Changes Proposed for Gravelly Point, Roaches Run

by ARLnow.com May 30, 2012 at 2:45 pm 10,034 49 Comments

(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) The National Park Service is seeking public input on a series of changes proposed for Gravelly Point and the Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary, which are located along the George Washington Parkway near Crystal City.

The proposed changes, which have been in the works since 2008, are intended primarily to improve access to Roaches Run and reduce trail use conflicts along the Mount Vernon Trail at Gravelly Point. Other changes will “enhance the visitor experience… and enhance the safety of pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists.”

The proposal includes:

  • The addition of a boardwalk/pedestrian trail from the Crystal City pedestrian underpass to Roaches Run
  • A removable, floating boat launch at Roaches Run
  • Either widening the congested trail area at Gravelly Point or building two separate trails — a “through route” and a “pedestrian route”
  • A permanent “waterless restroom” located in the southwest corner of Gravelly Point
  • Converting the dusty, over-used field at Gravelly Point into two rotating fields or one permanent field with either reduced use or more intensive turf management
  • “Interpretive sites” at Gravelly Point that will include “signage detailing cultural and natural histories of the area”
  • Improved landscaping at Gravelly Point that will remove invasive species and “frame parkway views across the Potomac to Washington, D.C. based on historic planting plan”
  • Additional safety features along the Mount Vernon Trail where it parallels the GW Parkway near Reagan National Airport. Safety features may include reflective lines, protective barriers, or protective plantings.

The National Park Service will be holding a public meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 5 to gather input on the options  for the Gravelly Point field and the Mount Vernon Trail safety improvements. The meeting will be held at the Indigo Landing Restaurant on Daingerfield Island, located off of the GW Parkway near Alexandria.

Interested parties can also submit comments via the project website. Comments will be gathered through June 22. There will be another opportunity to comment on the options later this year, after an environmental assessment is released for the project.

Once the environmental assessment is released and final project decisions are made, park planner Thomas Sheffer says it could “take a number of years” until the entire project is complete. The timeline is still very much up in the air, and depends on the project’s ability to receive federal funding. Some work, however, may be completed sooner.

“Smaller actions would be considered for more immediate completion by Parkway work crews,” Sheffer told ARLnow.com.

  • Cletus Van Damme

    Maybe, I’m missing the point… but why bother? When I ride past on my bike, I just think it is what it is. Kinda seems like a waste of money to me.

    • Michael H.

      The section of the trail directly north of the runway is often blocked off by plane watchers. Families often let their young children run around on the trail at that spot too. During the spring and summer, the path is crowded with bystanders who don’t stay on the grass. It’s impossible to ride more than 2 mph through that stretch.

      Since I know that people are going to be standing on the trail and little kids are going to be running all over the place, I usually slow to a crawl when riding through that section.

      It would also be nice to move those portajohns away from the trail. The proposed location would still be close by, but pedestrians and cyclists wouldn’t have to put up with the constant odor when traveling through Gravelly Point or while watching the planes.

      • CourthouseChris

        Moving those portajohns would be real nice… As a runner that frequently huffs and puffs through that area I’ve found that an ill-timed huff brings me close to vomiting.

        • D'oh!

          I usually hold my breath and sprint in the summer.

    • Wilbur

      Agreed. Let’s just get the dang goberment out of our parks! If 6 year old kids get run over by cyclists, why should my tax dollars go to stop this! Keep the trail unsafe and save me momey!

  • WeiQiang

    Let me start: bollard [1pt for me]

    • Richard Cranium

      Slip lanes, path through the middle left for future trolley development.

      • WeiQiang (choo chooo)


  • Josh S

    This is fantastic. Roaches Run is horribly underused now. It’s basically a glorified parking lot for the limo drivers.

    And a thru section of the bike trail would be fantastic since those bikers, runners, etc that actually want to get on with their activity won’t have to conflict with pedestrians looking up or otherwise standing in the middle of the trail.

    • ccres

      “And a thru section of the bike trail would be fantastic since those bikers, runners, etc that actually want to get on with their activity won’t have to conflict with pedestrians looking up or otherwise standing in the middle of the trail.”

      +1 The trail technically has a speed limit of 15mph, I believe, but bikers fly through there. On a nice weekend day, it would be fantastic to be able to bypass the dangers of children/pets on the trail in the more touristy part.

      • DarkHeart

        There is an airport right there, ya know.

      • drax

        15 mph is still flying on a bike.

        • Josh S

          Nah. It’s a good pace, no doubt, but hardly flying.

          • Donna

            Around kids and pedestrians, it’s flying.

          • drax

            ‘Zactly my point.

          • Z

            No, compared to stationary objects it’s flying, but relative to exercise cycling it’s a nice pace. No need to be sensationalist here.

          • Josh S

            Which is why there is a proposal to separate the trails…..

            (still not conceding that 15 mph on a bike is “flying”)

          • WeiQiang

            In isolation, 15 isn’t flying. Given the hazards that aren’t going away at Gravelly – plane-gawking pedestrians, 200 puking kids on training wheels, and the like – it’s the Feces Follies out there.

      • bobco85

        A separate area from the trail for plane-watchers is absolutely necessary! I slow down to a crawl if needed when I bike through there, but I think the planes are too distracting for people (especially little kids) to pay attention to the trail.

