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Dahlgren Rail Trail Added to National Recreation Trail Program

Unveiling trail signage at DHRT announcement on June 16

The Dahlgren Rail Heritage Trail in King George County has been named a National Recreational Trail by the US Department of the Interior.  The trail was also added to the Potomac Heritage Trail Network at a ceremony held in King George, Virginia on June 17.

Former DCR Director David Brickley explains the significance of National Recreational Trail status.

The 15.7 mile Dahlgren Trail is a rail trail which follows the route of the old Dahlgren Branch line.  It  stretches across King George County just east of Fredericksburg, Virginia.   The railroad line was built by the federal government during World War II to serve the US Naval Base at Dahlgren.  The line was later sold to the Richmond Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad and subsequently to CSX Transportation before being abandoned.  Former DCR Director and trail advocate, David Brickley then purchased the trail corridor in 2008 so that it could be preserved for the benefit of future generations.

Major Multi-State Connection

The existing Potomac Heritage Trail incorporates the DHRT into a multi-state trail network over 700 miles long, linking various trails and historic sites in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.  As part of this network, the trail ultimately links with major trails such as the Great Allegheny Passage C&O Canal (GAPCO) and the September 11 Memorial Trail at the Pentagon in Northern Virginia.

Located just over a mile from the trail’s eastern terminus, the Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge crosses the Potomac River with US 301.  Planning is currently underway to replace the bridge.   The bridge  is owned by the Maryland Transit Authority, and  Governor Larry Hogan  has committed to include bike and pedestrian facilities as part of the bridge rebuild. The new bridge is scheduled to be completed by 2022, and will act as the key link connecting Southern Maryland to Virginia’s portions of the East Coast Greenway and US Bike Route 1 ,

Despite support within surrounding communities and statewide, there has been controversy surrounding the trail’s acquisition by the state. For several years, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation has had discussions about acquiring the trail and incorporating it into Caledon State Park.  In 2016, the King George Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution supporting the purchase by the state.   Despite such support, along with efforts by organizations like the VBF to help facilitate the purchase, amendments have twice been added to the state budget to block the acquisition.

Adding the Dahlgren Trail to the Scenic Trails program and incorporating it into the Virginia State Park System is major win for the Commonwealth and surrounding communities.  The Virginia Bicycling Federation will continue to push for the purchase by DCR and encourages citizens to contact their legislators to support this effort.

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