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Charlottesville, Albemarle County settle 8-year-old lawsuit over Ragged Mountain Natural Area

The city of Charlottesville and surrounding Albemarle County have finally put to rest an eight-year lawsuit regarding the Ragged Mountain Natural Area.

The result? No more horses.

Or bicycles for that matter.

The area in question surrounds the Ragged Mountain Reservoir. While the land is physically within the county lines of Albemarle, it is owned by the city.

In 2016, Charlottesville passed an ordinance that allowed both cycling and horseback riding in the area.

The decision was in immediate conflict with a preexisting county ordinance, which prohibits cycling and riding adjacent to reservoirs that hold drinking water. The county responded by suing the city.

On Thursday, the neighboring jurisdictions settled their differences, coming to an agreement that Ragged Mountain Natural Area trails will be for pedestrian use only.

Cycling and horseback riding will no longer be permitted, and the county will put up signage to alert visitors of the new rule. Enforcing the new policy will be the responsibility of the county.

“We are pleased to have settled the appeal with the City of Charlottesville on the matter of jurisdictional authority at the Ragged Mountain Natural area,” Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Chair Jim Andrews said in a statement. “This has been the central issue in the case for the county.”

The agreement was made easier by the city’s recent acquisition of the Heyward Community Forest, which is also located off Reservoir Road, and directly next to the Ragged Mountain Natural Area. Anyone hoping to break out their bicycle — or horse — in the area can do so on the forest’s 4 miles of trails.

“We are pleased to have resolved the pending appeal and look forward to continuing to work together with the County to provide safe and attractive recreation to our community,” the city said in a statement.

The amicable conclusion to the lawsuit is perhaps a sign of an improved relationship between the two jurisdictions, which have been at odds in the past. Repairing any fractures will be important for both localities if they are to take on the region’s greatest challenges, including its affordable housing crisis.

Charlottesville Mayor Juandiego Wade called the settlement a “win-win situation.”

“It’s a good example of the city and the county resolving these types of things,” he told The Daily Progress, adding that he and Vice Mayor Brian Pinkston regularly meet with Andrews and the county’s Vice Chair Diantha McKeel.

“I’m friends with many Board of Supervisors members, and we both realize we grow as a region and we need to work together on things like this,” Wade said.


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