Groups of five and six volunteers sighed and strained as they lowered semi-mature trees into the ground Sunday at Crozet Park.
But the volunteers were all smiles while transplanting the elms and yellowwoods as part of a tree planting held during the third annual Crozet Trails Day.
“What we’re doing here is just a small piece of the puzzle,” said Jessica Mauzy, of the Crozet Trails Crew. “But we feel that our actions can really be a larger part of trails in the county.”
The crew formed in 2009, after a Crozet Community Advisory Council survey showed that the community’s No. 1 goal was the creation of a system of walking and bicycle trails.
Since then, the crew has been building and maintaining the trails that will ultimately become the Crozet Connector Trail, a series of paths connecting Crozet’s neighborhoods to each other and to downtown Crozet.
“The trails we’ve been working on are 3- to 4-foot-wide paths right now,” Mauzy said. “But in the Crozet Master Plan, it’s a multi-use greenway that will connect neighborhoods to businesses.”
Because a multi-use trail can have a slope of no more than 5 percent, the volunteer group has been building trails to comply with public-use standards, often following flat or previously graded areas such as old railroad beds and creek banks.
The trail has not yet reached its future trailhead at Crozet Park, but the group wants to highlight what they see as new community infrastructure.
“I’ve met so many people who don’t even know these trails are here,” Mauzy said. “But once people know and see the trails and help out, they feel a sense of ownership.”
Albemarle County officials say playing an active role in building community is a growing trend.
“In the past, developers would tell me that there is no value in planning parks and public spaces,” county outdoor recreation supervisor and crew member Dan Mahon said. “But now … everyone wants to talk about the trails, and the developers are catching on.”
Crozet Realtor Jim Duncan echoed this sentiment.
“The Crozet Trails Crew is seeking to connect Crozet in a way that no one ever has,” he said. “It’s impressive how they’re taking the initiative to locate and build the trails.”
In addition to the planning and land-use aspects of the project, crew members attach a strong personal value to the organization.
“The spirit of volunteerism makes it work,” Patrick Phillips said. “There are no ranks. We’re all just out here together.”
“Getting involved and contributing helps to build community and connectivity,” Bill Mauzy said.
“The CTC is a dynamic model of community participation that I’d like to see throughout the county,” Mahon said. “And Jessica Mauzy is incredible. I’d clone her if I could.”
The crew’s next goal is to connect existing trails to areas with public parking access.
“Right now, we can’t say that the trails are public, because there’s no public parking,” Jessica Mauzy said. “So it’s important that we connect the trails to Crozet Park and to the Clover Lawn shops.”
And while the crew has clear next steps to take to make the trail system more accessible, a completion date for connecting the trails to Crozet Park and the Clover Lawn shops is unknown.
“We’ve got a good blueprint,” Mahon said. “But it’s dependent on a lot of other factors, so you can’t say for sure when something like this we’ll be completed.”
Interested parties can find more information at: http://crozettrailscrew.org.