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Living, Working and Playing in Fairfax Station

New construction, transportation solutions and recreation facilities are on tap for area residents.

<sh>Virginia Railway Express

<bt>Burke became less of a bedroom community and more of a suburban cluster with the introduction of the Virginia Railway Express (VRE). Each year, the VRE has seen an increase in ridership. At the same time, parking at the Burke Centre and the Rolling Road stations is stretched to the limit. A multi-level parking garage has been planned for the Burke Centre station, although it has not been constructed yet. For a temporary fix, the parking lot lines are being redrawn to make room for more cars, and additional asphalt is being installed as well. Forty to 60 spaces will be added, according to Mark Roeber, VRE spokesperson.

"Fairfax County is actually doing a reassessment of the Burke lot," said Roeber.

Besides to parking improvements, VRE is adding several cars to the trains this year as well. Ten train cars are being leased from the rail system in Chicago and VRE expects to put 30 of the new cars in service by December.

The VRE runs two lines: the Manassas line, which includes Burke, and the Fredericksburg line which includes Springfield. Along the Fredericksburg line, a bridge at Quantico is currently being worked on and is expected to be completed this year.

All the area district supervisors are on the VRE board to some extent. Supervisor Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield) is vice chairman, Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) is treasurer, and Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) is a board member. In 2003, the VRE's chief executive officer, Pete Sklannik, was replaced by Dale Zehner.

"He has worked with the VRE at other capacities," said Bulova.

<sh>Road Improvements

<bt>To speed the construction and avoid flagmen and delays, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) closed the stretch of Burke Lake Road between Lee Chapel Road and the Fairfax County Parkway and Zion Drive. The road was closed on the last day of class for Fairfax County Public Schools and is expected to re-open when class resumes in early September. Burke Lake Road is being widened while Zion Drive was closed to reduce a hill that was the source of several accidents. While the Burke Lake Road project was funded by VDOT, the Zion Road project was part of a proffer put in place by construction company at work on a community along Zion.

In 2004, Phase III of Ox Road was underway as well, completing the road widening project there as well until the builder went out of business, delaying it indefinitely.

The Army Corps of Engineers began work this past year to prepare the Engineer Proving Grounds to be handed over to the county, providing land for the final phase of the Fairfax County Parkway to be completed. The parkway goes from the Algonkian area in Loudoun County to Route 1 in Alexandria. It is nearly complete except for one stretch from Rolling Road to the other side of the Fullerton Industrial Park. That land is owned by the U.S. Army. The county improved transportation through this area earlier in the year with the opening of Fullerton Road to Rolling Road.

<sh>Wakefield Park Skateboard Facility

<bt>As a skate guard, Jessica Griffing finds up to 15 people, with skateboards in hand, when she arrives at Wakefield Park every day. After they hit the ramps, rails and boxes at the new skatepark in Wakefield, the fun begins.

"They seem to have a lot of fun out there but nobody does anything too stupid," Jessica said.

But after a fall, the drama sets in too.

"They'll lay there for a few minutes, and get back up," Jessica said.

Filled with ramps, rails, boxes and jumps, the 21,500 square-foot skating facility is north of the Audrey Moore RECenter in Wakefield Park off of Braddock Road. An 8-foot fence surrounds the asphalt facility with a skate shop at one end where skaters pay and rent their protective gear. The Park Authority included the skatepark in its 2000 Master Plan. Funding for the project was approved in a 1998 park bond and the price tag was in the $960,000 range, according to park information.

The falls are all part of living on the edge, according to skatepark supervisor Michael Austin, who summed it up with a Zen-like quip.

"The more you live, the less you die," Austin said.

The park opened April 24, 2004 with a gala of politicians, park officials and Alex Bauer, who initiated the idea of the skatepark facility as a freshman at Lake Braddock years ago. Bauer introduced the idea for a skatepark at a time when county officials were putting together a plan for the park. Bauer is now a mechanical engineering student at Virginia Commonwealth University and was credited by Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) in April for pushing the skatepark through the government channels. Skaters were admitted for free on opening day but other times, admission is $7.50 for non-county residents, $5.50 for residents and $2 for each set of safety equipment, which includes a helmet, elbow pads and knee pads. Summer hours are Monday-Friday, 3-10 p.m.; Saturday, 12-9 p.m. and Sunday, 9 a.m.-9 p..

<sh>Burke Library

<bt>All eyes are on the November 2004 bond referendum to fund the construction of the Burke Library. Land has been purchased along the Fairfax County Parkway near Freds Oak Road for the library. Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) is hopeful for the bond's success and the future of the project.

"Hopefully, if it passes, we'll be able to start later this year," Bulova said.

After all the design and planning is complete, Bulova expects groundbreaking sometime in 2006 and the library to be completed in 2007. A barn on the property, which was owned by the Short family, was torn down in late July 2004.

<sh>Cross County Trail

<bt>For the first few years of its existence, the Fairfax County Park Authority linked together pieces of existing bike trails, paths and multi-use trails in an attempt to traverse the county with a continuous trail.

The end is in sight, according to Jenny Pate, Fairfax County's trail coordinator.

"We're committed to having it done by 2005," Pate said.

Multi-use is an all-encompassing term the county adopted for the trail. Part of it is more fit for equestrian travel while other parts aren't paved but suitable for mountain bikes.

"It's not just one kind of trail," Pate said, adding "the entire length will be hike-able."

At Hidden Pond Nature Center in West Springfield, 1,800 feet of paved trail has been put in over the past year, linking the Orange Hunt area with the park and the Rolling Road area, eliminating the need for bikes and pedestrians from going on a portion of Old Keene Mill Road where no trail or sidewalk is available.

"They can cut through the park here, get over to Greeley where it's much safer," said Jim Pomeroy, park manager.

Included with the trail is a 60-foot bridge across Pohick Creek.