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Thursday, December 7, 2006

Better Trails a Path to Healthier Life

I read your article on the reconstruction of the Holmes Run Stream Valley Trail [Fairfax Extra, Nov. 23] with pleasure, until I reached the part that discussed the stream crossings. Fairfax County has adopted a policy of creating "fair-weather" crossings consisting of man-made pillars to allow walkers to cross streams. In my younger days, I saw nothing wrong with that, but as I get older and a little bit less steady, it bothers me that park trails are being built with only younger people in mind.

I nearly lost my balance crossing a branch of Sugarland Run, and realized that I could have hit my head on one of the columns when falling. I could play it safe and not make those crossings, but the parks are quite beautiful, and I thought that they were intended for all ages. I suspect the park planners simply don't realize the obstacles they are creating for older residents and people with strollers or pets. I have seen other people turn around when they come to those crossings; trails utilizing the crossings don't get the usage that trails with bridges have. I base this on 32 years of hiking all over Fairfax County.

One of the better man-made pillar crossings is on a trail around the Greenspring Village retirement complex near Springfield. A bridge was added later at that crossing because seniors were reluctant to use the pillars. Walking is the basis of a healthy lifestyle, and the county needs to encourage this everywhere.

I wish Fairfax County would review its policy of allowing man-made pillars to serve as pedestrian stream crossings. Developers are now following the county's lead and using pillars where public sidewalks cross streams (Miller Road in Oakton, for example). I also saw them two blocks from a retirement complex near Lorton where a simple pipe would have been more appropriate. I have not seen the use of pillars in other nearby counties, and wonder why Fairfax County permits their construction.

R. Douglas Pew

Reston

Web master, Reston Paths


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