Pimmit Run Trail Segment Causes Controversy

Pimmit Run Trail Segment Causes Controversy

Citizens disagree over plans to complete critical segment of Pimmit Run Trail.

McLean resident Ed Pickens believes in building trails. He has seen firsthand the good that can come from them.

"This year we had 170 volunteers at our trail cleanup," said Pickens, who is president of Fairfax Trails and Streams. "Where did they come from? They are primarily people who walk those trails, because when they walk those trails they see how nice it is and they become stewards."

On Wednesday, July 5, Pickens addressed the executive board of the McLean Citizens Association (MCA) and urged them to give their support to a resolution requesting that the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) make the completion of a critical segment of the Pimmit Run Trail a top priority for 2006 and 2007.

"If you don't get people in the [stream] valleys, they will never care about our valleys," said Pickens.

Currently, the partially complete Pimmit Run Trail follows the Pimmit Run stream valley through the heart of McLean, from the Potomac River at Chain Bridge, to Virginia Route 7 near Tysons Corner. The Pimmit Run Trail has been a proposed trail in the Fairfax County Master Trail Plan since the 1980s, and the FCPA has the responsibility and authority for planning, construction oversight, completion and long-term maintenance of the trail.

From November 2002 to March 2003, the FCPA conducted a scoping study of the Old Dominion/Brookhaven segment of the Pimmit Run Trail. This unfinished portion of the trail is considered to be a "critical segment," and on May 14, 2003, the FCPA Board approved a proposed order for action on that particular stretch. However, no action has been taken since that date.

ALTHOUGH many people consider trails to be a recreational asset to the community, not everyone is yearning for the completion of the Old Dominion/Brookhaven segment of Pimmit Run Trail. Bob Hartig has lived in McLean since 1978, and his property runs along the "critical segment" in question.

"Right now with no Pimmit Trail, people have made their own trail," said Hartig.

In order to avoid a steep incline, many people cut through Hartig's property to get to the finished portion of Pimmit Run Trail. Ed Pickens recently met with Hartig and the Brookville/Forest Villa Civic Association to discuss the Old Dominion/Brookhaven segment, and opinions on the matter were very divided.

"We had a very heated meeting, and the nature of the discussion left me with the impression that something was lacking in our process," said Harry Bacas, president of the Brookville/Forest Villa Civic Association. "As I brought our community together, the majority did not understand anything about the Pimmit Run Trail ... the discussion was heated and emotional."

The Brookville/Forest Villa Civic Association voted to support the completion of the Old Dominion/Brookhaven segment, but the vote was split right down the middle, with those in support only winning by a narrow margin of two people.

"We passed this motion to pass the resolution, but there is significant concern," said Bacas.

Bacas and his wife decided to walk the trail down to Bob Hartig's property. He said they were both dismayed by what they saw.

"I was visualizing grasses cut, erosion and degradation," said Bacas. "We observed this Pimmit Run Park, and there was utter devastation... it's an embarassment to our community, and I think our first priority is if we're going to put in a trail, let's clean up this stream valley."

ED PICKENS said that Fairfax County Trails and Streams and the FCPA will do everything possible to address the concerns of citizens affected by the trail. He assured the MCA Board that the trail will be natural, and not made of asphalt. He added that parking should not be an issue, as he does not expect hordes of outsiders to travel to McLean to use Pimmit Run Trail.

Some residents also expressed concerns about safety and security, but Pickens said that studies have shown that trails actually promote safety as "burglars don't want to be seen." As far as people trespassing on personal property, Pickens said that trails should help to prevent such behavior.

"One of the purposes of trails is to funnel people away from private property and where they're not supposed to be to public areas and places where they are supposed to be," said Pickens.

He added that Fairfax Trails and Streams would make every effort to post signs warning people to stay off of Hartig's property. However, Hartig remains skeptical.

"Signs are going to be ignored and they are going to look for the easy way out," said Hartig. "Promises are promises, but they are still going to come through here."

Hartig said he can "deal with the occasional person," but he fears a completed segment will mean far more than just the odd trespasser or two.

Susan Bonney lives on Brookhaven Drive, just near where Pimmit Run Trail begins. According to her, the majority of the people who use the trail are local residents — not strangers.

"My neighbors and I enjoy walking very much, and it's a short trail right now," said Bonney. "I do not see strangers, and I have not seen any security issues. In fact, my neighbors adjacent to me told me that they bought their property because of its access to the trail."

THE MCA Board listened to the concerns of the affected residents and altered the Pimmit Run Trail resolution to request that the FCPA make the protection of affected private properties a "top priority."

"Trails are an important part of the community, but we have to respect Mr. Hartig's private property," said MCA Board member Mike Clancy.