Park Site Connections – The MVT’s Got Them

The 99 page Mount Vernon Trail Study was recently published by the National Park Service and chocked full of information about the trail along with recommendations for improvement. To make the study more digestible, we’ll be pulling out interesting tidbits over a series of posts.

At 7,300 acres the George Washington Memorial Parkway contains over two dozen Park sites, many of which are accessible from the Mount Vernon Trail. The list provided in the study is below. Can you identify the two we think are in error?

• Belle Haven Park and Marina
• Collingwood Picnic Area
• Daingerfield Island
• Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve
• Fort Hunt Park
• Fort Marcy
• Gravelly Point
• Jones Point Park and Lighthouse
• Lady Bird Johnson Park
• Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove on the Potomac
• Memorial Avenue/Arlington Memorial Bridge
• Navy and Marine Memorial
• Riverside Park
• Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary
• Theodore Roosevelt Island

It appears that Fort Marcy was included in error. Fort Marcy is located near Chain Bridge. We’d also argue that Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary should not be included on the list. Although it’s visible from the Mount Vernon Trail, there is no connection to the Sanctuary that doesn’t involve driving a car or darting across multiple lanes of a busy section of the Parkway.

We also think there’s a few sites that should be added that are not exactly on the trail but are easily reached by trail:

  • Abington Plantation – this house is located between parking garages at the airport and is easily reachable by the airport access trail.
  • Arlington House – Located in Arlington National Cemetery with direct trail access. Park at the visitor’s center though. Bikes are not allowed on the grounds of the cemetery.
  • Iwo Jima and Netherlands Carillon – Both are just a short connector trail away from Arlington National Cemetery.

Stay tuned for more tidbits or read the full study at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/showFile.cfm?projectID=95147&MIMEType=application%252Fpdf&filename=Final%20Mount%20Vernon%20Trail%20Corridor%20Study%2Epdf&sfid=424173

GWMP Release Mount Vernon Trail Study

The George Washington Memorial Parkway released a study focused on conditions and safety on the Mount Vernon Trail. The study is very lengthy and the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail will post an analysis in the near future. The press release from GWMP is below:

McLean, Va. — The National Park Service (NPS) is working on long-term plans to improve trails and opportunities for recreation near the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The park recently completed the Mount Vernon Trail Corridor Study and the Georgetown Pike Footpath Feasibility Study in collaboration with transportation partners and stakeholders. These studies are the first steps towards future trail improvements.   

The NPS will continue to review these recommendations and will work with park neighbors and transportation partners to decide whether or how to adopt them. Any actions could require additional public review and environmental and historic preservation compliance prior to implementation. 

“The trail network of the George Washington Memorial Parkway connects visitors to recreational areas, historic sites and communities across the national capital region,” Superintendent Charles Cuvelier said. “These studies set the stage for improvements to visitor experiences and increased trail connectivity along the parkway.”  

The Mount Vernon Trail Study address current trail use. maintenance conditions and future needs along the 18-mile paved trail. It identifies opportunities to make improvements including: 

  • Replacing bridges. 
  • Changing trail routes. 
  • Rehabilitating trails. 
  • Adding, replacing, or improving signs or pavement makings. 
  • Updating trail maintenance. 

Approximately 1 million people use the Mount Vernon Trail for recreation and transportation each year. The trail links attractions like George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Theodore Roosevelt Island and connects Fairfax County, the City of Alexandria, Arlington County and the District of Columbia. 

Through the Georgetown Pike Footpath Feasibility Study, the NPS found that it is possible to build a new trail near Georgetown Pike in McLean, Virginia. If constructed, this trail would connect the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail to Great Falls Park in Virginia as well as local neighborhoods. Construction of the trail is dependent on additional factors including stakeholder involvement, cost, visitor experience, safety, visual impacts and ease of construction. Implementation in Great Falls Park could occur over time as funds become available. 

