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Mount Vernon Trail to celebrate 50 years of history on Saturday

Cyclists on the Mount Vernon Trail (via National Park Service)

An iconic resource along the Potomac River is turning 50.

The Mount Vernon Trail first opened on April 15, 1972. Half a century later, elected officials and others will gather to celebrate its storied history with activities for all ages.

Scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday (April 16), the 50th anniversary event at Daingerfield Island (1 Marina Drive) in Alexandria will feature giveaways, work demos, the National Park Service’s Junior Ranger Program, and more, according to an event page.

“The creation of the Mount Vernon Trail exemplifies how determined community members can help foster partnerships with government and the private sector to create a community asset that benefits all of us,” Mount Vernon Supervisor Daniel Storck said during a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting yesterday (Tuesday).

The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail credits volunteers as instrumental in creating the multi-use path, which now spans more than 18 miles across Fairfax and Arlington counties and Alexandria City:

On April 15, 1972, the first 4.5-mile stretch of the Mount Vernon Trail opened to the public. The gravel path ran from Belle Haven in Alexandria to the Memorial Bridge in Arlington and was the brainchild of two Alexandria women, Ellen Pickering and Barbara Lynch. In 1971, the two gathered over 700 signatures on a petition to create a trail alongside the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

The National Park Service was sympathetic to the plea and agreed to provide the right-of-way, gravel, and tools if Pickering and Lynch could provide volunteers to do the work. So Pickering and Lynch organized 40 volunteers, and every Saturday that winter they spread gravel. In total, 400 recruits spread 4,200 tons of gravel, contributing 5,300 hours of labor to start the trail that would become a vital recreational and transportation corridor in the region.

Storck said the trail serves as an essential artery for the Mount Vernon District, an 18.5-mile anchor for the region’s trail network with approximately 1 million annual users.

In addition to Storck, speakers at the celebration will include:

  • George Washington Memorial Parkway Superintendent Charles Cuvelier
  • Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail President Judd Isbell
  • Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol
  • Alexandria City Councilmember Sarah Bagley

Several community, transportation, and governmental groups are also expected to attend, including BikeArlington, WalkArlington, Capital Bikeshare, GO Alex, East Coast Greenway, Capital Trails Coalition, Friends of Dyke Marsh, and the Rosslyn Business Improvement District.

The event is free and open to the public.

Photo via National Park Service

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