Frank Vhada was interested in the progress of the Accotink Stream Valley Trail for more reasons than just that he represents the Mason District on the Fairfax County Park Authority Board.
A resident of Fairfax’s Camelot community, Vhada and his neighbors are relieved now that work is beginning on a portion of the trail that runs through their back yards.
"We’ve been waiting and waiting for this one," said Vhada. "I’m had people asking, ‘When, when, when?’ Now, there’s a lot of happy people."
Site work began Monday, May 2, on the 1.3-mile portion of the Accotink Stream Valley Trail, which will run from the northern end of Wakefield Park in Springfield to King Arthur Road in Fairfax. When completed, the portion will link two existing segments of the much larger Cross County Trail (CCT), which will form a 48-mile continuous trail when complete.
"This is a very important piece of the trail," said Judy Pedersen, spokesperson for the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA), which is overseeing the project. According to Jenny Pate, trail coordinator for FCPA, the existing CCT has several gaps, one of which is the segment being addressed by the construction of this segment of the Accotink Stream Valley Trail. She said she believes this portion will have special impact.
"It’s a really significant portion, in part because it goes through this really densely populated area," said Pate. "It’s right in the heart of Fairfax and Annandale and Springfield, so a lot of people will have access to the Cross County Trail."
The project will begin heavy construction in early June, with an official groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for June 4, Trails Day in Fairfax County, at the Camelot Swim Club. The project will be complete sometime this winter, according to Cindy McNeal, project manager. The cost of the project, $2.9 million, was financed by a 1998 Fairfax County Bond. What made the cost higher than usual, said Pedersen, was three pre-cast bridges which are needed for the trail.
"We only build bridges when we have to," she said. "They look for the quantity of water, and certain characteristics … that would minimize the chance of a washout."
THE TIMELINE for the project dragged due to prolonged negotiations with the Virginia Department of Transportation about passage under the interchange of Little River Turnpike and the Capitol Beltway. The result was the purchase of some of that right of way, and an easement or two, according to Vhada. The 8-foot-wide trail will be primarily asphalt, with concrete sections in the VDOT right of way areas.
When it is completed, the Accotink trail will form a smooth, 30-mile continuous stretch of the CCT. The CCT project began construction in 1998 by linking together smaller biking and hiking trails, and when necessary building bridges to make the walk continuous. In 2004, 1,800 feet of trail at Hidden Pond Nature Center in Springfield was installed and cleared, including a 60-foot bridge over the Pohick Creek.
When the trail is completed, which Pedersen said will be hopefully sometime next year, it will run from the Occoquan River near Route 123 in the south county, to the Potomac River in Great Falls.
Currently, Vhada said, the majority of the trail in Camelot is technically walk-able, but it’s "torturous."
"You can walk it, but you might not want to," he said. Having the smooth, asphalt surface will increase the numbers of people who will set out on the trail.
"We expect the community to take an interest in the trail," he said.