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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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The George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean (via Google Maps)

The rehabilitation of the George Washington Memorial Parkway will bring new traffic impacts to the McLean area, starting Monday (Sept. 26).

Drivers should prepare for increased construction activities and potential delays along the parkway’s northern section between I-495 and Dolley Madison Boulevard, the National Park Service announced yesterday (Tuesday).

Advising caution in work areas, the NPS says it will “temporarily” widen the road by removing the median, creating three northbound travel lanes.

“This temporary widening will maintain a three-lane configuration during construction, allowing the contractor greater access to the roadway and reducing the time needed to complete the project,” the park service said.

The parkway’s northbound lanes may be closed between 7 a.m. and 2:45 p.m., while the southbound lanes may close between 9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Per the news release:

Closing some northbound and southbound lanes at the same time will shorten the project duration. At least one lane of traffic in each direction will always be open.

To allow for the temporary road widening, the NPS will remove select trees and plants. Tree locations and topography were considered in the construction planning, and every effort was made to minimize the number of trees that must be removed. The NPS will replace the trees when the project is completed.

Some lane closures are also planned on the bridges over Pimmit Run and Glebe Road in Arlington, where crews are set to start working next week.

“To avoid traffic delays on the northern section of the parkway during this time, drivers should consider alternate routes,” the NPS said.

Announced in December, the $161 million rehabilitation project broke ground in July. It’s the first major upgrade for the GW Parkway’s 7.6-mile northern stretch since it opened in 1962, promising asphalt repavings, a redesign of the Route 123 interchange, and other improvements.

As if one major road project isn’t enough, drivers in McLean have also been contending with shifting traffic patterns while the Virginia Department of Transportation widens I-495.

The NPS says it expects the parkway rehab to be completed in late 2025.

Photo via Google Maps

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A prescribed fire will be set in the circle outside Wolf Trap National Park’s Filene Center (via Wolf Trap National Park/Facebook)

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts might catch fire later this month.

No, the Original Kings of Go-Go, this summer season’s opener, isn’t rolling into town ahead of schedule. Instead, the National Park Service plans to conduct a “small prescribed fire” in the circular driveway in front of the Filene Center, according to a news release.

Expected to take place the week of March 14 or 21, depending on the weather, the fire is intended to control woody and invasive species and preserve the wildlife habitat, the federal agency says. It will be only the second-ever prescribed fire at the park, following a successful burn in April 2018.

NPS says the fire will spread over less than 1 acre of land.

“The safety of park staff and visitors is our top priority, along with protecting the iconic Filene Center,” Wolf Trap’s Acting Superintendent Ken Bigley said. “We will only conduct the prescribed fire if conditions are appropriate. Fire allows for the native vegetation to flourish along with improving the habitat for wildlife.”

According to NPS, the park’s public areas and trails near the circle, Stage Road, and Lot 4 parking lot will be closed “for several hours” during the fire. Additional, temporary road closures might be required if smoke reduces visibility.

Here’s more from NPS on how the fire will work:

Many factors must align to conduct a prescribed fire and ensure public and firefighter safety. The timing of the prescribed fire is dependent on weather conditions being within required wind, temperature, and relative humidity parameters. Wildland fire engines, firefighters, and the nearby paved road serve to create buffers and fire breaks to ensure the fire is contained. NPS staff will monitor air quality and smoke impacts. Upon completion of the fire activity, wildland firefighters will continue to monitor the area to ensure the fire is completely out.

Photo via Wolf Trap National Park/Facebook

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A trail segment at Turkey Run Park before and after volunteers built a new wooden staircase (courtesy National Park Service)

Hikers at Turkey Run Park now have safer access to trails alongside the Potomac River, thanks to the hard work of more than 100 volunteers.

The National Park Service and the nonprofit Potomac Appalachian Trail Club officially reopened a half-mile section of trail in the McLean park with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday (March 5), the NPS announced.

It was the federal agency’s largest volunteer-designed and built project in the D.C. area, according to a press release.

“This project is a great example of the success we can have when park staff work together with partners and volunteers to meet the needs of visitors,” George Washington Memorial Parkway Superintendent Charles Cuvelier said in a statement. “We embrace the collaboration, trust, and open communication we have with partners and are grateful to PATC and the volunteers for making this project possible.”

According to the NPS, it took more than four years and over 1,000 volunteer hours for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club to rebuild a section of trail that had eroded due to its age and location on a gorge leads to the Potomac River.

The project was intended to provide safer and easier access to the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, a regional network that follows the river and runs along the northern edge of Turkey Run Park.

Founded in 1927, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club consists of volunteers and a professional support staff who manage over 1,000 miles of hiking trails across Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

Among other challenges, the Turkey Run project required constructing a wood staircase with over 100 steps that enables trail users to climb almost 170 feet in less than two-tenths of a mile, according to PATC President Joe Lombardo.

“This daunting task required the skill and dedication of experienced crew leaders to design and execute a unique trail rehabilitation plan that provided improved access and was sensitive to the natural setting of the park,” Lombardo said in the NPS news release.

George Washington Memorial Parkway, which encompasses Turkey Run Park, did not immediately return FFXnow’s request for additional comment on the trail project and an update on its plans for the former Claude Moore Farm, which is being revamped as South Turkey Run Park.

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