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Recovery Efforts Continue in Wake of Isabel

GW bike path, marina slowly being rebuilt.

As if enough damage hadn't been done during Hurricane Isabel, high winds on Tuesday evening toppled even more trees on the George Washington Parkway, and 50 mph winds were predicted for the following day.

"Just about everything is working against us," said Rich Foster, chief of maintenance for the George Washington Memorial Parkway. "Our crews had to stop and do some tree removal before they could continue with their repair work on the bike path."

Even so, Foster and his crews are continuing to make the opening of the entire Mount Vernon Bike Trail a priority. And they have made progress. Foster said that the only part of the trail that's not open is the lower part between River Farm and Mount Vernon. That is due to the wooden bridges that were pulled out of place by the water.

Foster said that they'll try to settle the bridges in place and then get a contractor to come back in the spring and replace them. He has asked the engineers to come up with a better design for the new bridges, something that has more of a ballast. Many of the current bridges have been there for years and are too buoyant. Members of the trail crew, assisted by the building and utility and sign crews, were busy working on the bridge near River Farm this week.

Tinaudra Foster, who's with the building and utility crew, said that they were clearing the debris off the bridges; then they planned to move the big limbs from the side of the bridge. Once this is done, the crews will be able to lift up the bridge and drop it into place.

Foster said that the rest of the bike trail is open, but still needs considerable cleanup.

"Our first goal is to cut an opening to get the trail open; then we will go back and clean up the trees and stumps," said Foster. "It's most likely that it will take until the spring to get everything done."

For awhile, Foster's crews were working seven days a week, assisted by various contractors who were helping with tree removal. The crew is now working standard hours, but continuing to focus on trail repair. In addition to damage on the bike trail, Foster said that the overlooks on the Dyke Marsh Trail were totally destroyed.

"All the sections were dislodged and piled up like corded wood," he said. "We may have to use a helicopter to pull them out, since we don't want to use vehicles and damage the marsh."

BELLE HAVEN MARINA is also a whirlwind of activity. George Stevens, owner of the marina, said, "Things are going very well."

One of the things that was holding them up was the pile driver, but he finally came last Saturday.

"We were very lucky that he was willing to work on Saturday; he's been doing all the marinas in this area and we were very thankful to have him," said Stevens.

On Sunday, they did all the headers and then worked on building new docks. Stevens said that they were just about finished with the main pier. The new office has been installed. It's bigger and has heat, air conditioning and carpeting. Even the electrical system has been updated and is now up to code.

"This is the nicest little marina in Northern Virginia and we want to keep it open," said Stevens. "Everything is now state-of-the-art. I think it will be nicer than it has ever been since I've been here."

Even though they still won't open for another week or so, Stevens is hoping that the Park Service will let him start moving boats back into the marina; they are still sitting in the parking lot at Belle View Shopping Center.

"Belle View couldn't have been nicer, but we know that we're running out of time," said Stevens, who also wants to thank Smitty's Lumber and all the people who volunteered their time to help.

"The number of people who have come to offer their services has been staggering," said Stevens, who plans to hold a grand opening party and invite the public when everything is done.

OVER IN BELLE VIEW, real estate signs are appearing. Several Realtors interviewed believe that condo owners don't need to worry about declining values. Once all the renovations are done, many of the units will be almost brand new.

Michael Turk, managing broker with the Old Town Alexandria Weichert Realtors Office, said, "I really believe that the condos and units that are down there [in Belle View] that were impacted by the floods, I believe that we really will not see any significant effect in pricing on those units. They always tended to some of the best values in terms of square footage, what we call 'bang for your buck,' or the most that you get on a per-dollar per square footage basis in Alexandria.

They [condos] still tend to be some of the best values and I'd be very surprised if there'd be any adverse effects from the flood. Obviously, a lot of families have been impacted, but I think from a value standpoint, values will continue to hold and continue to rise."