NPS Rulemaking For E-Bike Use Framework

The National Park Service is currently undergoing a rule making process that would provide a framework for managing the use of e-bikes on NPS lands. The 60 day comment period ended on June 6th, 2020. Full information is located at https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NPS-2020-0001

The proposed rule would:

  1. Define an e-bike using the Class 1, 2 and 3 system adopted by many states.
  2. Allow use of e-bikes in areas where non-electric bikes are currently allowed.
  3. Prohibit the use of throttle only operation of e-bikes except for areas where motorized vehicles are allow.
  4. Prevent use of e-bikes in established wilderness areas.
  5. Apply all state laws for use of e-bikes in the state where the park is located.
  6. Allow Park Superintendents flexibility to limit the use of e-bikes on NPS lands if necessary to ensure safety or protection of cultural, historical and environmental resources by providing public notification and updating the park unit’s Compendium.

This rulemaking comes as a result of the memorandum issued by the Secretary of the Interior on August 29, 2019 directing the establishment of a policy to allow the use of e-bikes. Based on this order, the George Washington Memorial Parkway began allowing use of Class 1, 2 and 3 e-bikes on the Mount Vernon Trail and areas of the Parkway where use of traditional bicycles is permitted.

The use of bicycles on the George Washington Memorial Parkway is still prohibited.

The definition of each class of e-bike is below. It should be noted that the proposed rule would not prohibit e-bikes with a throttle from the Mount Vernon Trail, but would require that they be pedaled.

  • Class 1 electric bicycle means an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
  • Class 2 electric bicycle means an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
  • Class 3 electric bicycle means an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour.

Boundary Channel Drive Mount Vernon Trail Connection Comments Needed

Arlington County and the Virginia Department of Transportation are undertaking a redesign of the Boundary Channel Drive interchange with 395 that will provide a new trail connection to the Mount Vernon Trail. The project would provide a safer and more direct link between Long Bridge Drive and the MVT and improve access to LBJ Memorial Grove.

Materials from the presentation are available at: https://projects.arlingtonva.us/projects/boundary-channel-drive-interchange/

Public comment is open at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/5K29BJC until December 27th. The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail encourage trail users to provide comments on this fantastic new trail connection. Our thoughts as VDOT enters the design phase, which you are welcome to borrow for your comments:

1. This project is great and will provide a new trail connection to the Mount Vernon Trail and LBJ Memorial Grove.

2. The turn radii of the interchanges should be tighter to slow vehicle traffic. This will help prevent vehicle crashes as well as pedestrian and cyclist crashes.

3. The trail and interchanges should include lighting.

4. The crosswalks should be raised to slow vehicle traffic to reduce the risk of crashes.

5. The crosswalks should have Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) activated automatically when pedestrians and cyclists approach to reduce the risk of crashes with motor vehicles.

6. The exit ramps from 395 currently present a long runway that encourages fast motor vehicle travel. Engineering should done to ensure vehicles slow as they exit including curved lanes, rumble strips and lane narrowing.

7. The project should include trail signage to help direct trail users to and from the Mount Vernon Trail as well nearby facilities such as bathrooms, recreation areas and businesses.

Cranksgiving – Saturday November 23rd

The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail are cosponsoring Cranksgiving on Saturday, November 23rd. Cranksgiving is a food and clothing drive on two wheels. Part bike ride, part food/clothing drive to benefit A-SPAN, and part scavenger hunt. All you need is a bike, a bag, and a lock! (and a few bucks) Event registration is located at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cranksgiving-a-bike-scavenger-hunt-in-support-of-a-span-registration-77662916875

How it Works

Cranksgiving is a choose-your-own-adventure-style bike ride that benefits those in our community in need during the winter season. Participants are given a manifest of suggested items to purchase or locate and tasks to complete in three hours. Participants will provide receipts and photographs when turning in their items to score points.

All items collected will be donated to the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN).

Teams

It’s suggested that participants work in teams of 4-5. We’ll have an area designated on the day of the event to help match solo participants and teams looking for additional members.

