While Amherst County normally accepts grants to finance ongoing projects, the board of supervisors last Tuesday took an unusual step of turning one down for the third phase of extending the trail at Riveredge Park in Madison Heights.

At the recommendation of County Administrator Dean Rodgers, the board unanimously declined to accept a Virginia Department of Transportation grant to aid in expanding the trail near the James River.

The two-part phase is estimated to cost $410,200, according to a project budget presented to supervisors. The first two phases of the trail project largely were funded through grant funding from the Federal Highway Administration, according to the county.

However, recent new restrictions and increased enforcement of policies makes the county’s strategy less flexible, according to the county. Rodgers said he feels the restrictions are too onerous. A September 2021 deadline to complete construction of the entire trail, including a fourth phase, is tied to the county receiving the state grant regardless of whether additional grant funding can be obtained, a requirement Rodgers said is not preferable.

“We’d be committing to something we may not be able to finish in time,” he said.

In declining the grant, the board has signed off on county staff presenting future requests for appropriations to fund the trail design work as needed.

“This is a change in strategy for us. It means we’re paying for all the design ourselves rather than receiving assistance for it,” Rodgers said.

The entire project cost, including a fourth and final phase, is $973,500.

“To me, this is a no-brainer,” Chairwoman Claudia Tucker said of balking at the grant for the project’s third phase. “I don’t have any desire to take VDOT’s money and commit ourselves to something that we may or may not get further assistance with.”