FABB Director Jeff Gauger has been monitoring trail developments near Mount Vernon and offered this report:

So you ride to the end of the Mount Vernon Trail (MVT) to Mile Marker Mile 0.  You’ve paid your respects to George and Martha Washington, and you want to keep riding. Where do you go from there?

The next step is to head west along Mount Vernon Memorial Highway (MVMH).  Unfortunately, MVMH is an unwelcoming 45 MPH, two-lane road.  It has sharrows, and it also has segments of a paved trail. The paved trail is referred to by the county as the MVMH trail, by others as the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, and by locals as the Grist Mill Trail. We like Grist Mill Trail because it connects the Mount Vernon Estate to Washington’s Grist Mill and Distillery. Most local riders stay on the MVMH with the 45+ MPH traffic, however, because the Grist Mill Trail is in poor condition, trail segments end suddenly, and it crisscrosses the MVMH at various points.

The good news is that a $6.5 million project to complete the missing segments of the Grist Mill Trail is currently under way. The project would install paved trail between Southwood Drive and Richmond Highway (US Route 1) for a length of approximately two miles.  Unfortunately, the project does not include plans to repair the existing trail and it would not solve the issue of the trail crisscrossing the busy, high-speed MVMH.

The project is still in the preliminary design phase, however, which means there are opportunities for public input to improve the project for the benefit of bicyclists, pedestrians, tourists, and others in the area and throughout the county. The Grist Mill Trail will connect pedestrians and bicyclists to many significant cultural and historical sites, including Mount Vernon Estate, Washington’s Grist Mill and Distillery, Woodlawn Plantation, the Pope-Leighey House, Gunston Hall, and Mason Neck State Park.  It will also help in providing a safe route to school for students at Washington Mill Elementary School, which is located just off the MVMH, next to Washington Mill Park.

In addition, while two miles of paved trail may sound minor, when completed, the Grist Mill Trail will become another important part of a planned Northern Virginia paved trail loop that already includes the Mount Vernon Trail, the Washington and Old Dominion Trail, Four Mile Run Trail, and sidepaths along Route 1, Lorton Road, Route 123, Burke Center Parkway, and the Fairfax County Parkway. These trails combine to provide Northern Virginia bicyclists a 60-mile loop passing through Fairfax, Alexandria, and Arlington. In addition to Mount Vernon and George Washington’s Gristmill and Distillery, the loop would take riders to Burke Lake Park, downtown Reston, historic Vienna and Falls Church, Bon Air Park Rose Garden, Old Town Alexandria, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve and the soon to be opened National Museum of the US Army (Go Army!),

FABB supports the completion of this important trail segment and encourages others to join us in advocating for the renovation of the existing trail. Check out our advocacy page on the Mount Vernon Highway Trail here for more details.

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