Park Trails Have Their Day

Park Trails Have Their Day

Joggers’ cutting across the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Wakefield Park on National Trail Day was a sign that the trails’ popularity around the county was something that spoke for itself.

"This is our equivalent of the Thunderbirds fly-by," said one park representative.

Jenny Pate, Fairfax County Park Authority trail guru, and Judy Pederson, Fairfax County Park Authority public information specialist, handed the runners water on National Trail Day at the ribbon-cutting, as new trail signs and designation poles were introduced to the crowd, which consisted of about 10 people.

"This is about the best thing in my mind we've done. We have about nine projects on the books now," Pate said.

Director of park operations Tim White talked about the signs and the whole trail outlook. Wakefield was the first stop of the day, with scheduled stops at Mount Royal playground in McLean and a playground ribbon-cutting at Frying Pan Park, where they served ice cream that evening.

"So far we have 17 miles of trails marked with these signs. There are almost 700 miles of trails in the county," White said.

The runners — who continued through the gathering, interrupting picture opportunities — were from the Washington Runners, a group that meets on Saturday mornings. One runner, Michelle Fisher, took trail advocacy to new heights.

"I made one in my backyard in Oakton," she said.

Kelley O'Hara was in Fisher's group.

"It gets people outside," she said.

Pederson talked about the trail popularity. A survey she had showed 69 percent of the county's citizens use the trails.

"We believe trail use is the most popular activity. I think they're built with the landscape in mind," she said.

It's the landscape feature that makes the trails a federally funded program, according to Fatemeh Allahoust of the Virginia Department of Transportation.

"Trail money and these kind of improvements are enhancements. They come from federal money," she said.

THE CROSS COUNTY Trail Project is one that will construct a trail from the Loudoun County line in the north to the land that was formerly the Lorton Prison in the south, connecting up to other county trails. It is nearly complete except for a stretch in Vienna, according to Pate.

"In 2004 we will finish the last section of the Cross County Trail. We still have a middle section around Vale and Lawyers Road, where land acquisition is a factor," Pate said.

One section in the Springfield-Burke area that was recently completed was around Lake Mercer south of South Run District Park. It connects a section of the trail that goes around Burke Lake, through South Run, and through the Newington Forest neighborhoods.

According to Virginia Trails advocate Barbara Nelson, trails are slowly being built along the East Coast states to provide biking/hiking access. The East Coast Greenway is another trail with local, regional and national significance, according to Nelson. It was designated by the White House in 2000 as one of the 16 National Millennium Trails. It will come into Virginia across Memorial Bridge and tie into the Mount Vernon Trail. The East Coast Greenway is envisioned as a long-distance trail from Calis, Maine, to Key West, Fla. — an urban greenway trail connecting cities and towns along the East Coast.

Another project of interest is the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail — a congressionally designated trail. It encompasses the entire Potomac River Watershed (which includes areas in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, D.C. and Virginia), according to Nelson.

SATURDAY, JUNE 1, at the ribbon-cutting, Wakefield Park was also hosting a softball tournament and soccer games. For the softball tournament, there was one parking lot filled with campers for the team members and their families, who were making a weekend of it. Softball enthusiasts Chris Hargrow, 11, and George Mason University graduate and coach Karen Horowitz, 23, were waiting for their game to start. Neither were trail enthusiasts, and Horowitz mentioned the rumors about new softball fields at Wakefield.

"My brother bikes on the trails. I think the trails are important, but if they had to cut out some of the trails for two new softball fields, I would be for it," Horowitz said.