W&OD Trail’s 50th anniversary celebration kicks off this weekend with cleanup

W&OD Trail in Herndon (staff photo by James Jarvis)

The Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail has reached the half-century mark.

The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NOVA Parks) is marking the facility’s 50th anniversary with various activities from April to September, starting this Saturday (April 27) with a trail-wide cleanup event from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Coinciding with the Rails to Trails Conservancy’s Celebrate Trails Day, the cleanup effort encourages volunteers to participate along the entire 45-mile trail, which stretches from Shirlington to Purcellville.

According to a press release, the trail was named after the former Washington & Old Dominion Railroad and played a vital role in the economic development of Northern Virginia. It linked Alexandria’s seaport to communities westward, including Arlington, Falls Church and Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

When the railroad was abandoned in 1968, Dominion Power installed transmission lines along the corridor. NOVA Parks immediately started studying the feasibility of converting the former railroad to a trail.

Nearly 50 years ago, on Sept. 7, 1974, the “first ride” was documented on the first stretch of the W&OD Trail — a 1.5-mile-long, 6-foot-wide asphalt path in Falls Church City, per the release. It made the amenity among the first rails-to-trails conversions in the U.S.

Over 14 years, NOVA Parks expanded the trail into a continuous 45-mile pathway from Arlington to the Town of Purcellville, serving over 2 million people annually.

To improve safety, several ‘grade-separated’ intersections have been installed along the trail’s 70 road crossings, allowing trail users and vehicles to travel at different levels. Recent upgrades include a bridge over Route 29 in Arlington, completed in 2021, and one over Wiehle Avenue in Reston that’s expected to open this June.

NOVA Parks has also been remaking parts of the trail into separate, parallel tracks for pedestrians and cyclists. A section in Falls Church became operational in 2021, and there are plans for expansion into other urban areas, including in Arlington and the Vienna, Herndon and Reston segments, per the release.

Additional events for the W&OD Trail’s 50th anniversary can be found on the NOVA Park’s website, which lists several scheduled through July.

Make Earth Day everyday and show your appreciation of the trail by participating in the first ever 45-mile trail cleanup of the W&OD Trail. Celebrate Trails Day is presented by the Rails to Trails Conservancy. Sign up to volunteer anywhere along the 45-mile trail from Shirlington to Purcellville, Virginia.

Bike to Work Day celebrates the many benefits of using alternate transportation to work. The first 16,000 who register and attend at a pit stop receive a free Bike to Work Day t-shirt. Free giveaways, food, and beverages are available at participating locations, while supplies last. Register for and stop by one of the pit stops where NOVA Parks will be located:

Cheer on NOVA Parks’ W&OD-themed float at the City of Falls Church’s 42nd Annual Memorial Day Parade. The fun starts at 2 p.m. Learn more.

Visit NOVA Parks at the W&OD Trail’s mile marker 0 in Shirlington, where EcoAction Arlington will coordinate volunteers for an invasive cleanup between the start of the W&OD Trail and George Mason Drive. National Trails Day is a day of service for hometown trails and the people who love them, presented by the American Hiking Society.

Cheer on NOVA Parks’ W&OD-themed float at the City of Fairfax’s Independence Day Parade and stay for the fireworks! The parade takes place 10am-noon in downtown Fairfax. The event is rain or shine. Learn more.

Read more on FFXnow…

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