On Saturday, the Arlington County Board is scheduled to vote on an agreement with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority to construct a bike park on the northern side of Columbia Pike near Arlington Mill Community Center. Dominion Power, which has an easement for its power lines, is also party to the agreement.
“The focus of the project is to install a bike park with a learning loop for beginning riders,” the county’s staff report states. “The park improvements will include site furnishings, sand play area, water bottle filler, bike repair station, plaza space and a paved bicycle path.”
The park was approved back in 2009 as part of the Neighborhood Conservation program. The project has “been on hold” as the county’s Department of Environmental Services realigned the trail to improve pedestrian safety and to accommodate streetscape improvements.
Staff has already solicited bids for the project. Once the County Board approves the licensing agreement, a separate proposal with the chosen bid is expected to go before the Board in the fall.
Photo via Google Maps
(Updated at 9:30 a.m.) The W&OD and Bluemont Junction trails were closed in the area of Bluemont Park this morning due to a suspicious device reportedly found near the trail.
Police and firefighters responded to the incident and established a mobile command center at Wilson Blvd and N. Manchester Street. The county’s bomb squad brought a robot to inspect the device, which was said to be located near the park’s tennis courts.
As of 9:00 a.m., the bomb squad determined the device to be safe and the trail was being reopened.
According to Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck, a parks maintenance worker found a package in the grass near the intersection of the two trails, and immediately contacted police. It took police about an hour to clear the scene.
An Arlington Alert message this morning said the Bluemont trail was closed, though scanner traffic indicated that the W&OD trail was closed.
(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) The remaining section of the coal trestle from the old Washington & Old Dominion Railroad in East Falls Church could be given a historic district designation by Arlington County.
The trestle was partly on the property controlled by the NOVA Parks (formerly the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority), and partly on 6873 Lee Highway, a plot of land owned by Robert Shreve Fuel Company, which demolished its section of the trestle last week to make room for a storage facility.
The County Board is scheduled to vote on whether to advertise public hearings on the trestle’s historic designation this coming Tuesday.
The staff report for the agenda item reveals that county staff “learned of the demolition as it was taking place the morning of June 5,” but discovered that Shreve Fuel did not require permits to conduction the work.
The county’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) determined that the trestle was suitable for historic designation because it met four criteria:
- The property has character, interest, or value as part of the development, heritage, or cultural characteristics of the county, state, or nation;
- The property has a distinctive location, or singular physical characteristics that make it an established or familiar visual feature;
- The property is a particularly fine or unique example of a utilitarian structure representing a period or style in the commercial, industrial, or agricultural development of the county, with a high level of historic integrity or architectural significance; and
- The property is suitable for preservation or restoration.
The demolition took place following a May 21, 2014 meeting in which the HALRB voted in favor of a historic designation for the trestle.
Shreve Fuel agreed to give NOVA Parks the segment of track from the old railroad that was on top of the trestle for future “interpretation.” According to NOVA Parks Executive Director Paul Gilbert, about 75 percent of the trestle still stands and is on NOVA Parks land.
“Benjamin Elliott’s Coal Trestle retains sufficient historic, cultural, and physical integrity to be designated as a local historic district by Arlington County,” the staff report states. “Benjamin Elliott’s Coal Trestle was built in 1926 in the East Falls Church neighborhood. The utilitarian structure reflects the former industrial and commercial landscape that existed in the neighborhood. Such small-scale commercial coal trestles were instrumental in the processing of coal for local delivery to residences and businesses. This coal trestle is a visual reminder of a critical early-20th century energy infrastructure that fueled the electrification and development of Arlington County and the region. There are no other coal trestles extant within the County.”
One of the last remaining vestiges of the Washington & Old Dominion railroad that once ran where the W&OD Trail now sits was partially torn down yesterday to make room for a self-storage facility.
The piece, a concrete trestle with rail running on top of it, is along the W&OD Trail in East Falls Church just north of Lee Highway. According to Executive Director of NOVA Parks (formerly the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority) Paul Gilbert, 75 percent of the trestle sits on park-owned land and will remain standing, but the 25 percent that sits on the property of 6873 Lee Highway, owned by the Robert Shreve Fuel Company, has been demolished.
