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.

Announcing the Photo Scavenger Hunt

The daffodils are blooming, spring is right around the corner, and we’re launching a new game to encourage everyone to learn about the hidden wonders of the Mount Vernon Trail.  We hope you’ll give this photo scavenger hunt a whirl!

This is one of the amazing Mount Vernon Trail sites you will find if you follow the riddles.

THE RULES

  • We’ve posted a list of riddles about hidden secrets on or near the Mount Vernon Trail.  They’re listed from north to south.
  • Figure out the riddle, then take a photo of the site, along with the active transportation mode (feet, bike, skateboard, rollerblades, scooter, etc.) that got you there.
  • You can also count up to two photos from the “wild cards” category.  
  • Submit five photos, and you’ll win an exclusive patch!  You’ll also be entered into a raffle for the top prizes. We can’t reveal what the top prizes are just yet, but there’ll be some cool swag involved.
  • The contest runs from Monday, April 1 to Tuesday, April 30.  
  • You can take a maximum of three photos per week.  (Yes, this means that you’ll have to make at least two trips over two weeks if you want to be eligible for the patch and top prizes.  Part of the fun of this event is learning about different aspects of the trail and experiencing the trail at different times.) The scavenger hunt kicks off on a Monday, so a week is Monday-Sunday.
  • Submit all your photos via email at the end.  If you feel so inclined, post your photos to social media and tag us.  See details below.

SUBMISSIONS

  • Send your submissions to MtVernonTrail@gmail.com by May 10. Please put “scavenger hunt” in the email subject.
  • Submissions may be in the form of links to or screenshots of your blog writeups, Instagram posts, Facebook posts, Tweets, online photo galleries with accompanying narrative, Word documents with attached or embedded photos, or email writeups with photos attached.
  • If you complete the scavenger hunt as a group, you may provide one submission for all of you, so long as you took all of the photos together.
  • If you want to pick up your patch in person, come visit our tent on Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 17.  We’ll be at the Gravelly Point afternoon pitstop from 4-6 p.m. Otherwise, include your mailing address in your email submission.  

SOCIAL MEDIA

  • Blog it: Let us know if you blog your scavenger hunt.  We might do periodic roundups on the FOMVT website.
  • Twitter: Tag @MtVernonFriends and use hashtag #MVTphotohunt.
  • Instagram: Tag @mountvernontrail and use hashtag #MVTphotohunt.
  • Facebook: Tag @Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail.  
  • Flickr: Share your photos in the MVTphotohunt Group on flickr.
  • Google Photos:  Share your photos in this Google Photos album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/kp9ujEzrqvVjc7MS6.

THE RIDDLES

  1. He inspired the creation of the toy teddy bear.
    Now he greets visitors with a hand in the air.
  2. Look at these bikes all shining red,
    Docked in a row by the Island of Ted.
  3. A senator, a president, a Texan.
    He’d come here when things would vex him.
  4. Sometimes it was an island, sometimes it was not.
    This plaque tells the tale of when Virginia and DC fought.  
  5. Next to a marina where boaters convene,
    These convenient bathrooms are nice and clean.
  6. Though this station was installed just last year,
    Usage is already through the stratosphere.
  7. Raise your bike, fix a flat.
    Handy tools, just like that!
  8. Towards Crystal City you must circle around.
    A boundary is marked if you look on the ground.
  9. “No one bikes to the airport,” they say.
    But yes, here’s the bike parking at DCA.
  10. Before jetting off on your next vacation,
    Check out what remains of this once-grand plantation.
  11. Need a burger, a beer, or a cold milkshake?
    Stop here for river views and to take a break.  
  12. Water once flowed through Alexandria’s heart.
    Find ye the place where the canal did start.
  13. 3,000 miles of trail sure would be fine.
    Take a trip to Old Town and show us a sign.
  14. Hollensbury built this house for spite.
    Now it’s a historic Old Town delight.  
  15. Ride on through and let out a woo,
    Just like the choo choo used to do.
  16. This once was a place where ships did embark.
    The shipyard is gone, but these launch rails remain in the park.
  17. Final resting place for some escaped slaves,
    Once lost to history were their old graves.
  18. Benjamin Banneker sure did it right,
    Setting this stone at the southern point of light.
  19. A giant awakens, a giant wheel spins.
    The view towards the trail elicits big grins.
  20. In this park, in April 1972,
    The trail officially opened, thanks to a volunteer crew.
  21. Eight Virginians held the highest office in the nation.
    The DAR built this marker in celebration.
  22. Amid wooden bridges, graceful birds take flight.
    This marsh is lovely, by day and by night.
  23. Father of the country forever he’ll be.
    Honor his legacy at this bicentennial tree.
  24. Whether you’re using the trail for fitness or fun,
    You can stop here to get some reps done.
  25. Once a fort to fill invaders with dread.
    Now there are horses. Hello, Mr. Ed!
  26. A wartime secret that not many knew.
    Now there’s a memorial for Box 1142.
  27. Take a look across the river.
    See this fort that made Redcoats shiver.

