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Fairfax City Council defers decision on shared-use trail through forested park

A shared-use trail is planned through Fairfax City’s Shiloh Street Park (via City of Fairfax)

(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) A years-long effort to build a pedestrian and bicycle trail along Fairfax Blvd (Route 50) is facing a roadblock.

At a public hearing last Tuesday (Sept. 26), the Fairfax City Council deferred action on a special use permit for nearly 12,000 square feet of trail in Shiloh Street Park (10400 Shiloh Street). The affected area requires the permit because it is zoned for residential development.

The Shiloh Street Park passageway, which would include asphalt pavement, a boardwalk and a bridge over the Accotink Creek, would join the partially-constructed George Snyder Trail. Plans for the Snyder trail have been in the works for more than a decade.

Per a July presentation from city staff, the final version of the trail will be 1.78 miles long and offer a route for pedestrians and cyclists parallel to Fairfax Blvd from Chain Bridge Road (Route 123) to Draper Drive, connecting to the Wilcoxon Park trail.

The special use permit request for Shiloh Street Park now appears on the agenda for the council’s Oct. 10 meeting, where it will not require a public hearing. The vote to defer action was unanimous.

Councilmember D. Thomas Ross said he supported the deferral to give the council time to gather additional information and reflect on concerns raised by community members.

Councilmember Kate Doyle Feingold said the proposal was developed to use funding, rather than to serve residents.

Much of the Snyder trail’s $18.8 million estimated cost will be covered by money from the state’s I-66 Outside the Beltway project, which funds 16 projects approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board with the recommendation of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

“What we need to do is design things that the community and residents want, design things that protect our natural spaces, that make our residents feel safe and comfortable, places people love to go, like Daniels Run Trail,” Doyle Feingold said.

Among other concerns, she said the project would “take down an unnecessary hundreds of trees”

City staff estimate the Shiloh Street Park portion of the project would require removing 59 trees, while the overall project would require removing 568 trees — a prospect that has fueled opposition to the trail from some community members.

A mitigation plan to offset the prospective tree losses would plant 858 trees and 815 shrubs — all native species — in the project area, including 518 trees and 353 shrubs in the resource protection area, a city spokesperson says.

During the public hearing, four individuals who said they live in the Mosby Woods neighborhood near Shiloh Street Park spoke against having an access point to the trail near their homes, citing crime.

Ross said he recognized those concerns, and the city is taking action to address them. Ultimately, though, he remained supportive of the trail.

“From a trail perspective, and from our parks and our open space, opening them up to public access can be a good thing. It adds visibility. It adds public use,” he said.

Ross also said there has been “strong community support” for the trail over the years of its development.

The Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling called on riders to support trail construction ahead of a city council work session in July.

The vote on the Shiloh Street Park special use permit is not the last action the city council will take on the trail project this year. If the permit is approved, the body will vote this winter to award a contract for construction, which is scheduled for spring 2024, per city staff’s July presentation.