Shreve Fuel had tried to develop its property into a grocery store, according to Preservation Arlington’s Eric Dobson, which led the historic preservation group to place the trestle on its 2013 list of “Endangered Historic Places.” The plans for the store fell through, so Shreve Fuel is planning on building a by-right, five-story storage facility, according to Arlington County building records.
“We had been talking to the developer, sending letters, working as hard as we could to persuade the preservation of this area,” Gilbert told ARLnow.com today. “Just yesterday, about the time the trestle was coming down, I was talking with the developer, trying to see if there was any solution that could be found. We offered to buy that portion from them, we were looking for every solution we could to see if we could save it.”
The developer turned down NOVA Parks’ request, Gilbert said, because the plot of land “isn’t enormous” and every foot was needed for parking and other aspects of the storage facility.
The trestle was constructed in the 1920s to store coal and railroad tracks were laid on top of it, Gilbert said; Shreve Fuel Company has owned the plot of land for “a very long time.” The railroad went out of business in 1968 and was converted into a trail, making the trestle and tracks one of the last pieces of rail anywhere along the 45-mile trail that runs from Shirlington to western Loudoun County. Dobson said it’s “allegedly” the only piece of rail left in Arlington County.
“The rail was an incredibly important part of the development of Arlington,” Dobson said. “It would be good to have more informational signs along the trail, and certainly there’s a lot of history with the rail.”
According to Arlington Historic Preservation Coordinator Cynthia Liccese-Torres, Shreve Fuel does not need a demolition permit to tear down the rail, and surveyors were dispatched to the site to paint lines along the trestle illustrating where the property line was (the spray-painted pink in the above photos, and the horizontal line in the diagram).
“Despite the demolition of Shreve’s section, the Park Authority remains very supportive of continuing to pursue the local historic designation of their portion of the siding, and so we will continue to work with them through the remainder of that process,” Liccese-Torres said in an email. “We are planning to bring a request to advertise forward to the County Board on June 17, with the Board’s review and action on the designation request expected in July.”
Gilbert said that Shreve Fuel has agreed to give NOVA parks the tracks itself, which will be moved to the park’s land and, eventually, turned into some sort of interpretive site.
“My guess is that it’s really only in the last 20 or 30 years that it’s been viewed as historic,” Gilbert said. “Before that it was just some concrete bins and leftover rails from the railroad. Today, it’s more meaningful because it tells a story about the history of the rail.
“We have a number of the train stations preserved along the trail, which tells the story about how it was a transportation route for people, but we don’t have very much that speaks to the industrial side of the train and what role it played,” he continued. “We will work on interpreting the site.”
Safety Improvements Approved for Custis, W&OD Trails – The County Board on Saturday (December 14) approved funding for safety improvements for the Custis Trail and the W&OD Trail. The approval is the first step toward constructing federally-funded improvements for the Custis Trail along Lee Highway at N. Oak Street, N. Quinn Street and N. Scott Street. Improvements will also happen along the W&OD Trail at S. Four Mile Run Drive where it meets S. George Mason Drive, S. Oakland Street and at the entrance to the Barcroft Sport and Fitness Center. [Arlington County]
Tejada Pens Streetcar Opinion Piece — Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post over the weekend. Titled “A streetcar is the right choice for Arlington,” the piece explains why Tejada believes the streetcar is the best option for “transforming Columbia Pike from merely a thoroughfare into a livable ‘Main Street’ served by a variety of transit options.” [Washington Post]
Vornado’s “Dominant Position” in Arlington — Developer Vornado is seen as having a “dominant position” in Arlington’s economy, with $3.7 billion in total real estate holdings. Its presence is only expected to increase with its work on the county’s largest apartment building and the massive PenPlace office project. [Washington Business Journal]
Historical Society Hosts Ornament-Making Event — Arlington residents will get a chance to make their own Art Deco holiday ornament on Saturday (December 21). The Arlington Historical Society will host the event from 1:00-4:00 p.m. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by christaki
A plan to build a new headquarters for Phoenix Bikes has picked up some neighborhood opposition.
