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)