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Months After Completion, Trail Debuts Officially

By Alec MacGillis
Tuesday, May 2, 2006

A 40-mile trail connecting northern and southern Fairfax County, which will open officially with a day-long celebration Saturday, could give root to a network of walking and biking trails in the congested county, officials said yesterday.

"It's a great thing to celebrate. I call this trail the spine of Fairfax County," said Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D).

The same day the board endorsed a proposal to build a streetcar system along Columbia Pike in Fairfax and Arlington counties, officials briefed reporters on the Cross County Trail and its accompanying festivities .

The trail stitches together a series of existing trails in the 399-square-mile county, allowing bikers, walkers and joggers to traverse Fairfax from the Occoquan River in the south to the Potomac River in the north, crossing the greenways of Difficult Run, Accotink Creek and Pohick Creek. Although some segments of the trail run along busy roads, long stretches of it are in surprisingly secluded stream valleys and woods. Despite the heavy development of recent decades, Fairfax still has 23,000 acres of parkland.

The trail linkages were completed in December, but because winter weather kept many people from using the trail then, the county is marking the opening with the day-long "Trailfest."

Saturday's activities will include fun runs, scouting activities, naturalist programs, hikes and entertainment on the trail, with ribbon cuttings at five points along the way. Some participants are planning to walk the entire stretch, a 13-hour trek that they will start at 6 a.m.

Bikers and joggers in the county have long complained about the lack of coordination among the county's trails, which are overseen by several entities, including the county park authority, the county government and the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. Since the completion of the Cross County Trail, there have been more complaints about the lack of signs at key junctures.

Acknowledging the need for more information, county officials included in the new budget $465,000 for a bicycle coordinator position and the production of a map showing all the trails and bike paths in the county.

Proceeding on a different transportation front yesterday, the supervisors also approved a proposal being discussed jointly with Arlington County to build a streetcar line along Columbia Pike. The 4.7-mile line would begin near the Pentagon City Metro station and end near the Skyline neighborhood south of Leesburg Pike (Route 7) in Fairfax.

Staff writer Bill Turque contributed to this report.

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