WILD CARDS

  • An airplane flying near Gravelly Point
  • A sailboat underway on the Potomac River
  • A sunrise over the Potomac River
  • A wild animal on or near the trail
  • A view of a weeping willow and a bridge
  • A view through the bridge looking at the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument

No Right On Red Coming to Porto Vecchio Trail Crossing

The Alexandria Traffic and Parking Board unanimously approved a proposal to change the “No Turn on Red When Pedestrians Present” to a “No Turn on Red” sign where the Mount Vernon Trail crosses the driveway to the Porto Vecchio condos. The Board also recommended that city evaluate making changes to the signal timing for cars to exit the condos as well as prohibiting left turns from the southbound lanes of Washington Avenue when trail users have a signal to cross the driveway. The change will improve safety for over 400,000 trail users that cross this driveway each year where the signals provided right of way to both vehicles and trail users.

Zack DesJardins, John Pickett and Erin Meter provided comments before the board supporting a change to signage on the driveway crossing the Mount Vernon Trail to improve trail safety.

Three Mount Vernon Trail users spoke in support of changing the signage to prohibit right on red at this trail crossing. John Pickett spoke about an incident two years ago where he was hit by a car making a right on red as it exited the condo. You can read about John’s near death experience here: https://rootchopper.com/2017/03/31/making-nelles-hit-list-errandonnee-no-11/

Erin Meter spoke on behalf of the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail. She spoke about the number of trail users at this crossing, the frequent reports of near misses and the City of Alexandria’s Vision Zero Goals to end all serious injuries and fatalities. She also spoke to an experience the week prior where right on red presented a dangerous situation for trail users: https://twitter.com/ErinMeter/status/1097279244953157632

Zack DesJardins spoke to the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and how the Federal Highway Authority discourages the use of the currently installed “No Right Turn on Red When Pedestrians are Present” because it is a vague signal and has low compliance. He also spoke about his weekend observations of traffic exiting Porto Vecchio and the number of times that he witnessed conflicts.

All three speakers recommended changes to the signaling of the entire intersection to improve safety but also ensure that residents of Porto Vecchio did not have excessive wait times to exit the condo.

Friends of the MVT Receives WABA Trail Champion Award

The Washington Area Bicyclists Association awarded the Trail Champion award to the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail at the annual Bicyclists Choice Awards on February 13th. The award recognizes FOMVT’s efforts to maintain and improve the Mount Vernon Trail and make it safe and enjoyable for walkers, runners and bicyclists.


Josephine Liu and Judd Isbell accept the WABA Trail Champion Award (Not Pictured: Casey Kane)

A copy of our award acceptance speech is below.

I’m honored to accept this award on behalf of the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail.

In 1971, two women from Alexandria, Ellen Pickering and Barbara Lynch gathered over 700 signatures asking the National Park Service to build a trail in the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Despite no funding and a lack of precedent for a trail on federal land, they convinced the Assistant Superintendent to provide the gravel to build a trail if they would provide the labor to build it. On the first day of construction, NPS showed up with 4 shovels. Ellen and Barbara showed up with 50 volunteers.

Today, that initial 4.5 mile gravel trail built by volunteers working through winter has grown to an 18.5 mile paved trail with over 1 million users per year.

As Ellen Pickering later said, “We were just women who said, ‘Why don’t we?’ And, we did!”

The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail was founded by three friends who said “Why don’t we?” Why don’t we shovel snow on the trail for five hours so people can get to work? Why don’t we remove trash from the trail in 18 degree weather on MLK Day? And we did! And we’re going to do more.

We all know something that isn’t great or would make biking better in the region.  I’d like to challenge you tonight to do more than just grumble or fire off an angry tweet. Take action! Turn that tweet into an e-mail to a friend that says “Why don’t we?” And then do it.  

Thank you.