Donation Only Participation

If you’re not able to make the event, but would still like to support, please register as a donation only participant. All donations will be used by the organizers to bulk purchase items for participants to pick up when completing challenges. All items will be donated to A-SPAN.

Starting Location

The event will begin and end at Ireland’s Four Courts, 2051 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA. Participants will be given a list of tasks at 10 a.m. and must return by 1 p.m. to begin scoring. The after party runs from 1 to 3.

Timeline

9 a.m. – Ireland’s Four Courts is open for brunch or coffee before the event

9:30 a.m. – Check In Opens

10 a.m. – Participants will be given manifest with locations

1 p.m. – Participants return to Ireland’s Four Courts with items for scoring

2 p.m. – Winners announced

3 p.m. – Official After Party Ends

What to Bring

1. Bike Lock

2. Something to carry stuff with: A basket, pannier or backpack should do

3. About $10 to $20 to purchase scavenger items with

4. A cellphone (you’ll need to show us pictures for some of the challenges)

Prizes

We’ll be awarding fabulous prizes at the after party at Ireland’s Four Courts.

About A-SPAN

This event will collect items for Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network. A-SPAN’s mission is to secure permanent housing and provide life-sustaining services for Arlington’s most vulnerable individuals through outreach and relationships built on trust and respect. Find out more at a-span.org.

Long Bridge Draft Environmental Impact Statement Meeting on 10/22/19

The DC Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration will hold a meeting on Tuesday, October 22 to present the Long Bridge Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The meeting will be open house style from 4-7 p.m. with presentations at 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Location:

Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) Building, Room E200, 1100 4th St. SW, Washington, DC 20024

The project is intended to increase rail capacity across the Potomac but also includes a separate pedestrian and bicyclist bridge. The new bridge would provide a connection to the Mount Vernon Trail providing additional access to Crystal City and East Potomac Park, allowing an easier connection to the Case Bridge in DC.

The Draft EIS lists a few adverse impacts to the Mount Vernon Trail:

  1. A trail detour during construction
  2. Loss of some trees and vegetation (including three mature trees)
  3. Impact to the Memorial viewshed
  4. Potential for increased trail traffic

Full meeting details: http://longbridgeproject.com/upcoming-meetings/

Draft EIS: http://longbridgeproject.com/deis/ (We recommend reading the Executive Summary and Chapter 22)

If you’re not able to make the meeting, you can provide comments through October 28th at https://p2a.co/HP4tqaT

Mount Vernon Trail Ride and Fort Hunt Picnic With FABB and Alexandria BPAC – August 18th

Bike ride from Jones Point to Fort Hunt for a potluck picnic. We’ll also check out the Parkway crossings that are part of a safety study.

NPS is currently studying safety at intersections on the southern part of the GW Parkway, and they’re accepting public comments through August 21. On Sunday, August 18, let’s bike to each of the 11 intersections in the study and use that experience to inform our comments. Because it’s less than ideal to bike with a large group on the MVT on the weekend, we’ll probably break into smaller groups of 4-5 people, each led by an experienced rider.

Along the way, each group will have the opportunity to observe issues like speeding on the parkway, the difficulty of crossing the parkway to get to the trail, and trail crossings where it’s hard for drivers to see trail users (and vice versa). We’ll then regroup at Fort Hunt, where we’ll collectively discuss our observations, have a potluck picnic, and write up our individual comments (paper and pens will be provided). If anyone wants to join just for the picnic, they’re welcome to do that too.

