<bt>Jenifer Madden met with Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) five years ago to propose the construction of a network of trails in Northern Vienna. She believed that the trails would make the neighborhoods around them safer and would promote a healthier lifestyle for the local residents. She managed to secure a federal grant of $100,000 to conduct a feasibility study for the project.
The Northern Vienna (NoVi) network of trails would connect two regional parks, a national park, three schools, a church, eight Fairfax County parks, the Fairfax County Cross-County Trail and the Town of Vienna with local neighborhoods. It would encompass some existing trails in the network. It would be a 10-foot-wide, multipurpose trail, used by pedestrians and cyclists. The paved trail would not be lighted. During the construction, an effort would be made to spare as many trees as possible. Either the Virginia Department of Transportation or Fairfax County would maintain the trail, which would be aligned with the countywide trail plan. Construction would take place in four stages.
THE FEASIBILITY study, which will take about a year to complete, will determine whether it is possible to develop the trails physically and also whether the residents want the trails in their neighborhoods, or front yards, as it would be in some cases. Public and property surveys will be conducted, and a trail advisory committee will act as an intermediary between the residents and the authorities.
At a Dec. 14 meeting, at the Meadowlark Gardens Visitor Center, Hudgins invited the members of the community to join her for a discussion of the proposed plan. About 36 community members turned out for the meeting.
“It is a community project, and it is going to take the involvement of the community to do it,” said Hudgins, of the proposed trail.
Provided permission is obtained from residents along Beulah Road, the first trail within the network will be developed there.
Madden said that Beulah Road is very dangerous for pedestrians, as it attracts a lot of traffic, and some of that traffic speeds through its curves and hills. The residents at the meeting agreed that the traffic on Beulah Road is a safety issue but did not think that building a trail along the road would reduce the risk of injury. Most of the residents at the meeting live in the territory where the trails would cross their private property.
“To some people this is only an amenity,” said Jeff Arpin, a resident, “to others this is an intrusion.” Arpin acknowledged that the proposed development is a noble cause, but he urged Hudgins to keep her promise and not make any decisions without the residents. He said that a 10-foot-wide trail would require removing much of the vegetation along Beulah Road. Some of that vegetation serves a purpose of creating privacy for the residents whose houses are on the road. Hudgins reassured the residents that no decisions would be made without their input.
Madden seconded Hudgins’ promise at the end of her presentation. “We are talking about your property, and nothing is going to happen without your cooperation," she said.
ACCORDING TO Madden's presentation, 21 reportable crashes have occurred since 2000 on the stretch of Beulah Road between Abbotsford Road and Meadowlark Road, eight of those in 2004. The population in Northern Vienna tripled since 1990, which brought a lot more traffic into the area. Madden said that the air quality in the metropolitan region is very poor and that a study shows that one in every four car trips is less than a mile long.
“Our dependence on cars has come at a great cost to our health,” said Madden. She added that the number of overweight children has doubled in the last 10 years, largely due to the lack of exercise the children are getting.
Residents also voiced their concern over possibilities of a litter problem, and over safety, in a sense that drivers on Beulah may run off the road and hit someone using the trail. Hudgins listened to the concerns and said that traffic enforcement is the way to deal with the traffic problem caused on Beulah Road, and that a trail would not be developed without taking into consideration the safety of the road.
Madden said that the litter problem is unlikely, because the people using the trail would be going from one place to another and would probably not be stopping to have a snack on the way. She also said that the trail would act as a deterrent to crime, as it would be visible from the road and would run near houses and neighborhoods.
Chris Kirwan, a segment representative for the proposed trails, said that the reason behind the Dec. 14 meeting was to get the opinion of the people affected by the proposed plan. He said that it was hard for some of the residents to understand that the project is at its beginning stages, that it is only being considered and that it is nowhere close to being constructed yet.
According to Madden, the purpose of the meeting was accomplished as it was designed to introduce the residents to the idea of a proposed NoVi trail network, and to explain the parameters of the proposed route. She added that it was important for the residents to understand that no construction will take place without their permission.
Hudgins said that her office received a number of e-mails supporting the development of the trail.
To learn more about the proposed route and the proposed network of trails, or to send in your opinion, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/huntermill/novitrail.html.