Good things often start out as modest ideas. Winding the clock back nearly 2 decades, it was a mother trying to take her 6 yr old son to nearby Meadowlark Gardens for a day of play, only to find out how dangerous and nearly impossible it was.
The problem? As Fairfax County developed over the decades, getting from Point A to B was overwhelmingly designed around driving a car. The road widths, the layouts, the bridges, … everything seemed to conspire against people walking or riding bikes. The Dulles Access Road especially was a formidable barrier against such healthy (if primitive) transportation modes.
The mom in the story, Jenifer Joy Madden, did a little research, and discovered she was within easy walking distance not only of Meadowlark, but five other beautiful parks as well. All it took, she reasoned, was a little tweaking of resources, many of which were already on hand.
Jenifer Maden with her son Reilly, 18 years later.
Jenifer took her concerns to Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins who was in her first term of service at that time. She got not only a sympathetic ear, but practical advice on advancing her ideas, and a list of other people and agencies she should contact. Above all, she got confidence that she was on a doable mission.
The mission needed definition, strategy, and support. The definition was probably the easy part: To connect Vienna and its northern neighbors with a system of trails that provided safety and efficiency largely independent of the roadways. A key element of the plan was a way to cross the Access Road.
It took many years, and lots of determination and work, but the trails concepts took a quantum leap in 2012 when a pedestrian bridge was installed side-by-side with the existing roadway bridge connecting the Filene Center with the Barns at Wolf Trap.
After that, it has been mostly a matter of paving existing right-of-way and development of heretofore “hidden” trails to complete the network. Three years ago, an important connection was made between the W&OD Trail and Meadowlark Gardens. The program is still a work in progress, and more improvements and connectivity are sure to come.
On Sunday, 9/29/19, the bike-hike crowd and key figures of the newly minted “NoVi Trails” gathered at the Wolf Trap Barns parking lot to recount the steps of this accomplishment. Present also were several of the friends on the government side, including Cathy Hudgins who is retiring after a twenty year run as our District Supervisor, and Jeff McKay, Lee District Supervisor. Also former U.S. Congressmen Tom Davis and Jim Moran, former VA Delegate and Senator Jeannemarie Devolites.
We all took a short walk over to what many affectionately call the Jennifer Memorial Bridge for the uncovering of a bronze plaque installed by VDOT and the National Park Service. It was a beautiful day, and the sense of satisfaction at a job well done was palpable. Deservedly so.
Jenifer with the VIPs who brought it home.