Trails Initiative News

Special Committee Chair

  • Phil Pifer


Special Committee Role

The TRL Special Committee was established in 2014 to explore the creation of a system of multi-use paths and trails within Great Falls, that could provide for recreation and transportation, connecting neighborhoods with each other, parks, schools, and the Village Center, and usable by pedestrians, runners, and non-motorized bikes.
  • 18 Oct 2017 1:52 PM | Anonymous

    GFCA is advocating County funding for 3 important local projects in the current round of Transportation spending being decided on this fall.  At $100M county-wide, this round is small compared to prior years and there will be fierce competition among communities for their local projects.  GFCA is asking for citizens' help in providing comments in support of these projects.

    GFCA has long believed that Great Falls does not receive a fair and equitable proportion of County funding for improvement projects relative to either our tax base or our population, compared to other communities.  GFCA is asking for strong support from our citizens in order to reverse this situation.

    The specific projects we are advocating for funding in this round are:

    1. Intersection improvements at Georgetown Pike (GTP) and Walker Rd.  Full funding ($400K) will allow safe pedestrian crossing in the center of Great Falls Village, and improve safety and the flow of vehicle traffic at this important intersection. [Project ID 466].
    2. Trail along Utterback Store Road from Forestville Elementary to GTP.  Full funding ($700K) will allow children to walk on a safe path from surrounding neighborhoods to the school, rather than being bussed.  Fairfax County Public Schools had determined that walking and biking to schools improves children's health, mental well-being, and educational performance as well as reducing the expense and negatives of bussing. [Project ID 213].
    3. Concept design work ($100K) on GTP trail from Utterback Store Road to Walker Road.  Concept design work would determine the ideal route and most likely cost estimates for this very important trail segment, including north side or south side routing along GTP.  This segment is the most important project toward our vision of an integrated trail system throughout Great Falls that will allow people on foot or bicycle to transit from their neighbohoods to other points in our community, and would complete a trail running from Seneca Road to Great Falls village.  We do not believe that current county cost estimates for these projects are accurate.  Concept design funding would allow an optimal high level design concept to be determined and accurate construction cost estimates to be set. [Project IDs 616 and 618].

    See GFCA's resolution here.

    At total funding of $1.2M, the 3 projects above represent only 1.2% of the current funding round, whereas Great Fall's population is about 1.8% of county population and contributes xx% of residential tax revenues.

    GFCA is the largest civic organization in Great Falls - with over 1,000 dues-paying members - and works to 'further and promote the common good and general welfare of the people and community of Great Falls.'

    Provide your input to the County here

  • 25 Sep 2017 6:17 AM | Anonymous
    One of GFCA’s major initiatives over the past 3 years has been development of plans for a comprehensive trails system to connect the Great Falls community – allowing residents to transit and recreate on foot or by bike from their neighborhoods to other points of interest in Great Falls such as the Village, schools, and parks.

    Recent projects beginning to fill out the Georgetown Pike trail between the Village and Seneca Rd are a direct result of this effort.  But these are just the beginning stages of what will be many years of work to complete and require a consistent Vision pursued with persistence and diligence in funding and construction.

    Another important foundation has just been set:  on Sep 19 the GFCA Executive Board formally adopted a set of policies called:  “GFCA Guidelines for Trail Design and Construction in Great Falls”.  This is the result of 18 months of exploration into the reasons why Great Falls trail development has failed in the past both overall and at the trail project level.  In addition to work of our task force, we worked with other local organizations, most notably Trailblazers, as well as County staff, on the development and specific conclusions.

    The new Guidelines:

    1. Establish a clear Vision for the development of a comprehensive trails system in Great Falls
    2. Set principles to be followed in trails development, derived from lessons learned from past projects
    3. Protect our community’s unique historic and aesthetic character, as well as our environment
    4. Ensure that trails built in the future will be functional, durable, and support the needs of the community for decades.

    The Guidelines are available here.   Our trails team is already hard at work with the county and other authorities on their implementation.  The next phases of the Georgetown Pike Trail (Phases III and IV, mentioned in another article) have been designed consistent with these guidelines.

    If you have an interest in Trails and would like to be on an email distribution list for future updates, please send your name, home address, and email address to:
  • 30 Mar 2017 3:38 PM | Anonymous

    On March 22, Fairfax County DOT held a public hearing to discuss the next two phases of the Georgetown Pike Trail.  This meeting was covered previously by GFCA in our newletter and website (see

    The meeting was held and 20+ people attended.  Following the presentation and questions, comments about the plans were generally quite positive.  The Connection Newspaper published a good summary of the meeting their March 29 – April 4 edition, which is available on their website (find the publication by date or search ‘georgetown pike trail’).

    The two trail phases reviewed at the hearing will complete a walking and biking trail from Seneca Corners to Utterback Store Road.  The next phase (called Phase 5) would connect Utterback Store Road to Great Falls Village.  For more information, or if you have an interest in joining GFCA’s Trails effort, please contact GFCA’s Long Range Planning Committee, by emailing

  • 30 Nov 2015 3:19 PM | Anonymous

    Support for trails and paths in our community is great – in a GFCA survey last year 70% of Great Falls citizens supported a system of paths that would connect our community, and allow people to go from neighborhoods to nearby parks, schools, other neighborhoods and even the Village.  The concept is for primary paths along major roads to be usable by both pedestrians and bicyclists.  Families, children and adults should no longer be trapped in their neighborhoods unable to get anywhere except by car or truck.