Phoenix Bikes is a nonprofit focused on empowering youths by teaching them bicycle repair and entrepreneurship. The organization wants to move from its present cinder block building in Barcroft Park to a new location on county-owned land adjacent to the W&OD Trail, near the intersection of Walter Reed Drive and Four Mile Run Drive.
The new facility will feature education space, public restrooms, a drinking fountain, a water bottle refill station and an air pump.
A second public hearing on the proposal will be held tomorrow, Dec. 4, at the Park Operations conference room (2700 S. Taylor Street). Fliers sent to condo associations around the neighborhood suggest that some residents will be attending to voice opposition to the plan.
“Arlington County plans to remove trees… to build a replacement facility in what is now a wooded area for the nonprofit Phoenix Bikes, which will be used for training teens in bicycle repair,” the flier says. “The facility will provide only 3 parking places and thus its visitors will be parking on streets near your homes. The facility will be lighted until 9:00 p.m. and may provide public bathrooms attractive to drunks.”
Susan Kalish, spokeswoman for the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation, says it’s too early to determine how many trees would have to be cut down to make way for the facility. She said any trees that are removed will be replaced per county policy.
“It’s way too preliminary to know how many trees are impacted because the exact location of the building, its size or the size of an associated parking lot have not been determined,” she said. “That said, when the building plans are finalized the County will use its standard tree replacement formula.”
The flier makes reference to County Board member Libby Garvey, who sits on the board of Phoenix Bikes. It also accuses Arlington County of not giving enough notice to residents about the first public meeting.
Phoenix Bikes is currently raising money for the new headquarters, which is projected to cost $1 million. As announced today, proceeds from next year’s Crystal City Diamond Derby will be used to help fund the headquarters.
The text of the full opposition flyer, after the jump.
Phoenix Bikes — a nonprofit focused on empowering youths by teaching them bicycle repair and entrepreneurship — wants to build a new location for itself at an estimated cost of $1 million, according to county Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish. The facility will include public restrooms.
The organization currently has its headquarters in Barcroft Park, not far from the proposed location, but being adjacent to the W&OD Trail is key because it “is accessible by bike and near the community it serves,” Kalish wrote in an email.
“Arlington County is interested in this opportunity because Phoenix Bikes has a successful history supporting Arlington youth and the new facility will include public restrooms, a drinking fountain, water bottle refill station and air pump, which will be available to the community,” Kalish said. “Phoenix Bikes’ mission is consistent with Arlington County’s as it encourages fitness, fosters a car-free lifestyle, supports diverse communities and is a model for sustainable practices.”
Phoenix Bikes and the parks department will host a question-and-answer session for the community this Saturday, Nov. 23, at the Park Operations conference room (2700 S. Taylor Street).
The proposed site is on county property, but Phoenix Bikes would fund its construction. Kalish said it has already received several pro bono contributions that should diffuse some of the costs.
The railroad line, which ran through Arlington, was later renamed the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad and is now the popular W&OD trail. The western portion of the line was attacked by Confederate forces during the war but the eastern portion, through Arlington and Alexandria, fared better and helped to provide logistical support to the Union war effort.
The talk will be held tonight (Thursday) from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the Arlington Central Library auditorium (1015 N. Quincy Street). From the library website:
Historian Ron Beavers will discuss the little used Alexandria, Loudoun and Hampshire Railroad, which once ran through Arlington County but is today one of the Washington area’s most popular bike trails. Learn what caused this transformation – from an underachieving rail line to a major contributor to the Union war effort – and what became of this railroad after the Civil War.
Though now a beloved path for both commuters and recreationalists from Arlington to Loudoun County, the original plan for the AL&H was impressive. Entrepreneurial Virginians hopes to compete with the B&O Railroad for the rich coal fields of what is now West Virginia. But engineering difficulties and financial struggles impeded these plans, reducing the rail line to a local carrier for freight, mail and people just before the Civil War. When the war came, the western portion of this railroad suffered complete destruction. The eastern facilities (Alexandria and Arlington) fared much better. Their contribution to the Union war effort was crucial to success in the Eastern Theater of Military operations. Ownership returned to AL&H directors after the war, but their original plan to reach West Virginia never came to fruition. The rail line went through many reorganizations and mergers, yet continued to serve Arlington and Northern Virginia until the 1960s. Last known as the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad, it ultimately became a 44 mile-long park that we now call the W&OD hiker/biker trail.
