George Snyder Trail -
On the wrong path?

♫ Everything is awesome when you're part of the plan! ♫ *


Can't get enough pavement in our parks, floodplains and stream valleys? Then here's a "plan" for much more!

January 23, 2024:
It's not over until the bulldozers roll, but the news from City Council today was discouraging. A majority of the Councilmembers agreed the George Snyder Trail extension should be modified and reduced. However, lacking a majority for any specific modification resolution, inertia carried the day. The result? The project will grind forward, bringing its black scar of tar to bisect Fairfax City's dwindling forests.
Video of City Council Debate and Votes

2024 is an election year for Mayor and City Council. Look for upcoming candidate information on the City Website and the Virginia Public Access Project. Let the candidates know we need to make our streets safe for people before we make our forests safe for pavement. Victory may yet spring from the jaws of destruction.

Friends of Accotink Creek belatedly became aware of proposals to extend the George Snyder Trail, promoted as a fulfillment of a long-standing Trails Plan.

Other City plans need to be fulfilled, too, such as the Comprehensive Plan Environment and Sustainability Chapter, the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Plan, and the Northfax Small Area Plan. All these plans sanguinely assure the preservation of trees and streams while other City, Commonwealth, and private interests continue to clear them away. Why should the environmental preservation mandates of these other plans not take priority?

Improved opportunities for bicycle and pedestrian travel are welcome, but the proposed route of the extension means this opportunity would come at the expense of forests and streams. We have plenty of streets that need to be made people-friendly first! The comments submitted by Friends of Accotink Creek to the Mayor and City Council, below, are a statement of the principles we hope to see applied whenever we are faced with the temptation to take “just one more bite”, to lay just one more burden on our irreplaceable natural heritage.

Let the Mayor and City Council know how you feel about preservation vs. pavement at:

The dashed line of doom
Friends of Accotink Creek testimony before City Council
Friends of Accotink Creek Three Last Alternatives
Fairfax Now articles Jan. 11, 2024 - January 26, 2024
Fairfax City Patch article Jan. 8, 2024
Fairfax Times article Dec. 22, 2023
Fox 5 News reports Dec. 6, 2023 - January 25, 2024
Stand with the Trees! appeal from Fairfax City Environmental forum
Fairfax City Patch article Oct. 23, 2023
Audubon Society of Northern Virginia analysis of the alarming scale of land clearing
Citizens provide testimony at City Council September 26, 2023 Facebook video
Connection article covering City Council discussion July 18, 2023
Citizens present Fairfax City Council a petition of 865 signatures (now 2300 and growing) favoring the protection of forests from paving PETITION - VIDEO
Comments from Friends of Accotink Creek, January 2022
Comments from Friends of Accotink Creek, October 2020
Joint Letter from conservation groups
Letter from neighbors
Letter from Northern Virginia Audubon Society
Letter from Fairfax Tree Stewards
Story map of an alternate route along the wastewater line
City of Fairfax George Snyder Trail website
George Snyder Trail 30% plan
Notes of a survey hike along the proposed route
Proposed route property ownership maps
Other reports on problematic trail paving: Pickett Road Connector - Lake Accotink Park - Pine Ridge Park - John Mason Trail

George Snyder Trail Information Flyer

Comments Regarding the George Snyder Trail from Friends of Accotink Creek

September 1, 2020
Mayor and City Council members:

Primum non nocere "First, do no harm."

At the August 3rd online public meeting, it was disconcerting that the design contractor’s presentation:

  • Consistently pronounced the name of the creek as “Accoteek”.
  • Demonstrated no understanding that much of the route is along the Mosby Woods tributary.
  • Referred to the North Fork of Accotink Creek at Eaton Place as a “multi cell box culvert”, apparently unaware of its character as a stream.
These certainly may be mere quibbles, but this wooded corridor owes its existence to Accotink Creek. We owe the creek enough respect to understand its character.

Other concerns arising from the August 3rd public meeting:

  • Will the meeting presentation slideshow be available online?
  • Apparently this was the first public meeting of any kind addressing the trail plans.
  • Apparently alternate routes have not been considered, inside or outside the wooded corridor.
  • The need for numerous retaining walls is an indication that the terrain is unsuitable and is a contributing cause of the high cost.
  • Discussions of plant selection were without any reference to restoration, leading to the question of whether wooded areas will be converted to landscaping.
  • The proposed stormwater control “grass channel” seems dubious in terms of both function and preservation, given that the location is in floodplain and currently forested.
How can this project be effectively coordinated with the proposed Stafford Drive flood control/stream restoration when the Stafford project is so far only a concept while trail construction is projected in 18 months? No project occurs in isolation free to discount the cumulative effects of our collective actions. Even now, the I-66 Project is devastating the headwaters of the North Fork of Accotink Creek by stripping away forested buffer and forcing the stream into lightless tunnels where it was formerly free flowing and filled with fish. Private development is taking away more buffer and open water. Our life-giving waters must not be further taken for granted. Our responsibility is to protect and preserve these waters, not ask them to bear burden after burden after burden.

