Mount Vernon Trail’s new Bridge 12 celebrates opening
The National Park Service (NPS), the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail and local politicians came together on National Public Lands Day — Saturday, Sept. 24 — to celebrate the opening of the new Bridge 12 along the Mount Vernon Trail near Fort Hunt Park.
The original bridge and adjoining trail sections, known for frequent bike mishaps, had been eyed for safety improvements for decades. According to an environmental assessment from 2001, initial safety improvements made in the early 1990’s hadn’t stopped accidents from happening, so the NPS proposed design changes to the bridge and the “steep, sharp curved approaches” on both ends of it.
The opportunity to make those changes finally came with funding allocated in fiscal year 2018 from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) Six-Year Improvement Program. As part of the $650,000 capital project, NPS — together with VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration — relocated and rebuilt the bridge, widening it from eight to 14 feet, replacing outdated chain railings, and resurfacing the trail from Waynewood Boulevard to Fort Hunt Road. Relocating the bridge enabled the park service to eliminate some of the harrowing trail curves and steep ascents and descents leading to and from the bridge.
Describing the Mount Vernon Trail as an asset to the community, State Senator Scott Surovell said the trail needs additional capital money for upkeep, but it’s not NPS’ fault the funding isn’t readily available.
“Securing little improvements like this are big achievements,” he said.
Surovell added that he’s been talking with NPS and Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck about how to go about securing capital funding for improving and potentially widening the trail between Old Town Alexandria and Mount Vernon to make it safer for all users. He noted that Arlington County recently got state funding to do the same between Old Town and Key Bridge in Arlington.
Storck, who joined Surovell in biking to the ribbon cutting, credited Charles Cuvelier, NPS’ superintendent of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, with his ability to help secure funding and his overall outreach to the community over the past few years.
“We haven’t that had that level of engagement since I’ve been a supervisor and maybe even before that,” said Storck. “Just by being part of the community — engaging, listening and looking for ways to make a difference — that’s huge for all of us.”
For his part, Cuvelier highlighted the new bridge’s design specs and thanked various community partners for their involvement in making and keeping the trail safe.
“It all happens because everybody has a voice in it,” he said.
Cuvelier added that the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail’s volunteer trail clearing and bridge pressure-washing activities make a big difference for trail users.
“It doesn’t seem like much when you think about it, but in reality, that’s the thing that touches the user the most,” he said.
Volunteers from the Friends group joined the ribbon cutting ceremony after clearing tree debris between Belle Haven Park and Bridge 12.
“The trail is only as good as the people that show up and care about it,” said Judd Isbell, president of Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail.
To date this year, the Friends group has held 40 events and logged 1,600 volunteer hours, said Isbell. Trail volunteers are out almost every Saturday, and their goal is to reach 2,000 volunteer hours by the end of 2022.
Now that the Bridge 12 project is complete, the concrete barriers creating a temporary pedestrian and cyclist travel lane along the southbound George Washington Memorial Parkway have been removed.
The NPS’ next planned improvements along the southern end of the Mount Vernon Trail are the replacement of Bridges 23 and 24, which are located between Belle Haven Road and Tulane Drive.
Great to read an update and see progress on such a widely-enjoyed public asset, the park and especially the trail there. Thanks Erika for the update and to everyone who has volunteered!