Two gates have been strategically placed along the Lucy Hanes Trail to connect a public playground behind the Great Falls Grange with the public library and Leo Santaballa Field behind it.
Previously, people who wanted to walk between the two public areas had to scramble up a dirt path that had been formed for the sake of convenience.
“There was a high bank there,” said Susan Blakely of the Dranesville District Supervisor’s office, who coordinated efforts between the library and citizens who live on Buck’s Lane, a private driveway that runs between the Grange and the library “It was not an adequate place to cross.”
So two gates were put into place, one on each side of Buck’s Lane, that permit access from the rear of the playground.
“This is a place where there is not going to be a lot of stormwater runoff, and where horses and people with baby strollers can cross safely,” said Blakely.
Before the gates were installed, there were occasional problems with a shortage of parking at the Grange and Great Falls Schoolhouse, which share an unpaved lot.
“The biggest problem is that people were parking on the Grange parking lot to go to the playground,” said Eleanor Weck of the Great Falls Trailblazers. “Now they can park at the library and walk through that [library] gate to another wooden gate to get to the playground.”
Lucy Hanes Trail is actually a footpath that runs from the north side of the parking lot at the library to Great Falls Elementary School, allowing whole classes to walk to the library.
“It is wonderful to see them [the gates]. Now they don’t have to hire a bus” to get from the school to the library, she said.
The brief connection from the library to the Grange playground is considered a footpath rather than a trail, which would be wider.
“The county would have insisted on a wider gate if it was a trail,” said Weck.
Allison Mulligan, branch manager at the Great Falls Library, said a one-page flyer has been posted to let parents and children know about the new crossing.
Although Buck’s Lane is a private driveway, it has a public access easement that allows the public crossing, Blakely said.
It was part of property purchased by the Board of Supervisors as a site for the Great Falls Community Library.
The countywide trails plan shows a public trail that will eventually connect Great Falls National Park with Route 7 along Georgetown Pike, but progress has been slow, Weck said.
“They have hired someone to do the design. Basically, we have four years or we don’t get the [state of Virginia transportation] money.
“A lot of pieces have been built by churches,” she said. “[The trail] will come, and it will be good, and people won’t have to walk in the road,” she said.
Families with children of different ages have needed intertwined paths that give safe access to Santaballa Field and athletic fields at Great Falls Elementary School, where lacrosse and baseball games are played; the library, and the playground for young children behind the Grange.
But they still have to look both ways before crossing Buck’s Lane, which is wide enough for only one private automobile, garbage truck, or mail vehicle at a time.