Trail Summit Highlights Connectivity

Discussion included the hard work done on the Mount Vernon Trail this summer.

In the end of October, area transportation officials got together for the second annual Northern Virginia Recreational Trails Summit to look at the recreational trails picture for the Northern Virginia area with a goal of improving the trail network. This included a look at the George Washington Memorial Parkway trail and the Mount Vernon Trail.

At the Oct. 24 summit, hosted by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, there were over 60 representatives from all sides of the trail efforts whose goal was addressing the regional need for greater engagement around trail accessibility and connectivity. This was the second annual summit of this type with a unified goal for everybody in Northern Virginia to live within a 15-minute walk or 5-minute bike ride of a regionally significant trail.

Trail advocates focused on linking fragmented maps and plans, supporting communities so they collaborated to increase accessibility and comfort for all communities using the parks and trails.

Dr. Torsha Bhattacharya, VDOT program manager with the State Trails Office, kicked it off with a presentation on the office’s goals and development of the Statewide Trails Plan, including public engagement opportunities to learn about and discuss the plan. The trail discussion focused on multimodal aspects, safety, accessibility which included the preferred surface and grade, and being regionally connected.

Mount Vernon Trail Love

When it came time to discuss the Mount Vernon Trail, Judd Isbell, the president of the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail group launched into the discussion with page two of his presentation entitled "What I love on the Mount Vernon Trail." The total number of volunteers is the highest its ever been, and they've made 647 trail improvements in 2023 including 236 bumps removed. Other categories of improvements included vegetation, graffiti, painting, drainage, trash and more. There were a few before and after shots that showed the progress these volunteers produced.

For the Mount Vernon Trail, the changes outlined in the recent Environmental Assessment for the trail and improvements on southern part of the George Washington Parkway are likely to be the roadmap for making it easier to get to the Mount Vernon Trail by making crossing the Parkway safer for people on foot or bike. Recently some changes were made at some of the intersections including the crossing at Belle Haven Rd. where there are now fewer lanes to cross and a larger refuge. In the southern area of the trail, they are looking for funds to rebuild the southern portion of the trail and implement more intersection improvements as well as creation of paths between the trail and intersections. 

The new trail segment on Mount Vernon Memorial Highway is a safety feature they opened this year to fill a trail gap to the sidepath along Richmond Highway.