Presidents Day Bike Ride – George Washington Themed

The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail will host a 20 mile bike ride on Presidents Day visiting four sites associated with George Washington. Full event details are below. Please let us know that you’re coming by signing up at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/presidents-day-bike-ride-george-washington-history-tickets-56062216599?aff=ebapi&ref=eios

About this Event

The Presidents Day Ride is back! This year’s ride is all about our nation’s first President, George Washington (redacted is a long discussion about whether John Hanson was the really the first President under the Articles of Confederation).

Why’s the Washington Monument multi-colored? Why is the Custis Trail called the Custis Trail and what does it have to do with GW? Explore the border of a 1200 acre plot owned by GW that you’ve biked past 100 times. See the Washington family pew which has been used by at least 6 Presidents and one British Prime Minister. See the best view of the City of Alexandria.

Meet

9:30 am at Velo Cafe (730 Maine Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024)

Rollout at 10

Sites

We will visit the following sites related to George Washington:

Washington Monument

Custis Trail

George Washington Survey Marker

Christ Church in Alexandria – We’ll go inside

The George Washington Masonic National Memorial – We’ll go inside

Route

The route will be approximately 20 miles starting in SW DC and ending in Alexandria

Approximate route: https://goo.gl/maps/xps2ZohQyhB2

Bathrooms

Bathrooms will be available at or near each stop, except for a brief stop on the Custis.

Pace

No drop. Average of about 13 mph with a sweep.

Bring

Bike Lock

Small donation to Christ Church as a thank you to the volunteer docents

$15 for admission to The George Washington Masonic National Memorial

Snacks to prevent you from getting hangry

After Party

For those that want to grab late lunch/early dinner afterwards, we will find a mutually agreeable location in Alexandria.

MLK Day of Service By the Numbers

  • 18 — degrees Fahrenheit at the event’s start.
  • 22-25 — wind speed, in miles per hour, throughout the event.
  • Over 30 — number of people who gave up a holiday morning and volunteered despite the weather
  • 34 — number of trash grabbers provided or brought by friends of the Mount Vernon Trail. 
  • 2 — number of bald eagles who came by to supervise the proceedings.
  • 59 — bags of trash removed from Belle Haven Park.
  • 30-40 — estimated weight, in pounds, of the most interesting trash find: a couch cushion that had frozen into a solid block of ice.
  • 2 — number of pickup trucks required to haul all of the trash out of the park.
  • Lots and lots — number of tacos eaten by the invigorated and hungry volunteers at our post-event taco gathering. 

Thank you to everyone who came out to make the Mount Vernon Trail a little bit better. You can tell a trail is loved when folks are willing to come out in freezing weather.

Check out the Mount Vernon Gazette’s article on our event: http://www.mountvernongazette.com/documents/2019/jan/23/mount-vernon-gazette-january-23-2018/

Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail Snow Patrol Takes Action

The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail Snow Patrol was activated for the first time on Monday, January 14. The team cleared snow from LBJ Memorial Grove to the 14th Street Bridge opening a key connection between DC and northern Virginia for commuters.  A summary in numbers: 

  • 10.3 — inches of snow that fell at DCA on January 12-13.
  • 7 — number of snow shovels or other snow tools provided, brought, or borrowed by friends of the Mount Vernon Trail. 
  • 11 — number of people who volunteered part of their afternoon to shovel the trail.
  • 0.4 — miles of trail hand-shoveled by the volunteers.
  • 1 — key trail connection reopened between Arlington and DC.
  • Many — number of “thank you”s and “thumbs up”s received from walkers, runners, and cyclists passing by. 

MLK Day of Service – Mount Vernon Trail Clean Up

The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail will be holding a trail cleanup from Belle Haven Park towards Alexandria as part of the Martin Luther King Day of Service. We need your help! Multiple floods this year mean that a large amount of garbage has washed up next to the trail, marring our beautiful view of the Potomac.

We’ll provide trash grabbers, trash bags and gloves. If you’re biking there make sure you have shoes that are comfortable to walk in and an extra layer to keep warm. Note that if the government is still shut down, the bathroom at Belle Haven Park and Jones Point will be closed.