Beavers last spoke before the Arlington Historical Society in March about Arlington County’s retrocession to Virginia in 1847. He is a seventh generation Virginian and retired federal employee with a life-long interest in history and railroads.
Flickr pool photo by ddimick
A portion of land along the W&OD Trail near Bon Air Park may look rather rough after having been stripped of plant life over the past few weeks. But it’s actually part of the county’s plan to restore the land.
The embankment that borders N. Arlington Mill Drive had become overrun with invasive species like bush honeysuckle and porcelain berry. In addition to strangling off native plant species on that swath of land, the invasive plants were sending seeds over the trail into the newly restored area near the Ornamental Tree Garden and along Four Mile Run.
“We found that there are pieces of our parks that are pretty derelict. It’s impossible for the native plants to thrive with the invasives strangling them,” said Environmental Landscape Supervisor Patrick Wegeng. “When the invasives take over, it’s almost like putting the park in a straightjacket. They restrict and inhibit, and we don’t get new natives replacing the old ones, and they just die.”
County workers repeatedly had attempted to prune back some of the offending plants, but the invasives rapidly repopulated and spread further. Therefore, workers were joined by dozens of volunteers during a major invasive plant clearing project in August. Some of the vines and trunks were so thick they couldn’t be pulled or chopped, and instead had to be removed with a machine. Workers have been checking back over the past few weeks to eradicate a few pockets of invasive plants that returned.
The next phase of the project involves re-introducing plant species native to Virginia. First, parts of the land will be seeded with grasses. Later in the fall, other open spaces will be filled with native flower species such as black-eyed Susans. The land will be left to rest during the winter and more planting will begin in the spring.
“It’s such a well traveled trail, we really want people to see the beauty of it and the diversity of plant life instead of ragged nature,” said Wegeng.
In addition to being more aesthetically pleasing, re-introducing native species is expected to have a positive effect on the park’s ecosystem. For example, milkweed is a major food source for monarch butterflies, but had been largely choked off by invasives along this portion of the trail. Once more milkweed is planted and matures, more monarchs are expected to fly through.
“We want the park to be better, more diverse, richer,” said Wegeng.
One factor currently slowing progress on the restoration is weather. The grasses that will be planted need rain in order to germinate and take hold. Arlington’s recent dry spell means the seeding has to be put off for at least another couple of weeks.
“I would have liked to have had this done, but there’s been no rain and it would have been a waste of money. I still don’t see any rain in the forecast for two weeks,” said Wegeng. “I can’t just put these plants in and hope that they grow.”
Over the past year, more than 200 volunteers have helped with various parts of the restoration along the trail. Volunteers are still needed for the upcoming phases of the restoration, such as planting the native species. Nearly anyone can help, depending on the task, including children. Anyone interested in volunteering can email Patrick Wegeng at email@example.com.
“I just can’t say enough about all the volunteers that have joined in. If we can show how this [restoration] can be done, with a lot of the benefits of native plants, it’s going to propel this whole movement forward.”
The section near Bon Air Park is one of the first major restorations of its kind the county has undertaken. If more resources and funding become available, Wegeng would like to see restoration along the W&OD Trail stretch all the way to East Falls Church, where he said the land is “in pretty bad shape.”
“We definitely have a lot on our plate, but we seem to be making headway in some areas. I am determined that this one will be a prototype,” he said. “It speaks well of what can be achieved.”
The man was in a rental car with his wife and kids when he drove northbound onto the trail at Columbia Pike, according to Arlington police spokesman Lt. Mike Watson. After receiving numerous calls from trail users, a police officer on a motorcycle caught up with the vehicle, a Chrysler 300 sedan, in Glencarlyn Park.
According to Watson, the man claimed that a GPS navigation system on his phone directed him to use the trail. The Florida resident was issued a court summons for reckless driving and was escorted off the trail and back onto local roads, Watson told ARLnow.com.
While trying to catch up with the errant driver, police officers marveled at the fact that he didn’t realize he was driving on a bike trail.
“He must think it’s the world’s smallest two-lane highway,” one said on a police radio channel. No one was hurt during the incident.
