FCPA briefs community on future Gum Springs Trail

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FCPA representatives take local officials and community members on a site tour of the future Gum Springs Trail.

Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) representatives joined community members and elected officials at Martin Luther King Jr. Park Nov. 18 for an update on the Gum Springs Trail Project, which will eventually connect Gum Springs residents with Little Hunting Creek.

The purpose of FCPA’s briefing was to share the initial conceptual design, including the proposed alignment of the new trail, based on the wetlands and cultural resource studies the Park Authority completed this past summer. Those studies showed the presence of some “critical assets” in the tidal wetlands requiring the trail be routed away from them, said FCPA.

According to FCPA trails manager Jim Corcoran, the trailhead will be located at the parking lot of the MLK Jr. Park playground and will connect to an ADA-accessible, 6-foot-wide asphalt trail. The trail will wend its way through the woods to an elevated wooden boardwalk that leads to a viewing platform over the wetlands. The entire trail will be 642 feet in length, which equates to about a quarter mile round-trip walk from the parking lot.

Following the briefing, Corcoran conducted a site tour for community members and local officials — including Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, newly elected Fairfax County School Board Member Mateo Dunne and several FCPA leaders — leading them along or near the proposed trail path through the woods. The Park Authority plans to remove invasive species and plant trees at the entrance to the woods, said Corcoran.

The initial conceptual design, with the inclusion of a viewing stand, was described as a “great start” by Queenie Cox, lead advisor to the Gum Springs Homeowners Association. She noted the observation platform would not only allow visitors to enjoy and appreciate the surrounding natural habitat but might also be used as a special outdoor classroom.

“That viewing stand is a keeper,” she said.

Credit: Fairfax County Park Authority

Over the next several weeks, FCPA plans to accept community input on the proposed trail design as staff prepare to refine it and begin the permitting process this winter. That process is expected to take 12 to 18 months, said Corcoran, due to the need for review by federal and local agencies. Tentatively, FCPA hopes to begin trail construction in spring 2025 and wrap up the project in six to nine months.

To date, the Park Authority has spent $23,000 on the wetland and cultural resource studies, conceptual design work and related activities, according to Corcoran, and staff are working on cost estimates for the rest of the project. Earlier this year, FCPA announced a one-time funding allocation of $600,000 for the project, which was provided by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors with support from Storck.

Based on the onsite studies that FCPA has since conducted, the Park Authority expects total costs for trail construction to exceed that funding allocation, so they are actively working to identify additional funding, said FCPA spokesperson Ben Boxer.

Questions and comments pertaining to the Gum Springs trail project can be submitted to Parkmail@fairfaxcounty.gov.

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