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Trails and relationships wind through the Fairfax community of Mantua

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Where We Live | Mantua in Fairfax County, Va.

Mantua is a community of more than 1,500 homes in the central part of Fairfax County, Va. It has quick access to Route 66, Interstate 495 and the Orange Line Metro stations at Vienna and Dunn Loring. (Dayna Smith/For The Washington Post)

There is a section of the Cross-County Trail winding through the Fairfax County community of Mantua that is a big plus for Elizabeth Schaefer Wassel, a cyclist who lived there as a child and moved back as an adult to take advantage of the bike trails, roads, public transportation and overall location that make the neighborhood popular.

“I use lots of trails,” Wassel said, including a short, zigzagging path to the W&OD Trail in the county bike trail network. “On Thursdays, we go west to Herndon — they have a farmers market,” she said.

The informal bike group is one of several groups she belongs to in Mantua, a community of more than 1,500 homes in the central part of Fairfax County, with quick access to Route 66, Interstate 495 and the Orange Line Metro stations at Vienna and Dunn Loring. A Metro bus line runs on Little River Turnpike that her husband uses to go to the Pentagon, where he hops on the subway for the rest of his commute.

“He prefers that over sitting in traffic,” she said. “He made the decision to not have a car — we’re in my car now.”

Transportation is just one plus for Mantua, which is dominated by shade trees, dead-end streets, the community pool and tennis club, and the park that splits the community from east to west, with Accotink Creek running through the middle.

These features are a backdrop for houses ranging from 1960s split-levels and ramblers to California modern and the larger infill homes that are popping up on lots throughout Mantua, giving it a heterogenous aura.

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Recreation: Troy Sponaugle, a real estate agent with Troy Property Pros, doesn’t hesitate to point out the convenient location when showing a property in Mantua. Although the highways are close by, the noise is minimal because of its location. “It’s in that perfect spot,” Sponaugle said.

Anne and Sarah Harrington are a mother and daughter real estate team out of the Vienna Long & Foster office who also live in Mantua. The neighborhood togetherness and the popularity of the pool and tennis club keep them involved. “We listed 24 of the 60 homes that sold last year,” Sarah Harrington said. “The neighborhood is known for it’s larger lots,” she added.

Neighborhood children are involved with the swim teams at the club, adults play tennis, and for the hikers and bicyclists, there is the Eakin Community Park trail along Accotink Creek that goes all the way to Springfield. Every June, there is a neighborhood parade. “It’s really fun — the kids decorate their bikes,” said Sarah Harrington.

Eakin Community Park is a 57-acre county park that is managed by the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Accotink Trail follows the path of Accotink Creek and is part of the larger Cross County Trail, which runs north-south across Fairfax County.

Wassel’s children were on the swim team, and the pool and tennis club is a good place to meet people in the community, she said. “My kids all did swim team and enjoyed that; with or without kids, it’s good to have that,” she said.

In January, the club held a casino night, which was a big hit, said Mark Quigley, swim club president. “This is a chance for neighbors to have a good time with other neighbors right in our community,” he said. Residents also hold a chili cook-off, a master brewers’ brew-off and an Army-Navy football game gathering in early December.

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There is an informal Mantua Citizens’ Association. The group’s goals, according to its website, are to foster among its members a spirit of mutual cooperation and assistance; to promote a sense of civic responsibility; to be the means for the community to act together on civic matters of mutual interest; and to organize for the promotion of social welfare. It is open to nonresident property owners and tenants within the geographical boundaries of Mantua.

More recently, a neighborhood network has sought to help older residents stay in their homes, and Wassel has been part of it. It was initiated through email and is not run by the citizens association. “There’s a network of people that want to help with that,” Wassel said. “That’s really grown; there’s many original owners in the neighborhood.”

Living there: The eastern side of Mantua borders Prosperity Avenue and is dotted with one-third- to one-half-acre lots with a variety of houses from different builders, giving the community a country vibe. Some older, smaller houses have been replaced by houses twice as big, as is happening all over the county. Strips of larger houses are being built on the outer fringe of Mantua, with prices starting at $1 million.

In the western part of the community, marked by Prince William Drive, which runs north-south, there are smaller houses with a subdivision feel that are more affordable for younger families. Pickett Road borders Mantua on the west, but it does not connect to any of the neighborhood roads, and there is a hill between it and the community.

During the past year, 61 houses sold in Mantua, ranging from a five-bedroom, three-bath 2,800 square-foot split level at $650,000 to a six-bedroom, five-bath 3,700-square-foot Colonial at $1,195,000.

There are two houses for sale and five under contract, ranging from a five-bedroom, three-bath house for $674,000 to a four-bedroom, three-bath house listed at $815,000.

Schools: Mantua Elementary, Frost Middle and Woodson High.

Crime: According to , in the past six months, there were 29 incidents, including three assaults, one breaking-and-entering, one stolen vehicle, and an assortment of drug offenses, mostly in the southwestern section of Mantua near Little River Turnpike.