Work on the Difficult Run Stream Valley Trail has been underway for over a month in preparation for the opening of the Cross County Trail, and the restoration of the stream bed should be completed by the end of September.
“We weren’t able to start work until June 27,” said project manager Jim Duncan. “I’d say we’re doing pretty well.”
The project, which focuses mostly on restoring stream beds worn away by erosion, is something that had been “on the books” for some time, said Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois. “It was time for this to happen. As part of the Cross County Trail, we’re hoping to get all the projects going on across the county finished in time for the opening later this fall.”
Although she said it is “unfortunate” that the project is being done in the summer, meaning the park’s trails and parking lot must be closed while the work is being completed, DuBois acknowledges that “it’s best to get it done now. It’s great to see the work underway.”
Duncan said the stream bed has been washed into Difficult Run, taking with it a portion of the trail that lines the stream.
“We’ve lost a bank due to a lot of pedestrian and equestrian use,” he said. “We’re going to try some rather unconventional methods to keep this from happening again. It’s a natural restoration — we’re using a lot of native plants to help keep the soil we’re bringing in stay in one place.”
In order to keep the stream’s velocity from washing the banks away again, Duncan said his crews are using rocks to create different paths for the water to flow through, diverting it from the stream beds.
“With this job, there’s a little more hard labor involved,” Duncan said. “The plan is to redirect the stream a little. The way the water flows in and hits the bed varies a little. Some areas are on a very steep drop, so the work needed to recover the bank varies.”
USING NATIVE PLANTS to stabilize the soil will not only allow the plants to flourish without the aid of chemical fertilizers, but will create root networks which will anchor the soil and make it more difficult for the water to wash it away.
The project will cost Fairfax County $442,700, said Judy Pedersen, a public information officer for the Fairfax County Park Authority. “We hope to improve the trails from Difficult Run. All work on the Cross County Trail has become a top priority, and we’re looking to have it all finished by the end of the year.”
Once completed, the Cross County Trail will connect trails throughout Fairfax County, as the name suggests, from Occoquan River up through Great Falls, Pedersen said. “Next May, when all the work is finished, there will be a county-wide celebration for the completion of the trail with hundreds, if not thousands, of people participating.”
The work on Difficult Run is something “we’ve been working on for 10 years,” she said. “It’s going to be a wonderful thing to have the trail completed.”