Wednesday, November 1, 2023
This fall, the National Park Service gathered information for the Mount Vernon trail improvements as part of the “Paved Trails Study” in the National Capital Region that included the George Washington Memorial Parkway, C&O Canal National Historic Park, the Potomac Heritage Trail, Rock Creek Park trails and others in the National Mall and Historic Parks area.
The National Park Service paved trail network spans more than 95 miles and links together some places that have significant cultural heritage, natural resources, and outdoor recreational assets, the NPS said. In addition to five NPS park units, the NPS paved trail network travels through two states, the District of Columbia, five counties, and the City of Alexandria making it a complex network.
The George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP) —a unit of the National Park Service — owns, maintains, and operates the 18-mile Mount Vernon Trail. This paved, multi-use trail corridor stretches from George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate to Theodore Roosevelt Island, and has approximately 1 million users annually
Along the Mount Vernon Trail, there are needs in the southern area at several crossings, said Judd Isbell, president of the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail group. The area near Belle Haven is being looked at.
“Anyone who's crossed the Parkway on foot or bike to get to the trail or a bus stop or to grab ice cream at Custard Shack can tell you how frightening an experience it is,” Isbell said. He said the proposals in the Environmental Assessment for lane reduction, crosswalks and pedestrian refuges will go a long way.
There are also some spots where the trail is not wide enough to meet the current standards. In some parts of the northern section, it gets crowded and a narrow trail increases the danger. The root bumps throughout the area are a problem too and the Friends group has been working on that aspect for the past few months. “The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail started grinding down trail bumps last fall and have removed 236 of the 695 bumps identified but these repairs don't provide a permanent fix to the cause of the trail bumps,” he said. Trees will continue to grow.
For nearby resident John David Coppola, the drivers out on the parkway don't heed to the changes that have been implemented recently and the speeding makes it worse. At Waynewood Boulevard, "the 'shoulder' turns into a head-on lane with no warning," he said. "I propose putting those tall rubber posts like at the Belleview and Belle Haven intersections, right in the middle of that 'neutral zone' starting maybe 1/4 mile before any northbound turn lanes," he added.
Parkway Wish List
Realigning Bridge 1 is another item on Isbell’s wish list. This is a dangerous spot where there were several crashes including one that included Isbell himself. “The odd entry angle combined with constantly wet conditions has been the cause of multiple crashes and injuries including my own crash in 2016 that caused a rib injury,” he said.
If there were room on his wish list, Isbell would like to see a bike bypass at the Gravelly Point park to separate bike and park activities, and some engineering fixes at Fort Hunt Park where the bikes have to share the space with cars.
There are eight goals of the study and number eight is to leverage multiple funding sources to sustain the network and achieve regional plan priorities. The recent survey may move the Mount Vernon wish list up in priorities. The Friends are advocating for a few changes alongside the Sustainable Mobility of Arlington County, WABA, Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling and the East Coast Greenway.