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Lee Drive controversy continues
Pea gravel was put down on Lee Drive in the Fredericksburg battlefield park, upsetting cyclists and joggers who frequent the area.
REZA MARVASHTI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Dorn has said the timing of the changes to the road is especially bad because the Cabot tour--a bicycle trip from Miami to Portland, Maine--rolls through Fredericksburg this Saturday. Cyclists are scheduled to ride on Lee Drive, which is part of the East Coast Greenway and U.S. Bicycle Route 1.
"It may mean that they're going to have to do an alternate route that's on busier highways, which is something they try to avoid," said Diana Meehan, director of marketing for Cabot Creamery in Vermont, which is sponsoring the event with local businesses and nonprofit groups.
She stressed that the community tour's event from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Old Mill Park in Fredericksburg will go on as planned. It is free to the public and will include bands, food and more.
Workers applied a similar pea-gravel surface to Lee Drive around 1980 and in the early 1990s, said Robert K. Krick, who was chief historian of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park from 1971 until 2001.
It improved safety and the look of the park, he said, but workers chose to eventually pave over the gravel to save money.
"It is much cheaper to just put down the ugly stuff and pretend you're an interstate," Krick said, referring to asphalt.
He said he doesn't remember public outcry over the rougher surface, but that maintenance employees complained about the cost of replacing it.
This year's work was part of a $1.8 million project that also included repaving Lee Drive.
The cyclist club's petition says that the National Park Service "purposefully" created an unsafe environment for cyclists, runners and walkers--a claim Smith called dishonest.
"I would just advise people to ensure the accuracy of anything they sign their names to," Smith said.
He has maintained that the finished product will be fine for cycling and other recreational activities. Other parts of U.S. Bicycle Route 1 have the same surface, Smith noted.
"We have to make compromises for the safety of park users," Smith said. "We can't make it a perfect bike route and not be concerned about other users."
The petition also notes that the Park Service failed to consult with the community.
Dorn said he has reached out to Fredericksburg City Council members George Solley and Brad Ellis--who signed the petition--and an aide to Rep. Eric Cantor, R-7th District.
Still, he's not sure what the Park Service can do--other than remove excess rocks--without "wasting even more federal dollars."
"It's not just a bunch of professional cyclists that have a concern about this road," Dorn said. "It is a battlefield, but it's also one of the major sources of recreation for families in Fredericksburg."
Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402
WHEREAS Lee Drive in the Fredericksburg Battlefield has been for many years a major attraction for tourists and residents of Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania and Stafford, to drive, walk, jog and bicycle, or to simply reflect on the sacrifice of our Civil War soldiers, and
WHEREAS "Healthy Parks, Healthy People U.S." is a National Park Service initiative working to foster the health-related role that parks can and do play in our society, and its guiding principles include equitable access, seeking expertise from the private sector and encouraging activities that promote physical, mental and spiritual health, and
WHEREAS Lee Drive is also part of the East Coast Greenway, a federally designated Millennium Trail and also part of U.S. Bike Route 1, a federally designated interstate bicycle route, and
WHEREAS the National Park Service, in violation of its own guiding principles, failed to consult the local community before recently applying asphalt and loose, pea gravel to a recently re-paved Lee Drive, purposefully creating an unsafe condition for cyclists, runners and walkers, alike,
WE THE UNDERSIGNED, request that the National Park Service immediately remove the loose gravel from Lee Drive, greatly improving its safety and comfort for recreational uses, and
ALSO, we request that in accordance with its own guiding principles, that the National Park Service involve the local community before taking future steps that degrade the community's ability to enjoy healthy recreation in its own park.