Answers from W&OD

Recently, I haven’t had the pleasure of riding my local trail to work consistently in some time due to snowy and icy conditions. It’s been better most recently but another snow event tonight will undoubtedly keep me off the trail through the rest of this week and perhaps next. Fingers crossed though.

Lately, I’ve been taking to Twitter to express my frustrations with why the trail isn’t plowed or treated to combat inclement conditions. But, I decided to get some formal answers to questions from the only folks who could answer them accurately. Some excerpts of the email I sent to those responsible to the trail:

For not treating or plowing:

…the main reasons for not plowing is that the plow would do damage to the asphalt trail and the thermoplastic markings we have all along the 45 mile stretch of trail. In addition, we do not apply salt to the trail since again salt would eat away and damage the trail.

Their priority:

…our first priority is to remove any downed trees/limbs from any snow event. It took us about 2 1/2 days to remove all the debris from the snow; by that time the snow had mostly melted. In a couple of trouble areas we put down sand to help with traction.

Possible solution:

…we do have a snow blower that we very well may use if we get 6+ inches of snow like they are forecasting. If that is the case we’ll deploy it next week to help clear away the snow.

I’m a little disappointed the snow blower isn’t utilized more often but at the same time understand that one single snow blower is impracticable for a 45 mile trail. I have questions about how terrible the plowing would hurt the trail though, especially because the Custis Trail (a critical connector trail to the District) not far away gets plowed in each snow event, or at least parts of it. That trail is far more bumpy, and I might be wrong, but plowing a more bumpy surface should be a more difficult task, right? Further, I don’t see irrevocable damage to that trail. If anything, the tree roots along the trail are doing more damage than any plow can.

I’d be interested to hear what others think about the plowing aspect comparing that to their own trails. By posting this, I wanted to share this information to my local bike friends and don’t mean to bring down these folks from this post but, post for pure informational reasons.

Thanks for reading.

Tonight's Pre-Snow Shot

Tonight’s Pre-Snow Shot



  1. Snow-blower.. after 6″+..?? Sounds a bit impractical. Can’t see harm in “environmentally friendly” treatment, and plowing.
    (perhaps studded Continentals would help..LoL)

  2. I suggest you arrange to swing by the office and talk to Karl, the park manager. His office is at Smith Switch.

    The biggest issue is that the park is treated as a park and not a transportation link. It being park is both good and bad. Good because they actually have a capital improvement budget and a maintenance staff. If it was a VDOT trail it would never be repaved and certainty not cleared of debris proactively. It’s bad because there’s no required service level after a snowstorm.

    I think the desires of those to have a unplowed trail are overstated. The trail is a total mess after everyone has walked on the snow anyhow. I do not think that clearing the trail is an impossible task. Reston clears all its walking paths of snow. They have 100s of miles , steep grades and narrow paths. The W&OD could be cleared with a single plow width.

    We need data that shows that there is a desire to clear the path. Perhaps if we can get more frequent and better bike counts we can help change the thinking.

    1. Thanks for your input, Tom. I know you’ve been around the bend with these folks and know how the system works more than I.

      Apparently, today the W&OD was plowed at least in East Falls Church area but I don’t know how much. Dirt on the Bike Arlington forum posted some photos. Regardless, this is the first case of plowing I’ve seen since riding two winters on the trail.

      I’m puzzled now from today’s plowing in EFC area. If they defend themselves but plow the trail anyways, what gives? Why plow the trail in some areas and not all? And, when do they decide to plow and when not?

      Would a formal petition help in this case, such as petition system? Never done one of these before but perhaps those numbers will help.

      Thanks for reading.

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