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Lake Accotink upgrades facilities, as task force prepares to decide park’s long-term future

A 3.9-mile trail loops around Lake Accotink (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Questions continue to swirl around Lake Accotink Park’s long-term future, but that hasn’t stopped Fairfax County from pursuing some needed facility upgrades.

This Saturday (June 3), the Fairfax County Park Authority will celebrate the completion of its new Accotink Creek Crossing, a 320-foot-long concrete trail and 325-foot, elevated pedestrian bridge that closes 3.9-mile trail loop around the North Springfield park.

Coinciding with National Trails Day, the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 8:30 a.m. will be followed by a full day of outdoor activities, including nature and history hikes and a trail bicycle ride.

Under construction since last summer, the new crossing has improved the conditions and slope of the trail at the Lake Accotink dam outfall, according to the park authority.

“The previous stream crossing at the outfall of the Lake Accotink dam was subject to sudden and frequent flooding, often stranding trail users and tempting them to wade through swiftly moving water,” the authority said. “Additionally, excessive storm damage necessitated the total reconstruction of the trail twice within the last five years.”

The project was funded with just over $3 million from park bonds.

Playground replacement expected this year

Other impending improvements include an overhaul of the park’s playground, which has been out of commission since November after an inspector determined that the aging equipment was unsafe to use.

With $300,000 approved for a replacement, the park authority recently unveiled a design concept showcasing the features planned for the new playground, including a tower structure with a slide, four swings, a climbing net, a bouldering feature, a music feature, and a playhouse.

A conceptual rendering of the updated equipment planned for Lake Accotink Park’s playground (via FCPA)

“In the interest of delivering a functional, safe and enjoyable playground experience as quickly as possible, this particular project was conducted as an in-kind replacement,” meaning it will fit within the footprint of the existing playground, FCPA spokesperson Benjamin Boxer said.

The new equipment is expected to be installed late this summer or by early fall, though the timeline could be revised “as ordering, delivery and installation details are finalized,” according to Boxer.

As the county develops a vision for the park’s future, which might not include a lake, the park authority says it intends to recommend adding a second, larger playground.

“As part of that process, we will have an extensive community engagement process to help shape the complete vision for the park moving forward to include a wide variety of features from amenities to programming,” Boxer said.

The master planning process won’t begin until after the county makes a final decision on whether to dredge sediment from Lake Accotink, which would preserve the man-made body of water but may now be cost-prohibitive, according to a county staff report.

Task Force on the Future of Lake Accotink established

The Board of Supervisors voted on May 23 to establish a task force that will evaluate all options for Lake Accotink’s future: dredging, the wetland conversion recommended by county staff, or a hybrid approach.

“This will be a very significant process obviously of great import not just to Braddock District, but the entire county,” Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said. “…I think it’s really important to bring the community and community representatives into this process, rather than our staff and our consultants doing work and then reporting it to the community.”

The board directed the task force to review past studies of the dredging plan and identify the benefits, costs, and impacts on the environment and community that come with each option.

Led by former Board of Supervisors chair Sharon Bulova, task force members will include former Braddock District Supervisor John Cook, an FCPA representative, and members of local community, environmental and nonprofit organizations. The Department of Public Works and Environmental Services will provide support.

The group will begin meeting this summer, but there’s no set timeline yet for when its work will be finished.

“It will depend on what Chairman Bulova recommends,” Walkinshaw’s office told FFXnow.

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