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Recon of East Coast Greenway and Potomac Heritage Trail between Occoquan and Woodbridge, VA

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This roughly 3 mile recon took place on Tuesday, November 23, 2022. It was me and Julie Rominger on this one. This will be the first in a series of recons along these two trails within Prince William County, VA.

According to:

wikipedia.org

a long distance trail should be at least 30 miles long. There are two long distance trails that traverse Prince William County, VA: The Potomac Heritage

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In 2019 I led a day hike at the nearby Occoquan National Wildlife Refuge

Trail and the East Coast Greenway. Both of these trails are around 24 miles long within the county. In this article I will discuss these trails and the organizations behind them as well as do a recon of these trails between Occoquan and Woodbridge, VA. This will be a combination of driving and walking these trails.

The first of these trails is the Potomac Heritage Trail. According to:

nationalparks.org

the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail is about 830 miles long and stretches from the Allegheny Highlands in PA to the mouth of the Potomac River in VA. It is being built in stages. The only sections not completed within Prince William County, VA are within the Featherstone Wildlife Refuge and along Powells Creek between Leesylvania State Park and the Montclair subdivision near Prince William Forest, VA.

The next is the East Coast Greenway. According to:

greenway.org

The East Coast Greenway starts in Calais, ME and, about 3,000 miles later, ends in Key West, FL. Established in 1991 and headquartered in Durham, NC, this organization's goal is to foster a safe walking and biking route through the U.S' most populated corridor. They have established "spine" miles, mostly along roads, and are working with various agencies, governments and individuals to move or build trails apart from motorized vehicle corridors. As of 2021 they have achieved about half of their goal of getting their trail off of roads. Each state along this trail is broken down with how much of their trail is not on roads. Unfortionately, Virginia only has 60 miles out of a possible 300 that are off of roads. I will email the state rep for Virginia and find out if they will be able to piggyback onto the Potomac Heritage Trail at least through Prince William County, VA in order to get more of this trail off of roads.

I did a combination drive by and hike of these two trails between Occoquan and Woodbridge, VA, a distance of about 3 miles. We first parked in downtown Occoquan, then hiked west on Mill ST to the Nathaniel Ellicott Foot Bridge at the end of town. We walked across the bridge and briefly stepped into Fairfax County in order to take an image of the bridge. It was neat. This bridge not only carries the Potomac Heritage Trail. It also carries Bike Route 1. The trail turns left and travels down Mill ST.

We then walked along Mill ST, stopped in a few shops and then got into my vehicle and proceeded to drive Mill ST west, left onto Washington ST, left onto Commerce ST, right onto Gordon BLVD, right and south on US1, right onto Occoquan RD, which became Washington ST within the town of Occoquan and back to Mill ST.

After we got back home I looked at the maps from both trails. First of all, both maps were a bit out of date. Secondly, the routes that they took were quite different. So I drew the routes of each trail onto a Google Map so the reader could see the difference.

It looks to me like the PHT route makes more sense from a safety and isolated from traffic standpoint. There is no perfect solution in situations where they have to get the trail from one open area such as a park to the next open area. At least the PHT is on sidewalks during this stretch and one could stop for lunch, snacks, etc. in Occoquan or along the short stretch of Old Bridge RD that the PHT covers.

At the end of this section one has to cross busy US1 at a traffic signal. I did find recent articles in the

Potomac Local

and

Inside NOVA

local news sites that stated that Prince William County, VA has asked for federal assistance to build a pedestrian bridge across US1 and the CSX railroad tracks

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parallel to US1. If built, this would be a great addition to both of these trails.

In my next series I will hike a 2.3 mile loop consisting of Dawson Beach RD, Express WA, Express DR, Belmont Bay DR, a short section of the PHT and Taylor Point RD to check out trail conditions along this stretch.

Mike C


Nathaniel Ellicott Footbridge
   Nathaniel Ellicott Footbridge
   By Mike Calabrese

Historical marker    Historical marker
   By Mike Calabrese

Mill ST, Occoquan, VA    Mill ST, Occoquan, VA.
   By Mike Calabrese



Me on Bridge    Me on Bridge
   By Julie Rominger

Map of both trails    Map of both trails.
   By Google Maps



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