Photo_Lifestyles_OccoquanTrail.jpg people working in the woods forest hiking trail

About 12 volunteers from the Prince William Trails and Streams Coalition as well as Occoquan residents marked and cleared the Tanyard Hill Park Trail in September.

The Tanyard Hill Park Trail, at the corner of Tanyard and Old Bridge roads, recently opened for runners, hikers and walkers.

About a dozen volunteers from the Prince William Trails and Streams Coalition and Occoquan residents spent three hours Sept. 28 marking and clearing the trail and picking up trash.

“The results far exceeded expectations,” said Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta said. “While there is substantial finishing work to do over the coming months, the trail route is now identifiable and suitable for use.”

The 17-acre Tanyard Hill property, which is outside the town limits, was purchased by the town in 2014. In 2011 and 2012, a developer proposed building an office building and a house on the property, a move that was opposed by the town of Occoquan.

“Our concern was two-fold: more cut-through traffic because of the office building and increased flooding because it would no longer be wooded with an office building on it,” Porta said.

A stream on the Tanyard Hill property flows into Ballywhack Creek. Ballywhack Creek runs downstream and crosses Tanyard Hill Road near the town and is prone to flooding. The Tanyard Hill property was also getting runoff from other nearby development, Porta said.

The town and the county offered to pay the developer $300,000 to put the 17 acres in a conservation easement, which would also earn the developer tax deductions and tax credits. The developer declined.

The project went before the Prince William Board of County Supervisors for a special-use permit. The supervisors approved the permit but construction never took place.

In 2014, the town offered to buy the property for $300,000 and placed it in a conservation easement. The property can never be developed, but trails are permitted.

The new trail, which runs in a loop just over half a mile, winds through the wooded parcel and includes several easy stream crossings and several changes in elevation, Porta said.

The trail is accessible from the corner of Tanyard Hill and Old Bridge roads. There are no signs yet marking it, and no public parking. However, there is a small graveled area across Tanyard Hill on private property that is being used for very limited parking.

But the trail has been used. Porta said he got an email from a man who took his dog on the trail and expressed interest in adopting it. Porta said he appreciated the sentiment but noted it is too soon to put the trail in an Adopt-A-Trail program.

Some work still needs to be done, such as blazing the trail by marking trees to identify the path. 

The trail is part of the Occoquan Greenway Trail that, when complete, will run from Prince William County’s James J. McCoart government complex to the town of Occoquan. Four miles of the route are open to the public between Springwoods and Cotton Mill drives in Lake Ridge. A total of 6.5 miles are still in the planning stage, according to the Prince William County Department of Parks and Recreation.

Reach Aileen Streng at aileenstreng@gmail.com

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