Friday, March 6, 2015

Clearing snow from trails - Reston Association and NVRPA - Update

Lake  Thoreau trail in Reston on  Friday, March 6 at 8am
Bike commuting is certainly a challenge these days, especially along unplowed trails and where trails cross intersections. We were out for a walk this morning and we could do so because Reston Association had already plowed their 55 miles of paved trails.

RA has 4 small Bombardier snow plows. Staff are usually plowing trails shortly after snow ends. A year ago almost to the day we interviewed Brian Murphy of Reston Association about RA's process for plowing the Reston trails. Brian noted that even though RA uses plows, damage to the trail from plowing is rare.

The trail at the right is at Lake Thoreau, a very popular trail leading to South Lakes Village Center. Because of the recent heavy snowfall and ice from the earlier snow, there is still some snow and ice on the trail but that will melt fairly quickly once the air temperature rises. Usually the Reston trails are completely clear of snow and ice after the plows move through.

W&OD Trail on Friday, March 6 at noon
Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority purchased a snow blower to help clear snow from the 45 miles of the W&OD Trail. They've been plowing the trail this year but usually after a delay of a day or so after significant snow.

As you can see from the photo taken this morning, the blower hadn't yet made it to Reston behind the YMCA although lots of people have already been walking there. You can see that there's also plenty of room for the lone cross country skier who had just passed, not to mention the unpaved side path that can also be used for skiing.

Last year at this time, Paul Gilbert, Executive Director of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, wrote the blog entry Snow on the W&OD Trail and outlined NVRPA's policy on clearing snow on the trail:
Because the Regional Park Authority does not have the resources to rebuild the trail after every snowy winter, our preferred snow removal technology is blowing the snow. While blowers have an impact, it is less than the plows. In 2009 NVRPA invested in significant pavement markings to improve safety. These markings include rumble strips prior to every intersection, "Stop Ahead" lettering and other markings. In 2012/13 we added a highly reflective center stripe, again to enhance safety. With a ten foot wide, and 45 mile long paved trail, we are re-paving areas of the trail, and placing the markings in the re-paved areas every year as part of our ongoing maintenance, to keep it as the premium trail in the region. This maintenance investment means that every inch of the trail is rebuilt about every ten years.

For significant snow fall of more than a few inches, and when the weather forecast calls for below freezing temperatures for a number of days, NVRPA will start in Arlington and clear the trail of snow with its snow blower moving west. If it is a very minor snow with a forecast for warm temperature and sunshine within a day or two, we will likely let mother nature clear the trail.
Update, Sunday, March 8: By yesterday afternoon the NVRPA snow blower had made a pass along the W&OD Trail and by Sunday it looked like most sections of the trail were passable.

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