Details:

  • Start location: Jones Point Park next to the bathrooms
  • Start time: 9:00 a.m.
  • Picnic Location: Fort Hunt Park, Area E
  • Picnic Time: 11 a.m. (approximate)

This ride is a joint effort of the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail, the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling and the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

Sign up here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mount-vernon-trail-ride-and-fort-hunt-picnic-with-fabb-and-alexandria-bpac-tickets-66142926273

Summer Happy Hour – Thursday, August 1st

The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail are hosting a summer happy hour on Thursday, August 1st from 4:30 to 7 at Island Time Bar and Grill located just off the Mount Vernon Trail at the Columbia Island Marina. Come enjoy a beer out on the patio with us. Island Time is a great place to grab a beer or food while you’re out on the trail. Info and menu is here: https://boatingindc.com/island-time-bar-and-grill/

Sign up and let us know you’re coming here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/friends-of-the-mount-vernon-trail-happy-hour-thursday-august-1st-tickets-65366505979

Alexandria Earth Day Bike Ride

The Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee is hosting two bike rides in conjunctions with the city’s Earth Day celebration on 4/27. There’s an afternoon ride and and a morning ride. The afternoon ride will visit two sites on the Mount Vernon Trail to discuss future projects.

Afternoon Ride:

Where will Alexandria’s first two-way protected bike lane be installed? Find out at BPAC’s Earth Day afternoon ride, April 27 at 1:00 p.m. Register at http://bit.ly/EarthDayPMride.

What major issue with Alexandria’s waterways needs to be remediated by 2025? Where is the oldest surviving bridge in Alexandria? Find out at BPAC’s Earth Day afternoon ride, 4/27 at 1:00 p.m. Details at http://bit.ly/EarthDayPMride.

Morning Ride:

What do butterfly gardens and traffic gardens have in common? You can learn about both at BPAC’s Earth Day morning ride, April 27 at 9:30 a.m. Details at http://bit.ly/EarthDayAMride.

Which infrastructure project will remove an estimated 5000 vehicles from the roads every day? Which recent project won a Governor’s Environmental Excellence Silver Award? Find out at BPAC’s Earth Day morning ride, 4/27 at 9:30 a.m. Register at http://bit.ly/EarthDayAMride.

Upcoming Events on The Trail From the Friends of the Dyke Marsh

You probably know that Dyke Marsh is one of the best places on the Mount Vernon Trail. The Friends of Dyke Marsh have several upcoming events happening right near the trail. In addition to great educational events, they conduct ongoing habitat restoration and invasive species removal. Keep up with their full calendar of events at fodm.org.

April 20, Raptor Rapture, The Friends of Dyke Marsh, Secret Gardens Birds and Bees, the National Park Service and the Monarch Teachers Network will “host” live raptors, 10 a.m. to 12 noon, Belle Haven Park.  You can see big birds up close.  Free

May 15, Sea Level Rise and its Local Impacts (including Dyke Marsh).  Speaker: Geoffrey Sanders, Biologist/Data Manager, National Park Service, National Capital Region Network Inventory and Monitoring Program, 7:30 p.m. at the Huntley Meadows Park Visitor Center preceded at 7 p.m. by an informal social.

June 9, Ecology Walk, Join FODMers on June 9, 10 a.m.  for an ecology walk led by naturalist Charles Smith.  We’ll learn about tidal marsh ecology, vegetative communities, system stressors, seasonality of vegetation and wildlife and ecosystems’ importance.  Meet at the Haul Road entrance at 10 a.m. Bring water, wear sturdy shoes and sun protection.  We request that you not bring pets. 

For outdoor events, if we have severe weather, check our website and Facebook page for a status report. 

Help Restore Habitat, Plant Natives

FODM needs volunteers to help us restore degraded habitat and support wildlife by planting native plants in Dyke Marsh on May 6 (rain date, May 13) 1 to 4:30 p.m.   This will supplement the native plants we put in last year.  Meet at the Haul Road trail native plant site, about 1/3 mile from the entrance.  Wear gloves, long pants and sun protection and bring water.  This event will take place unless we have severe rain and lightning that day.  Please sign up at info@fodm.org.

Help Control Invasive Plants

FODM needs several volunteers to help control invasive or non-native plants in our native plant restoration area off and on.  We can provide training to help you identify several species of known invasives.  If you can help for an hour or two off and on, email Glenda Booth at gbooth123@aol.com.