A ribbon cutting ceremony was held for a new addition to Glencarlyn Park, along Columbia Pike and the W&OD Trail, over the weekend.
The new park space, near the Arlington Mill Community Center, includes a “learning loop” for beginning bicyclists, a bike repair station, a bike water bottle filler, a sand play area and a rain garden.
Construction of the park amenities was estimated at $400,000 when it was approved a year ago.
The incident was reported around 11:30 a.m. in Benjamin Banneker Park, near East Falls Church, according to Arlington County Police.
Police say “an unknown male subject was seen standing naked in the bushes” along the W&OD trail. A man walking his dog saw the man and called police.
The suspect is described as “a Hispanic or Middle-Eastern male, with dark hair and a slim-build.” There were no additional reports of the man being seen by other trail users.
“It appears to be an isolated incident at this point,” said Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
The temperature in Arlington around 11:30 Saturday morning was a chilly 55 degrees.
Police do not believe this incident is connected to any other previously-reported crime along the trail. Earlier this year a man tried to sexually assault a woman on the trail in Glencarlyn Park, and a few years ago a string of indecent exposure incidents along the trail prompted police to issue warnings to trail users.
The Arlington County Police Department is looking for a man suspected of trying to sexually assault a woman on the W&OD trail last weekend.
The victim was running on the Glencarlyn Park area of the W&OD trail when the suspect allegedly grabbed her from behind and threw her to the ground. The suspect tried to cover her mouth with his hand, but she was able to scream, causing the suspect to flee, police say.
The woman worked with a sketch artist to provide a sketch of the suspect. He is described as “a dark skinned Hispanic male between 20-30 years old, approximately 5’6″ tall, weighing 140 pounds,” according to police. At the time, he was wearing long, baggy gray shorts and was not wearing a shirt.
Anyone with information can contact Detective K. Bercovicz at [email protected] or 703-228-4235. Those wishing to stay anonymous can call the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866-411-TIPS (8477).
The attempted sexual assault on the W&OD trail was the first of two such incidents in Arlington that weekend. A woman was also grabbed and thrown to the ground while she walked home near the intersection of N. Thomas Street and N. Pershing Street in Buckingham. A sketch has not been released for the suspect.
Last week police released a sketch of a suspect in another sexual assault incident near Courthouse.
Arlington County Police are looking into whether pair of sexual assaults over the weekend are linked to a sexual assault in Courthouse last month.
Over the weekend, two women, both in their late 20s to early 30s, were grabbed from behind and tossed to the ground. The crime and the suspect descriptions in both cases are similar to that of the assault in Courthouse on July 24, said Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
“We’re not saying it’s the same guy at this point, but there are some similarities in terms of the attack and the suspect description,” Sternbeck said.
The first attack happened at 8:45 p.m. on Friday. A woman was running alone on the W&OD trail when a man grabbed her from behind and threw her to the ground, according to a police report. The woman screamed causing the man to flee.
“The suspect is described as a Hispanic male in his twenties, approximately 5’6″ tall and 140 lbs. He was wearing long gray shorts, a belt, and no shirt at the time of the incident,” according to a police report.
On Saturday, at 11:26 p.m., a 25 year-old woman was walking near the intersection of N. Thomas Street and N. Pershing Street in Buckingham when a man grabbed her from behind and threw her to the ground. The man allegedly touched the woman inappropriately, and she bit one of his fingers and he fled, the police report said.
“The suspect is described as a Hispanic male, between 5’0″-5’3″ tall, with black hair and a mustache. He was wearing a gray t-shirt and jeans at the time of the incident,” according to police.
County Board member Libby Garvey and other cyclists will brave the heat on Saturday, riding up to 100 miles as part of the second Annual Kennan Garvey Memorial Ride.
The cyclists will bike on the W&OD Trail from Arlington to Purcellville and back, a 90-mile trek. For riders wanting to do a true century, they can continue to cycle to Roosevelt Memorial Bridge after returning to Arlington.
Cyclists can also shorten the ride by turning around in Reston at the 15-mile mark to make it a 30-mile ride, or in Leesburg, Virginia, at the 30-mile mark to make it a 60-mile ride.
It’s an easy ride, making it a great ride for a family, Garvey said.