We again appeal for considering a route along Ranger Road as existing infrastructure that would save both Nature and taxpayer dollars. The challenges involved in making this quiet street people friendly seem insignificant compared to the engineering challenges of the proposed route.

The “Neighborhood Bikeway” plan of Portland, Oregon asks us to “Imagine a network of safe and enjoyable streets to ride your bicycle on that connects you to other neighborhoods and destinations including schools, parks, transit stops, and businesses.” Columbus, Ohio has a similar vision, as do other communities, as does the City itself, of which the Mason To Metro Bicycle Route is but one example. Let us make the George Snyder Trail the next example of that vision for the City and forego the urge to diminish Nature in order to enjoy Nature.

Friends of Accotink Creek Comments on the George Snyder Trail Extension

March 30, 2020
Mayor and City Council members:

Primum non nocere "First, do no harm."

The Friends of Accotink Creek offer comments on the proposed route of the George Snyder Trail extension. Our concern is with unintended environmental effects, particularly on our streams.

We are unaware of public discussion or hearings at the genesis of the proposal, dating to its appearance on the future trails project list nearly two decades ago. We suggest the neighbors and citizens of the City need to be consulted now before more their future is irreversibly committed.

This proposal can be fairly described as pushing a one-lane roadway into what is now a relatively intact stream buffer where the Resource Protection Area will be violated extensively.

The planned asphalt road/path cuts through the narrow wooded corridor along the North Fork of Accotink Creek and its Mosby Woods tributary. The devastation of this very same stream at its headwaters by the I-66 widening says this stream has suffered enough. This photo shows the fate that is befalling both branches of this stream within the cloverleaf, formerly wooded and filled with fish. The entire cloverleaf is now a moonscape. Ironically some of the funding for the George Snyder Trail comes from the very perpetrators of this upstream destruction, as so-called mitigation.

Even while the City spends millions in corrective action to restore streams from the effects of paving, we still pave for roads, parking areas, and, yes, trails, without mitigation, without compensatory reforestation.

All trails routed through natural areas have a significant footprint on the ground, eliminating habitats used by wildlife and plants. Moreover, paved trails, especially those designed to VDOT standards for bicycles, inevitably lead to increased human disturbance to adjacent habitats and become barriers to the movement of small creatures. We advocate for use of the hundreds of miles of already-paved quiet residential streets as connected marked bicycle paths while keeping pavement out of our natural areas

The 30% plan does not indicate any alternative options, including a do nothing option, were examined.

The 30% plan appears to be lacking analysis of natural resource impacts (tree loss, wetland and stream impacts, native flora and fauna impacts, impervious surface increase, soil compaction), climate change impacts, alternative routes considered, long term stormwater management, native species replanting plans, etc... All of these factors need to be thoughtfully evaluated so that you as City leaders are fully aware of the detrimental aspects of this project. Only then will it be possible for negative impacts be avoided or mitigated.

The heat island effect of this exchange of carbon-sink trees for an additional acre and a-half of heat-sink black asphalt cannot be escaped. If this effect cannot be 100% mitigated, it must be avoided altogether.

The stated purpose of this trail is to connect to the planned shared-use path along I-66 which will surely be a miserable concrete canyon - should we not be spurred to preserve instead of pave?.

The City Council has paramount responsibility for stewardship and preservation of the largest tracts of undeveloped land in the City – our parks. As our supply of such lands continues to dwindle, their future is a collective decision involving Council and citizens, as advised by the relevant administrative staff, weighing the desired benefits versus stream and environmental impacts and examining alternate approaches.

For this and all similar proposals, we call for policies of:

  • Avoiding new trails or extensions of trails in floodplains, where they are certain to be battered by the greatest forces of nature to be found in our region.
  • No net loss of habitat - no sacrifice of natural vegetated areas for trails or other purposes without compensatory replanting.
  • Redirection of all transportation bike routes to surface streets, where the hundreds of miles of paved roads in our city offer enormous potential to be knit into a network to make the City truly bicycle-friendly at lower initial and recurring costs.
  • Inclusion of climate change consequences in all project planning.

We ask why yet-to be-determined sums of future taxpayer money are being committed to fighting to maintain this floodplain trail against the forces of nature when paved alternative routes already exist?

We ask why we should embark on another trees-to-asphalt conversion project when there are parallel on-street biking options, such as use of Ranger Road or making this stretch of Fairfax Blvd bike friendly? Ranger Road offers the option of a quiet residential street that runs parallel nearly the whole distance, needing no tree loss and no cost beyond signs and striping.

The Mason To Metro Bicycle Route provides an alternate model of bicycle and pedestrian improvements to existing infrastructure.

This lovely vision of a network of people-prioritized greenway streets in Columbus, Ohio, takes the concept even further.

In the City’s own Northfax Small Area Plan, the descriptions of the "Linear Park" "The Spine" and "Fairfax Boulevard Streetscape" are precisely the concepts we would advocate as an alternative to the George Snyder Trail. How ironic that the trail plans seem divorced from this inspiring vision for the immediately adjacent neighborhood.

It isn’t too late to say “No!” to a black scar of tar in this green corridor.

Friends of Accotink Creek

"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure some of them are dirt." - John Muir