Atlantic County Bikeway
March 22, 2016
Lower Trail
March 22, 2016

Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park (W&OD)

This trail that is 44.8 miles (72.1 km) long has taken the shape of a linear regional park and is one of the heavily used trails, which allows many individuals to access Washington DC easily. One of the unique things about this trail is that it gives those who use it both a rural and urban experience with regard to the areas it covers.

Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park (W&OD) has its location in Northern Virginia and it begins at Shirlington, which is in Arlington County and extends all the way to Purcellville in Loudoun County where it ends. A larger part of this trail lies where the W&OD Railroad passed formerly and the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway had ownership of the line at the time.

In 1968, the railroad closed down due to the development of better modes of transportation and in a bid to construct I-66 on a part of the right-of-way, the Virginia Department of Highways purchased property belonging to the railroad from the owner when operations ceased. The right-of-way is 100-foot (30 m) wide.

Later on, electric power transmission lines would travel along the right-of-way and this prompted purchase of most of this property once more from the highway department by Virginia Electric and Power Company. Currently, the trails and park in this region are maintained and administered by Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) and this includes W&OD Rail trail.

A lease agreement between NVRPA, the City government and the power company led to the opening of the first portion of this trail, which is within the City of Fall Church. This was in 1974. After gaining popularity, NVRPA decided to buy this portion of the trail between 1978 and 1982 from the power company including other sections of the right-of-way.

In the process, NVRPA did not gain acquisition of part of the right-of-way that was ear marked for construction of I-66 by the highway department and those areas with current and potential highway crossings, as well as the portion in the City of Alexandria that was in the hands of the power company. The power company also maintained its lines and the permit to extend them on the right-of-way if any need to do so arose, through an easement.

Volunteers of the Friends of W&OD have helped NVRPA maintain this asphalt-surfaced paved rail trail and the latter has continued to do its best to ensure that the parkland that surrounds W&OD Trail is kept in its natural state. The park’s office headquarters are located at Smith’s Switch Road in Ashburn, which is on the east side.

The rail trail is appropriate for hiking, horseback riding, biking and running, which means that your pet friend and in this context preferably a dog, will be great company on this trail. This rail has several picnic areas and among them is Bluemont Park, which is just 10 miles away from where you set foot on the trail. These picnic sites add to the variety of activities you can engage in while on site.

W&OD Trail was identified as a National Recreation Trail in 1987 by the National Park Service and after a period of opposition from the general public, the final stretch of the trail opened in 2002 in Bluemont Park, which is in Arlington. Along the trail there are also interpretive exhibits describing both natural and historic features of the park. Mile markers can be identified as well on this trail that runs through rural, suburb and urban settings.

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