“This ride is the perfect way to remember Kennan and to continue the good influence he had on so many people during his life,” Garvey said.
Garvey, herself, is planning to ride out to Purcellville, but is not planning to turn around and head back to Arlington. She and her husband previously rode to Purcellville on a tandem bike, she said.
The ride is also known as the Sizzling Suburban Century because of August’s heat, Garvey said, while promoting the event at County Board meetings. National Weather Service is predicting a high of 91 degrees on Saturday.
Garvey started the bike ride last year in honor of her husband, Kennan, who died of a heart attack in 2008. He was 56 years old.
“The ride means a lot to me and Kennan’s family and friends,” Garvey said. “Kennan commuted by bike to his job at EPA since the early ’80’s. He loved cycling, loved to help people and loved to get young people interested in bicycles.”
The ride has an entry fee of $25, and participants are encouraged to raise $500 for the Kennan Garvey Memorial Fund. All participants will get a boxed lunch and t-shirt as part of the ride. Those who meet the fundraising goal of $500 will also receive a Phoenix Bikes jersey.
The ride benefits Phoenix Bikes’ Capital Campaign, with proceeds going toward helping the nonprofit fund a new building, now possibly in the area of Columbia Pike. The shop had previously looked at a spot at Walter Reed Drive and W&OD Trail, but that faced some community opposition.
Kennan had wanted to volunteer with Phoenix Bikes after retiring.
“Phoenix Bikes is a wonderful little organization,” Garvey said. ” They just do incredible things. And once they get a building, they’ll be able to take off.”
Photo courtesy of Libby Garvey
In a somewhat unexpected move, the County Board has voted 4-1 against the creation of a connector path from the Washington and Old Dominion trail to N. Carlin Springs Road.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan and her staff had recommended the Board approve the connection, which would link N. Carlin Springs Road with the W&OD rail trail.
The proposed connector would have been an eight-foot-wide, 220-foot-long trail that could be used by pedestrians and cyclists to reach the W&OD from N. Carlin Springs Road. The county was seeking the permit as part of a partnership with Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority.
The path is currently what County Board member Jay Fisette called a “cow path,” meaning it is a dirt path stomped down by trail users going to and from Carlin Springs Road.
However, Fisette, who is an avid cyclist, said that paving the path would be unnecessary and encourage cyclists to cross Carlin Springs Road, he said is more dangerous than using an already-established path that’s not too far away.
“I’m going to argue, unless you tell me I’m missing something, that this proposed connector is essentially unnecessary to be paved,” Fisette said.
People can still use the path as a walking path, Fisette said, but he did not see the need to pave it for cyclists.
Board members were not the only Arlington residents against by the potential paved trail. Residents attended the meeting to speak out against paving the path due to environmental concerns.
Buckingham Community Civic Association President Bernie Berne told the Board that paving the proposed path would harm the plant life that existed in the meadow where the pavement would go.
The county had placed chains around the meadow where the footpath was created to block residents from cutting across it and harming the native plants as well as to prevent the county from mowing it too often. If the county had approved the trail, it would have been undoing the county’s efforts to restore the meadow, Berne said.
“The proposed connector trail is a waste of county money,” Berne said.
Instead, the county could use the money to place signs to encourage people away from the meadow and to the existing path, Board Vice Chairman Walter Tejada said.
Tejada, a self-described bicycle fanatic, also failed to see the reason to pave the path because it was so close to the already established connection from Four Mile Run.
“If we are looking for access for both the east and west side of Carlin Springs, we already have it,” Tejada said, calling the proposed path “redundant.”
The distance between the already-established connection from Four Mile Run under Carlin Springs Road and the proposed trail is a short distance, especially for someone on a bike, Tejada said. Cyclists can easily go a little longer to use the established connection.
“If it’s a matter of convenience, I don’t buy it,” Tejada said. “Because it’s just a matter of going around and you are already there.”
Via Twitter, however, former Arlington County Commuter Services Bureau Chief Chris Hamilton criticized the decision, suggesting that the County Board gave in too easily to a few vocal opponents.
Board votes against W&OD Trail Connector, saves "Meadow" http://t.co/JvccbqTQU6 Elected leaders must back up their DOTs and resist NIMBYS!
— Chris Hamilton (@ChrisRHamilton) June 17, 2015
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 protected]
“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.”