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Plotting Trails for Pedestrians

Great Falls Trailblazers hope new bridge will bring pedestrian walkway.

Walking down the road in Great Falls can be treacherous, from the narrow, winding shoulder near Georgetown Pike to the blind corners on Walker Road.

But with a little patience, a little research and some luck, two potential new trails along those roads could ease some concerns from walkers' minds.

A planned new bridge on Walker Road, currently a one-lane bridge with a yield sign on either end, may provide space for a pedestrian walkway, said Eleanor Weck, chair of the Trailblazers committee.

"I don't know if the walkway will be a separate bridge, which we'd like it to be, or part of the new bridge," she said. "We wanted a trail up to the bridge, but VDOT said they don't have the money available to do that."

However, if a 10 percent funding match could be secured from Fairfax County, there is a safety grant available at the state level that would increase the chances of a trail being built.

"Only about $3,000 would be needed for a $30,000 grant," Weck said. "We have the right-of-way for the trail, so I'm optimistic that when the new bridge is put in, we'll get at least something" safer for walkers to use, she said.

A second trail on Georgetown Pike, between Seneca Road and Blackhill Road, has received approval for some funding by the county's Transportation Board, said Joan Barnes, another member of the Trailblazers committee during their monthly meeting last Wednesday at the Grange in Great Falls.

"There are bits and pieces of the trail in that area, but this would fill in a gap near Krops Crops," she said. "The question will be when the money will actually become available to fix it."

In order for the trail to be planned or created, the land needs to be surveyed and the easements in which it will be built need to be designated, Barnes said. "Fairfax Water is installing a water line along there right now, so hopefully we'll be able to get things going faster," she said, because that land is currently being surveyed.

"We're very confident we can do this trail on the Pike totally within the right-of-way," Weck said.

CURRENTLY, THERE IS some discrepancy over where the right-of-way is on some properties that would linked through the trail, Weck said.

"What about a test case," Barnes said. "We can go to a property and try to work on a trail, and if we're in the wrong place, the county will let us know. This is the kind of attraction we want in our community, and it's a feature where you can show that a little work can make a big difference."

One possibility discussed at the Trailblazers meeting was to approach the management at the Great Falls Nursery on Georgetown Pike about starting trail work there. Member Cathy Mayes suggested that "they might even be happy to do it themselves. We might as well get our feet wet and try to tackle this."

However, to get either trail started, it will take funding that will not all be available from the county or state, Weck said.

"Maybe we need to send a letter out to let people know who we are, what we do and what we want to do," she said.

"We need to show that we can bring together some pieces of the [Walker Road] trail with a little bit of money and some time, so we can bring in a larger group of people from that area and maybe get some more attention," Barnes said. "We need to have a simple plan and be specific if we want people to give us donations."

Keeping the emphasis on the trail being a project for and by residents of Great Falls may be a key focus, said member Julie Ven-Achour.

"This is something we want to do for our community. If we express that, people will respond better," she said.