Happy Trails Ahead

Happy Trails Ahead

Ground broken for phase one of Mason Neck Trail.

Persistence and vision paid off for Joe Chudzik, Johan de Leede and residents of Mason Neck. This week they and local officials broke ground for the first phase of the Mason Neck Trail.

It's been seven years since de Leede first had the idea to have a bike trail built along Gunston Road. He and Chudzik obtained the endorsement of 30 community associations, and then proceeded to get the support of the Transportation Advisory Board of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Mason Neck Citizens Association, the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens Association, the Trails Commission, the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.

Present at the groundbreaking ceremony were local officials and representatives from most of the groups, including former state Sen. Joe Gartlan; state Sen. Linda "Toddy" Puller (D-36); Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland (D); Randall Flowers, project design engineer with the Fairfax County Department of Public Works; Joe Chudzik, Mason Neck activist; David Reese, director of Gunston Hall Plantation; Kevin Brugman, Mount Vernon representative for the Non-Motorized Transportation Committee; Gaston Rouse, Jr., director of public affairs for Mason Neck State Park; Marilyn Hildebeitel, president of Mason Neck Horse Coalition; and Julie Kutruss, Northern Virginia Regional Parks representative.

Hyland addressed the crowd and said, "Each of you in your own way has made this day possible."

Puller also spoke and said that this was a case of democracy in action.

Chudzik said, "This groundbreaking was a milestone event and symbolized the seven years of progress. After years of work, we will now have something to show for it."

WORK WILL BEGIN on the trail as soon as the soil is dry and will be completed by the summer. Two other phases will be implemented next; phase two will include a mile-long equestrian trail which will run from the entrance of Meadow Wood Farm to Gunston Hall and tie in with existing stables and trails.

According to Chudzik, getting to this point was a long process. Not only did they need endorsements, they also required approval from the same groups. With approvals in hand, they then needed funding. After several applications for enhancement project funds, they had enough money to get started.

There were still hurdles to jump. Since the trail would remove a half acre of wetlands, they had to procure a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers and agree to do wetlands mitigation. Then there was an archeological survey which had to be done.

Flowers designed the six-mile long, eight-foot wide trail,

Kevin Brugman, Mount Vernon representative for the Non-Motorized Transportation Committee, is excited about the new trail. He's involved in Fairfax County's Countywide Trails Plan. An avid cyclist, he said that this is just a piece of the puzzle. He said that eventually "youĂ­'l be able to ride from Bluemont, Virginia, to Mason Neck and then ultimately, there will be a national trails system as well."