the Boulevard Bridge has been working with the city for the past 6 years asking the city to give a liability easement for the property that Buttermilk is on. They are asking the city to accept that liability just like they do in all the park areas. A fence will be erected to block access.

Last fall the Mayor agreed to an easement and asked the city attorney to work on it. The city worked on it internally last winter, but has not contacted the owner. Since the city has not acted the owner has decided to deny access to their property. This can be quickly resolved with a written agreement.

Contact the Mayor’s office and your city council member.

Plan on jumping across the road or riding up Riverside to cross Westover Hills Boulevard at the top of the hill.

Please respect the request of the owner of this property.

The trail issue came to our attention from the following post on James River Outdoor Coalition Facebook.


As of this morning access to the Boulevard Bridge connecting the Buttermilk trail is no longer available to the public. The parcel owners have requested the city to create a conservation easement for the area to be used for recreation. The city has not moved on this. Until this happens there will no longer be a continuous loop connecting Buttermilk and Northbank in the JRP.

Please call the Mayor’s office at 804-646-0970 804-646-7970 and share how this issue affects you.

JROC also in the comments mentions the affect on Dominon Riverrock festival which could impact traffic around 1:00 PM on Saturday.

We were told a fence will be erected most likely before the weekend. Dominion Riverrock has rerouted their race course to come up the East Side of the Boulevard. Traffic will be stopped during the race to allow bikers to access the sidewalk on the west side.

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Richard Hayes

When Richard isn’t rounding up neighborhood news, he’s likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest craft beer.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. Insane Dave on said:

    Bummer. Hopefully they get it cleared up soon.

  2. The Mayors phone number is 804-646-7970. Sorry for the typo :)

  3. Brin E on said:

    Maybe the Redskins should say they want the easement so that the Mayor will act without delay…

  4. Great job getting this news out there RVANews, I am just finding out about this. I am not surprised — this situation has been lingering too long. Unfortunate that Riverrock might have to suffer.

  5. Jennifer on said:

    I know from friends and family that the City jumps at light speed if an easement issue (and the accompanying $$) is required to its advantage. It is absurd that the burden is on a private citizen to sort this out and continue to be at risk during the process.

  6. Cameron on said:

    Done. I thought this had been taken care of years ago.

  7. jane fain on said:

    I just did the buttermilk trail on mother’s day! I had no idea. The City and the Mayor need to take care of this ASAP! This is a great outdoor addition for the resident’s of the city and would be a big loss if not settled. It’s just for the average folk – is that the problem?

  8. Boz on said:

    Smart timing on the owners’ part so this gets maximum awareness leading into Riverrock. Hopefully the city gets its act together quickly to avoid further embarrassment.

  9. Jan on said:

    Glad about the outcome, but it is disgraceful that the City took 7 years to get this done.

  10. WHR on said:

    It’s not over yet. This is temporary. Folks still need to stay on the City to make this permanent.

  11. Melissa on said:

    The city needs to get a process in place for this, given how integrated our river parks are with the surrounding neighborhoods. On Riverside Drive west of Pony Pasture, a well-worn but unofficial trail crosses private land and some of the homeowners have posted “Use at your own risk” signs. Much better than “No trespassing,” but they really need this kind of easement out there too.

    I commend these homeowners near Buttermilk for bringing this issue to public attention in a fair-minded and neighborly way.

  12. zd on said:

    While I don’t know the particulars of either situation, there was (maybe still is?) a possibly similar issue in Charlottesville with the Rivanna Trail that goes around the city.

    It is my understanding that the trail cuts through a number of pieces of private property, and one owner eventually put up razor wire to keep people from passing through. I don’t know what sort of effort the city or the owner made to resolve the situation, or who was willing to concede what, but it was definitely an unfortunate situation for everyone who used the trail.

    Hopefully a permanent agreement is reached here. I always cite the city’s trail system as one of its best features.

  13. Sandi on said:

    We are property owners on the beautiful James River, for over 30 years. Ralph White, former, Parks employee, over 10 years ago, took it on himself to open this trail west of the Boulevard, on PRIVATE propery, never asking our permission or any others along the trail. Who pays the taxes on this usage of the trail for the Parks?????? The owners, not the City! We have tried ,as well, for YEARS to get this liability issue resolved. Only when it hits the revenue pockets coming into the city, then the city JUMPS. Helping the hard working taxpayers not so much, and who pays there salaries?

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