October 4, 2000

To: The County Board of Arlington County, Virginia

From: William T. Donahue, County Manager

Subject: Approval of License Agreement With Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) to Construct and Maintain a Section of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail Along with Related Improvements On County Owned Property (Bluemont Park) for the Public’s Use.

Recommendation: Approve the attached License Agreement and authorize the Real Estate Coordinator to execute the Agreement.

Issues: None.


SUMMARY: The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) has requested a License Agreement (License) from the County to permit NVRPA to construct and maintain a portion of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail and related improvements in Bluemont Park where it crosses North Carlin Springs Road.

The License permits NVRPA to construct, operate, maintain and remove trail facilities and improvements, consisting of a 12 foot wide asphalt and concrete trail with safety fencing, handrails, landscaping and storm drainage, and a storm water detention pond, within a portion of Bluemont Park as defined in the License. The License is nonexclusive and does not grant NVRPA an interest in real estate. The County owns the underlying real estate which would be subject to the License. The License can be modified at any time by the County with 30 days prior notice to NVRPA. The term of the License is for 40 years with one, 10 year renewal period. Upon termination of the License, at the County’s option and at NVRPA’s expense, NVRPA would either remove the trail facilities and improvements and restore the Licensed Premises to a condition satisfactory to the County or convey the trail facilities and improvements to the County.

The proposed trail will connect the existing W&OD Trail from just south of Carlin Springs Road to the intersection of the W&OD Trail and the Bluemont Junction Trail, thereby providing an alternative for pedestrian and bicycle traffic from the Four Mile Run Trail through Bluemont Park. When the W&OD Trail was initially constructed, a portion of the County’s Four Mile Run Trail was incorporated into the project to provide a continuous pedestrian and bicycle trail from Bluemont Junction to south of Carlin Spring Road. This portion of the existing of the trail runs through a wooded area and has limited sight distances and sharp curves. Adjacent to the trail is a heavily used picnic area, a frisbee golf course, and a ball field. Collisions have occurred between cyclists and pedestrians.

The proposed trail provides an alternative route which reduces the pedestrian/bicycle conflict on the existing Four Mile Run Trail and provides a more direct route for the users of the W & OD Trail, which is desired by bicyclists. The proposed trail would also connect the only unpaved portion of the W&OD Trail on NVRPA property along its 45 mile path from Arlington to Purcellville.

The proposed trail will be constructed along the original old Washington & Old Dominion Railroad bed, which is currently an open area with grasses and small shrubs. (This is the area which has been termed the "meadow".) This area is currently mowed every two to three years by Virginia Power, which retained an easement for maintenance of its overhead electric power transmission lines over the property when it was transferred to the NVRPA. At North Carlin Springs Road, the proposed trail is on County property as it approaches and goes under the bridge at Four Mile Run. After crossing under the bridge, the trail reenters the NVRPA property, and crosses a new bridge to connect with the existing W&OD Trail.

Alternative alignments for the proposed trail have been proposed and discussed at public hearings. These alignments have been reviewed by NVRPA and County staff and rejected because the alternative alignments do not significantly reduce the existing trail user conflicts in Bluemont Park and are considered by NVRPA and County staff to have a greater environmental impact, particularly on the existing trees on the west side of Four Mile Run.

BACKGROUND: The NVRPA has desired to connect the W&OD trail segments since the original construction of the trail. NVRPA’s property adjacent to Bluemont Park is the last section of the railroad right of way to be developed with the trail. In the early 1990s, funding by NVRPA was proposed to be included in its capital budget and public discussion of the project was initiated. The County Department of Public Works included the trail connection in the proposed Arlington Bicycle Transportation Plan in 1993. After public discussions of the Bicycle Transportation Plan with community groups and advisory bodies, the Bikeways Element of the Master Transportation Plan, which included the connection, was approved by the Park and Recreation Commission (January 1994), the Planning Commission, and the County Board (April 9, 1994). Because of concerns about the environmental impacts of the project, the County Board directed that the trail connection be reviewed by the Environme! nt and Energy Conservation Commission (E2C2), and that citizens and bicycle advisory groups be included in that review.

In September 1995, the NVRPA presented its capital improvement budget, which included funding for the trail, to the Park and Recreation Commission. In May 1999 the NVRPA announced a public hearing for citizen input on the draft environmental assessment to be hosted by the E2C2. At this meeting on June 28, 1999, a number of issues concerning the environmental impact of the trail were raised, including stream protection, storm water runoff, alternate routing, and retention of the meadow. A subsequent meeting was held on July 2, 1999 at the project site with citizens, NVRPA staff, County staff, and a representative from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.

In response to the questions raised at these two meetings, NVRPA has agreed to limit routine mowing along the new trail to three feet from the edge of the asphalt, to install a storm water detention facility, and to identify and establish alternate meadow sites both within the project area and elsewhere along the W&OD trail. NVRPA again reviewed alternate routes and determined that the suggested alternative routes would not resolve the safety issues and would have greater impact on the environment than the proposed route.

During the past year, NVRPA has worked with County staff to address requirements for permits and best construction practices. The County Department of Public Works and the Department of Environmental Services have reviewed the construction plans, and believe that the proposed design and construction practices minimize the environmental impact of the project. The Department of Public Works has approved the Erosion and Sediment Control plans, the Storm Water Quality Best Management Practices (BMP) plan, and the Water Quality Impact Assessment. The Floodplain Development Permit was issued in June, 2000, and a Clearing and Grading permit was approved on October 4, 2000. The Clearing and Grading Permit is conditioned on the County Board approving the attached License. The NVRPA is in the process of applying for an additional building permit that is required for the bridge over Four Mile Run and the retaining walls at North Carlin Spring Road. With the issuance of the Clearin! g and Grading Permit, NVRPA can begin construction on the project. No additional permits or approvals are required by the County for this project.

At the September 9, 2000 County Board meeting, staff presented the License to the Board for consideration. The Board deferred consideration to the October 7, 2000 meeting, and requested that staff ensure that the concerns raised by the public had been addressed. In this regard, NVRPA met at the project site with concerned citizens on September 14, 2000, including members of the adjacent civic associations, and individuals who have raised questions about the project. The E2C2 reviewed the project at its meeting on September 25, 2000, and the Park and Recreation Commission considered the project at its meeting on September 26, 2000. Letters from those Commissions supporting the project have been forwarded to the Board.

FISCAL IMPACT: None. The project will be constructed with NVRPA funds, and the NVRPA is responsible for maintenance of the trail and the detention pond. No revenue will be received from NVRPA.