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

The George Washington Memorial Parkway and the mostly parallel Mount Vernon Trail could see some substantial changes, with the former being narrowed and the latter being widened.

The plans cover the southern portion of the parkway, covering 15.2 miles from Arlington Memorial Bridge to Mount Vernon. This area includes the majority of the Mount Vernon Trail, though a portion of the parkway and trail through Alexandria isn’t part of the project.

The National Park Service (NPS) will soon present and accept public comment on plans that aim to boost safety with a variety of changes for both pedestrians and drivers along the corridor.

“The road and trail improvements being considered would enhance the visitor experience for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists,” the NPS said in a release. “Potential improvements to the road include the implementation of a new road diet (reducing lanes through pavement striping to improve safety) in some areas, new crosswalks and intersection changes. Potential safety enhancements for the trail could include trail widening and intersection improvements.”

A virtual meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 6. The meeting will be virtual (Webinar ID: 314-024-315).

Comments can be submitted after the meeting online until Jan. 4.

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National Park Service staff, elected officials, and community volunteers celebrate the reopening of Mount Vernon Trail’s Bridge 12 (via National Park Service)

The National Park Service has completed the first of four planned projects to reconstruct bridges along Mount Vernon Trail.

Park service staff, elected officials and community members celebrated the reopening of Bridge 12 near Fort Hunt Park with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday (Sept. 24). The occasion coincided with National Public Lands Day, which encourages volunteers to help restore and improve national parks and other public lands.

“The Mount Vernon Trail is a very popular recreational resource and these bridge improvements will greatly increase safety for thousands of trail users,” said Charles Cuvelier, superintendent of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which runs parallel to the 18-mile trail.

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck and state Sen. Scott Surovell were among the officials who attended the ribbon-cutting.

The reconstruction began on Feb. 14 and involved relocating Bridge 12, expanding it to 14 feet in width, installing upgraded railings, and resurfacing the trail to the bridge from Waynewood Blvd to Fort Hunt Road, according to the NPS.

The straighter alignment and reduced slope of the trail leading to and from the bridge enabled by its new location will improve safety, the park service said in its news release.

According to On the MoVe, the previous bridge was “known for frequent bike mishaps” and had been under consideration for an overhaul for decades before getting the needed funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation in 2018. The Federal Highway Administration also assisted.

First opened on April 15, 1972, the Mount Vernon Trail spans over 18 miles from George Washington’s Mount Vernon to Theodore Roosevelt Island near Arlington. Maintained with help from the volunteer nonprofit Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail, the facility reached its 50th anniversary earlier this year.

NPS’ next reconstructions for the southern end of the trail will focus on Bridges 23 and 24 between Belle Haven Road and Tulane Drive, On the MoVe reported. The park service plans to replace four bridges in all over the next five years.

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A bear crosses GW Parkway in Belle Haven (courtesy of Jaclyn B/Nextdoor)

(Updated at 7:40 p.m.) Why’d the bear cross GW Parkway?

Possibly to find an easy meal or explore its landscape after a winter hibernation, according to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.

A bear was sighted in the Belle Haven area on Thursday (June 9), and one Nextdoor user snapped some photos of it crossing George Washington Memorial Parkway near Belle View Boulevard, not too far from the Mount Vernon Trail.

The sightings piqued some social media users’ interest, with residents suggesting names for the bear and sharing photos of it around the neighborhood.

The Fairfax County Police Department says its Animal Protection Police and wildlife management specialist were alerted to bear sightings in the area over the weekend. The department has also received recent reports of a young bear moving through McLean.

Last week, a bear was also seen wandering around Arlington, though it’s unclear whether any of the bears that have been spotted are the same one.

While bear encounters aren’t common in Fairfax County, they’re not unusual during the spring and summer, when young bears old enough to be independent from their mothers spread out and seek food in green spaces that wildlife uses to travel, according to the FCPD.

Bear sightings have increased in recent years, as the animal’s population grows.

“This trend will continue in the future,” the county police told FFXnow. “Bears have adapted to living near people and we must also learn to adapt to bear activity and take responsible action to prevent conflicts from occurring in our communities by removing food sources that attract bears.”

The bear could be out looking for an easy meal as bears are emerging from their winter dens hungry, or it could be a cub exploring the landscape, according to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, which says it’s important for homeowners to secure all potential food sources to reduce bear encounters.

Homeowners should secure garbage, compost, barbeque grills, birdseed and pet food.

“The goal is to make human sources of food harder for a bear to get than what nature provides — especially food that is high in fat and calories,” says Nelson Lafon, Forest Wildlife Program Manager for the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.

Photo courtesy of Jaclyn B/Nextdoor

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