        Regarding the speed limit, on the NPS website for the Mount Vernon trail, it lists the speed limit for cyclists at 15 mph, but all the signs stating the speed limit are south of the Wilson Bridge.

    • brendan

      overall looks like a big waste of money…

      the biggest problem with roaches run right now is the water quality, it’s gross year round and particularly disgusting during the summer. Don’t see any real modifications to address that or the pipes that run into it.

      Not sure why they need to build a boat dock other than NPS wasting money…. You can already easily launch there if you don’t mind the surprising difficult to remove sludge stain that forms after paddling roach’s in the summer. again, boat ramp doesn’t address that.

  • DarkHeart

    Why does the boat launch need to be removable?

    • nom de guerre

      So it can be deployed to Donaldson Run to use for swift water rescues.

    • Dwight D. Eisenhower

      To be able to re-use it for future amphibious invasions … in Donalson Run. *duh*

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower

    *shaking fist* darn you, nom!

  • Michael H.

    I think it would be great to separate bike and pedestrian traffic at Gravelly Point. A lot of plane watchers stand in the middle of the trail. Parents often let their young children run around on the trail too. Separate trails mean more efficient bike travel through the park while providing a safer experience for plane watchers and families with young children. That park is very popular during the summer.

    It’s also a good idea to move the portajohns away from the main trail and gathering spot. Then plane watchers, pedestrians and cyclists can enjoy Gravelly Point without the constant odor at that spot.

    However, the NPS may want to change the proposed crossing where the new bike trail would intersect the car access lane. The intersection is kind of close to the turnoff from the GW Parkway.

    • WeiQiang

      concur. separate the trails. move the u-shapted entrance driveway to the park north to provide more buffer.

  • WeiQiang

    shapted = shaped + adapted

  • Vincent

    +1 on the invasives removal. This is a treasured nature area, and it’s been neglected for long enough.

    • esmith69

      Agree completely. Unfortunately there are a surprisingly large number of people in Arlington that are content to stay in their own little bubble of wealth and will throw a huge hissy fit if any public funds are used for any purpose that benefits the common good.

  • Bender

    (1) SPEED BUMPS on the trail, to provide traffic calming of reckless bicyclists.

    (2) SMART GROWTH. They need to construct a mixed-use 20-story building, with both market-based and affordable housing, as well as retail on the ground floor, preferably a bar/restaurant or a frozen yogurt place.

  • Andy

    If Arlington was involved, they would add several stop lights. That solves everything.

    • HamDil

      Yeah, this proposal is lacking a whole layer of “Arlington Way”

    • malaka

      Traffic lights would solve a lot of problems higher up the trail where it crosses the GWP. Too many deaths there already

    • ConstantCritic

      I think the traffic “circles” would come before the lights.

  • arlcyclist

    Nothing brightens my morning commute more than smelling those port-a-johns on a hot muggy day. Seriously, I bet 90% of the use is by cabbies returning from a drop-off at DCA.

  • JimPB

    A permanent “waterless restroom.” What would this involve? Putting the “equipment” of portable johns in a permanent structure?

    • SamsontheCat

      permanent waterless restroom = a hole

      • Fido

        or the side of a pole…..

    • ConstantCritic

      can’t we just use the Potomac?

  • Matt B

    Step 1: Name change

  • Glen Carlin NOW

    Drain Roaches Run and build affordable housing directly under the approach path for Reagan National.

  • Arlingtron

    The proposal looks good. Not sure how more Roaches Run can attract more visitors since it is disconnected from Gravelly Point and the Long Bridge Park. Would people be permitted to launch their own boats in the pond?

    I do see a Mt. Vernon Trail connection to Long Bridge Park from Boundary Channel and even better, near the railroad bridge. If Roaches Run can be accessed from the NE end too that would make it complete.

    • WeiQiang

      The connection from LBP to MVT is already in the plan, but likely not to happen until Phase II of LBP. ArlCo had about $16M left over from LBP Pahse I. I think ArlCo should use that to extend the “esplanade” from LBP over the GWP and let Phase II happen whenever it happens.

    • cj

      The bike/pedestrian bridge between Long Bridge Park and the Mount Vernon Trail has progressed to being one of the preferred steps in the 14th Street Bridge area study. It’s an Arlington initiative but will require approvals from NPS and other federal agencies, as well as design and construction funds. Because of the bureaucratic complexities as well as funding uncertainties, it’s being pursued as an independent project.

  • CW

    IDEA: Charge a FEE to any business entity using this land for business purposes. That means cabs. Use the revenue for improvements.

    • ConstantCritic

      if it was County, there’d be parking meters

  • YTK

    Roaches Run — I love that name — reminds me of my days in the Bronx.

  • JacksonCity

    Jackson City was obliterated by the construction of the big Railroad bridge, replacing the much more utilitarian original Long Bridge. Any changes to this area should include a re-created Jackson City along with an interpretive center. The Marina, saloons and nice young women of Jackson city were infinitely finer than those of Rosslyn. Jackson City is on the verge of being forever lost.

  • Some great ideas to increase the use of an underutilized park except for cabs/limo drivers and the occasional bus driver that parks across 5 parking spaces. From the fly fisherman’s perspective, this is all good news (kudos to removing invasive species).

    Would also like to see NPS enforce the parking situation at Gravelly Point – why do people think it’s okay to park on the grass just to use a public resource? Would they do that in the District in front of the monuments?


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