Bob Dombrowe-Albemarle County Resident

Tell us about your volunteer activities.
Although we have lived in Albemarle County for over fifteen years, we moved to the western part of the County in 2011. I remember reading an article in the Crozet Gazette about the Crozet Trails Crew (CTC). From this I learned that the CTC builds, maintains and works to improve trail access in and around Crozet. CTC is one of the most active outdoor all volunteer trail organizations in the County and works closely with the County’s Blueways and Greenways trail planner. I am just one of many volunteers in CTC who has been working to improve pedestrian access.

Then about a year later, I saw another article in the Crozet Gazette that there was a meeting being held about the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel. A 17 mile stretch of the Blue Ridge railroad and a total of four tunnels were built by Irish workers under the direction of Claudius Crozet in the mid-1850’s. The main Blue Ridge Tunnel was in active service from 1858 until 1944 when a successor tunnel was built that is still in active service today. Just recently the Commonwealth Transportation Board fully funded the remaining phases of the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel restoration project. If all goes as planned, it is estimated that reopening the tunnel and trail will be completed by the end of 2017.

After being elected to the all volunteer Tunnel Foundation board it has been very rewarding being able to give tours and share some history about the tunnel and Irish workers who built it. There continues to be strong support from the community with this project as every time we open tours for the portion of the tunnel that is open, they fill up almost immediately.

And when not busy with CTC and the Tunnel, I have had the opportunity to participate with other local volunteer organizations including the Toy Lift and the Claudius Crozet Park Board. I have also been involved with an International Motorsports organization for many years.

What inspires you to volunteer?
There are many reasons, but near the top of the list is being involved in activities that can have a benefit to the community and when you combine that with things that interest you, it creates a momentum that you just want to join and keep going back too. Continuing to work on the Crozet master trails plan, working towards completing phase two and three of the Tunnel and trail restoration and being able to accomplish something that the community can use are very rewarding experiences.

If your volunteer work could make one long-lasting change, what would you want it to be?
As you can see trail creation and maintenance are very rewarding activities for many people. Getting multiple Counties and organizations working towards the same goals of trail interconnectivity, promoting paths that can support a whole host of rational including getting out and experiencing the outdoors, getting the physical benefits of walking or bicycling, researching and documenting the history, helping promote community interaction by creating paths and several other reasons, that is a worthwhile outcome.

With the Commonwealth Transportation Board fully funding the remaining phases of the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel project and its estimated completion by the end of 2017, this may open opportunities for future funding for land acquisition and planning such as was accomplished by the Blue Ridge Rail Trail in Nelson County, the High Bridge Trail State Park and one of the several premier rail-trails in Virginia; is the W&OD that runs from the Shirlington area of Arlington County to rural Purcellville, VA for about 45 miles.

Although the Blue Ridge tunnel is owned by Nelson County (CSX sold it to them in 2008 for $1.) and resides in both Nelson and Augusta Counties, Nelson County has been the driving force to get this project started and keep it on track (a slight pun). Allen Hale, Nelson County Supervisor, the other Nelson County Supervisors, their staff and the assistance of Albemarle and Augusta Counties have provided strong support for this project for many years which has culminated in the awarding of monies to complete the project.

With a dedicated focus by Albemarle County, support of the Community and funding to succeed making these connections, many County residents would benefit, not only gaining egress from Crozet to the Tunnel, but a second goal would be from Crozet to Charlottesville possibly using parts of the old route 250.

Maybe I am a dreamer, but if we can connect Charlottesville to Crozet and then from there to the Claudius Crozet Tunnel (Waynesboro is currently working to provide trail access towards the Tunnel from the West), that would be a goal worth achieving. If you are working towards goals in time, the chance of attaining them are far greater than not working towards them. This would be the one long lasting change to make.

What is a little-known fact about you?
I have never really shared that way back in the day (read that as almost 40 years ago) I developed an interest in watching and playing table tennis. I once got to see Danny Seemiller play at the University of Pittsburgh in the late 1970’s. He was the #1 ranked player on the US Table Tennis Team for almost ten years during the 70’s and early 80’s and at that time was ranked as high as 19th in the world.

What brought you to Charlottesville/Albemarle County?
My job took us to Nebraska where we lived for over twelve years. We had moved there from Pennsylvania and said if an opportunity came up at the time we would consider moving back to the east coast where we both had family.
Charlottesville and Albemarle County have been in the top ten places to relocate for many, many years. It is near the Blue Ridge Mountains, close enough to the beach, is a University town, very good medical care and has a host of outdoor recreational activities in the surrounding area. The weather is more moderate than the mid-west and looking at a whole host of other criteria it ranked very high. After visiting, it just felt right and that is how we ended up here.