The Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail will soon be safer thanks to a local filmmaker. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Foundation recently announced a $40,000 donation by Falls Church resident Tom Shadyac for continued safety upgrades to the trail that runs through the heart of the City of Falls Church and out to Leesburg, Va.
Shadyac, a movie director and producer of films including "Evan Almighty," "Bruce Almighty" and "Patch Adams," is a user and supporter of the W&OD trails. He specifically designated his donation for safety upgrades to the trail. According to Foundation President William Baskin, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) is still deciding how to improve the trail’s safety.
“The specifics haven’t been determined as of yet,” Baskin said. “[Shadyac] was interested in trail safety.”
Baskin noted that NVRPA is in charge of allotting the money from the donation as they see necessary, listing several possibilities.
“[NVRPA] may do training programs with police programs to train kids in safety or there may be physical improvements to the trail to make trails safer. Nothing has been decided yet. They need to prioritize what needs are out there and how to best use the contribution [to achieve those needs].”
Within the past year, NVRPA has implemented several new safety features, especially to increase awareness of cyclists where the trail intersects Virginia’s roadways. According to the Foundation, these improvements include “Road X-ing” signs, street signs and plastic rumble strips near intersections to increase awareness of bikers’ locations.
“I’m a regular user myself, and there are always people on it — biking, walking, horseback riding,” said Baskin, a Falls Church resident. The Trail extends 45 miles, from just off of I-395 in Shirlington to Purcellville in Loudon County. Along the route, the Trail goes through Arlington, Falls Church, Vienna and Reston on its way out to Leesburg and Loudon County. It features parallel trails, a paved path and a gravel path. “The paved path gets most of the use, from bikers and runners,” Baskin said. “Parallel to the paved trail there is an unpaved one that gets less use, but from time to time, you see horseback riders and mountain bikers. They really provide two different experiences.”
The Friends of the W&OD Trail, a non-profit citizens group dedicated to the maintenance of the Trail, is planning two events in the upcoming months. The Annual Picnic will be June 8 from noon – 4 p.m. at the Reston YMCA Picnic Pavilion, located next to the Trail near the 18.5 mileage marker. In addition, the 2nd Annual Friends of the W&OD 10K run will be held July 26 at 6:30 p.m., and it will run along the trail on the west side of Vienna. For more information about either event, visit www.wodfriends.org.
The NVRPA, which runs 21 regional parks, is currently working on a project in Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington. This project is an “energy related project to have ways to demonstrate to the public energy efficiency and green utilization of power,” Baskin said. The park will “try and establish an energy conservation aspect to that park that will be beneficial to both park visitors and park personnel.”
Potomac Overlook, located at 2845 N. Marcey Rd., will soon feature kiosks that describe different types of alternative energy, including wind and water power.