    GFCA’s Special Committee on Trails (which includes GFCA members, GF residents, and GF Trailblazers leadership) has been discussing the challenges of building such a system of paths – something Trailblazers has been working on tirelessly for a long time.  In November, GFCA’s Executive Board adopted a new policy reversing a long-standing GFCA policy of supporting only stone dust trails throughout Great Falls.  Stone dust has long been supported by many Great Falls residents.  However, stone dust may not be best for every path.  Stone dust trails require active maintenance and repair, which must be done by a community group since the County will not maintain stone dust.  In the absence of proper maintenance, stone dust trails and paths can deteriorate.  Stone dust trails built in many parts of Great Falls by developers have literally disappeared, taken over by vegetation growth.  As a result of these and other factors, support for exclusively stone dust trails has been declining among residents over time.  This mirrors Fairfax County’s general experience, where they describe a strong trend of continually increasing voter support for usable and practical trails (that most often are built with surfaces other than stone dust.)

    GFCA’s new policy sets a “whatever surface is best” philosophy.  It encourages stone dust for those trails where, based on use and topography, stone dust is optimal such as in flat pastures and meadows where the trail use will be largely hikers or horses.  Similarly, the new policy allows the use of asphalt for major paths designed for residents to walk or bike from their neighborhoods to points of interest around Great Falls.  For the most part, these must follow major roads or right-of-ways that may have grades in places that make stone dust impractical.  And the heavier use which many of these these paths will get (compared to hiking trails) may also favor asphalt.

    This new policy is pragmatic.  It gives new flexibility to those designing trails and paths around Great Falls to use the most practical, pragmatic, and sensible surface for a particular trail segment.  The Special Committee is working on design criteria to ensure that environmental and aesthetic factors are established and uniformly applied in the design and construction of these trails – whatever the surface. 

    To read the new policy please click here:  Surfaces Resolution (adopted 11172015).docx

    Please also feel free to comment and dialog about the new policy, or trails in general, at:  Suggestion Box   (look for the Trails link)

  • 28 Sep 2015 8:22 AM | Anonymous

    Fairfax County Parks recently completed a survey of county residents' opinions on county parks, and park and recreation needs.  It included 15,000 households, and is statistically accurate to a 95% confidence level, with a margin of error of +/- 1.4%.

    Among the key findings:

    The most important expressed need is for walking and biking trails - "paved trails" is #1 ahead of large regional parks (#2) and small community parks (#3).  "Unpaved walking/biking trails" is #4 in terms of expressed need.

    This mirrors the results of GFCA surveys, in which 70%+ of local resident are in favor or strongly in favor of trails/paths that can be used to walk or bike from neighborhoods to local points of interest such as schools, parks, and the Village.

    The county survey will be used to inform the 10-year Park Capital Improvement Plan, and to prioritize capital projects for Park Bond Referenda in 2016 and 2020.  This creates an opportunity for Great Falls to obtain funding for our local trails and paths.

    The survey fact sheet can be viewed here

    The survey presentation is here

    The county webpage on the survey project is here

  • 30 Apr 2015 7:17 AM | Pam Grosvenor

    GFCA has established a joint committee of the Transportation and Environment, Parks & Trails committees to examine how it can facilitate a local trails network to increase mobility in our community while also preserving the environment and landscape which residents value. The committee includes members of the Great Falls Trail Blazers, equestrians, and other interested residents. 

    At its most recent meeting on April 28, the committee heard from a working group that is investigating trail surfaces other than stone dust for possible application in commercial and heavy pedestrian-use areas of Great Falls. It reported on the durability and cost of asphalt, concrete, stone dust, and brick, including surfaces that are pervious. The greatest cost in building a trail is not the surface material, but the engineering, site clearing, drainage and other related expenses.

    Another current priority of the committee is to develop digital maps that the community can readily access to see the location of current trails and plans for future trails along major local roads. While those maps currently exist on paper, they are unwieldy and can’t be provided electronically to residents. ESRI, a geographic information systems (GIS) company, has added GFCA to its list of non-profit organizations that can use their expensive mapping software at minimal cost. The committee is looking for residents with experience with ArcGIS software who can help us develop these digital maps.

    In addition, the committee discussed funding sources, including grants and government funding, as well as the current county project being done under a Trail Blazers initiative to install a new trail along Georgetown Pike near Utterback Store Road. Some residents have expressed concern over the loss of many trees and the bulldozing of the landscape, which they feel could have been done in a better way. This will remain a focus of the committee, which agreed at its meeting to raise installation and engineering issues with Supervisor Foust.

  • 30 Mar 2015 12:05 PM | Anonymous

    Recently residents of a neighborhood near the Potomac River found one of their favorite foot trails marked "Closed".  It was not clear who had "closed" it, or for what reason.  There are a web of trails throughout Great Falls with easement rights crossing private property.  In such cases, property owners do not have a right to prevent public access over any deeded Trail easement.

    If you have a question about a particular trail, or closure, or want to report poor physical conditions, please contact Great Falls Trailblazers for assistance:

    By email:

    By website:

  • 28 Oct 2014 4:16 PM | Anonymous

    The Board of Supervisors today approved a master plan which would add more than 1,000 miles of new cycling routes over the next 30 years - including major routes in Great Falls.

    Dranesville District Fairfax County Bike Master Plan

    A larger version of the map can be downloaded here.

    Read the Washington Post article on the Bike Plan.

The opinions expressed on these pages are those of the authors and may not reflect the views of the Great Falls Citizens Association

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