Also last month, gates were installed on the Capital Crescent Trail in Northwest D.C. to prevent drivers from mistaking it for a road. No such gate was in place where the man entered the W&OD trail yesterday.
Photo via Google Maps
The crew was digging in the area of Carlin Springs Road and N. Kensington Street, near the W&OD Trail, when they discovered eight PVC pipes labeled “ammunition.”
The county’s bomb squad investigated the contents of the pipes and didn’t find any hazards, according to Arlington police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. The pipes were about four feet long and contained rifle ammunition, Sternbeck said Thursday morning.
Police cordoned off the area around the pipes but there were no traffic diversions.
The find comes just over a year after VDOT contractors found PVC pipes full of guns buried along Patrick Henry Drive, leading to an FBI investigation. The suspect in that case, Cherrydale resident Rodney Gunsauley, pleaded guilty and was sentenced earlier this year to 40 months in prison.
Sternbeck said the pipes “appear to be related” to the Gunsauley case, but the FBI is continuing to investigate the incident. The Joint Terrorism Task Force was also notified of the investigation, he said.
Gunsauley buried items in multiple locations and likely couldn’t remember all of the locations where he hid his weapons and ammo, Sternbeck said.
The Kinhaven School 5K and Fun Run will take place at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, November 18. The event benefits Kinhaven School (4201-A N. Fairfax Drive), which is a parent run cooperative preschool founded in 1971.
The out-and-back course begins at Bluemont Park and takes runners west along the W&OD trail.
Ultramarathon champion Michael Wardian confirmed that he and his family will take part in the festivities, which include food, drinks and prizes. Participants receive a tech t-shirt and finisher ribbons made by the preschool students.
Registration is open online to the first 300 entrants, and the fee is $25 through today, increasing to $30 from tomorrow through race day. The fee will be $35 for on site registration the day of the race.
Tri360 is located at 2121 N. Westmoreland Street, just off of the W&OD Trail. The store is built, stocked and ready for customers, but it’s awaiting its Certificate of Occupancy from Arlington County before it can open, according to the Tri360 Facebook page.
Tri360 will sell athletic apparel, accessories and shoes, and will also feature a “full-service” bike store — everything a triathlete needs to swim, cycle and run.
The store’s owners are hoping to be open by the end of the month.
Photo via Facebook
(Updated at 5:00 p.m.) Police say they don’t yet have any reason to believe a man who exposed himself on the W&OD Trail yesterday morning has any relation to a string of 11 such incidents in 2010, but they’re investigating a link anyhow.
According to a police report released today, two woman and their young children encountered the man masturbating along the W&OD Trail near Ohio Street — close to East Falls Church — just after 11:00 a.m. on Thursday. The man was covering his face with one of his hands while performing the lewd act with the other.
The women, ages 33 and 40, were each with a one-year-old son at the time. They immediately started walking away from the man, who then fled the scene. As we reported yesterday, police searched the area but were unable to locate the man.
The incident is similar to a string of 11 indecent exposure incidents along the W&OD Tail in early 2010. While police don’t think there’s a connection, they’re looking into that angle anyhow.
“Detectives are… actively trying to determine if this case is in any way related to the cases that have occurred in the past,” said Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck, who added that no other indecent exposure incidents have been reported on the trail recently.
The suspect from Thursday’s incident is described by police as “a white male, approximately 5’8”-5’10” tall, with a chubby build.” He was wearing jeans, a black sweatshirt and black sunglasses at the time.
Anybody with information about the crime is asked to call the police non-emergency number at 703-558-2222. If you see someone expose themselves, you’re asked to immediately call 911 and report it.
The incident happened just after 11:00 this morning, on the trail in the area of Ohio Street, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. A woman told police that a white male, possibly in his mid-30s, jumped out of the bushes and exposed himself to her. The suspect then ran off, heading west on the trail, wearing jeans and a black sweatshirt.
Police searched the area around the trail but were unable to locate the man.
The incident is similar to a string of indecent exposure incidents in early 2010. A man exposed himself to women at least 11 times along the W&OD Trail between January and March 2010. The incidents stopped after police issued a press release warning women to be on the lookout for suspicious activity along the trail.