When: Monday, January 21st from 10 to Noon
Where: Belle Haven Park (meet near the bathroom)
Why: Because you love the Mount Vernon Trail

Please RSVP at the following link so that we know that you’re coming and also notify you if the event plan changes for any reason. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mlk-day-of-service-mount-vernon-trail-cleanup-at-belle-haven-park-registration-53846408056

Making the Memorial Bridge Detour Safer

The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail recently went on a bike ride with Katie Harris from WABA’s Capital Trails Coalition and Josh Nadas from the George Washington Memorial Parkway to discuss safety improvements to the Memorial Bridge detour.  Below are the recommendations the FOMVT provided to NPS. Thank you to everyone who provided feedback ahead of the ride and to Josh for being open to suggestions.

Crossing 1 is the crosswalk crossing across Arlington Boulevard north of Memorial Circle: https://goo.gl/maps/JgjLLo766Ln 

Safety issues for people on foot or bicycle include:

  1. High speeds of cars attempting to reach highway speeds for Arlington Blvd and 395.
  2. Poor sight lines of the crosswalk for car drivers moving around the bend off Memorial Bridge.
  3. Sight lines of the crosswalk are obstructed by other vehicles.
  4. Long crossing distances (3 lanes) for people on foot or bike.5. Drivers distracted from seeing pedestrians by attempting to merge from Memorial Circle or on to 395 in heavy traffic.
  5. Faded crosswalk and lane markings.

Proposed Solutions for Crossing 1

  1. Removal of one travel lane of northbound traffic to lower speeds.
  2. Pavement treatments to slow northbound traffic coming off of the circle and accelerating onto South Arlington Blvd. Treatments could be thermoplastic pavement markings, speed humps, or other treatments.
  3. Stand up “Yield to Pedestrians” signage on the lane markings in front of the crosswalk to promote traffic calming and indicate a pedestrian crossing. These are MUTCD R1-6 signs.
  4. Install a temporary Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB) to alert car drivers that a pedestrian is present at the crossing. The current RRFB across the GWMP has been effective in allowing safe crossings. RRFBs are IA-21 in the MUTCD.
  5. Restripe current crosswalk and lane markings which are badly faded. 6. Pilot NPS proposed changes to Memorial Circle through use of temporary devices such as jersey barriers

Crossing 2 is the crossing across Memorial Ave west of Memorial Circle: https://goo.gl/maps/aE8hKBZpSF72

Safety issues for people on foot or bike are:

  1. Westbound drivers traveling at high speeds around the traffic circle.
  2. Eastbound drivers diverting attention from pedestrians crossing to begin navigating entrance to the traffic circle.

Proposed solutions for Crossing 2:

  1. Narrow the westbound lane exiting the circle to a 10 or 11 foot traffic lane utilizing temporary physical barriers. This will provide traffic calming and lower speeds exiting the circle.
  2. Install a temporary pavement treatment such as thermoplastic bumps on the westbound lane to provide speed calming.
  3. Install a stand up “Yield to Pedestrians” sign in between opposing lanes on Memorial Avenue. These are MUTCD R1-6 signs.
  4. Continue to maintain the current reduction of Memorial Avenue to one lane each way.

Crossing 3 is the crossing of Washington Boulevard south of Memorial Circle: https://goo.gl/maps/b4A4GLtYSa52

Safety issues for people on foot or bike are:

  1. High speed traffic on Washington Boulevard
  2. Lack of signage directing users towards the Memorial Bridge detour (we’ve observed cyclists taking a lane across the bridge)

Proposed solutions for Crossing 3:

  1. Restripe the crosswalk
  2. Install thermoplastic bumps to warn of an impending crosswalk
  3. Install a stand up “Yield to Pedestrians” sign in between opposing lanes on Memorial Avenue. These are MUTCD R1-6 signs.
  4. Provide detour signage in large lettering indicating Memorial Bridge Detour and providing a large map of the detour route.

Recommendations for entire Memorial Bridge Detour:

  1. Provide additional detour signage in large lettering at each road crossing of the detour. Include full detour map.
  2. Provide encouragements signage through the detour to assure Park users they are still on the detour and encourage use of a safe route.

Changes Proposed to Trollheim Bridge

The National Park Service has released a Cultural Landscape Report and Environmental Assessment for improvements to Theodore Roosevelt Island.  The scope of the project includes changes to Bridge 31, which trail users commonly refer to as Trollheim Bridge due to the number of crashes and injuries that have occurred on its slippery surface.

NPS has proposed four alternatives.  All four alternatives include widening the bridge to 12 or 14 feet and replacing the bridge decking to provide a more even surface with.

More information on the project can be found here. The four proposed alternatives can viewed starting on page 268 of the Environmental Assessment.  Stay tuned for additional opportunities to provide public comment on which of the four alternatives you prefer.