Editor: A recent Sun Gazette commentary by Paul Gilbert [“Dual Trails on W&OD Will Be a ‘Win-Win’ for All Involved,” June 11] omitted critical facts and continues to put the proverbial “(proposal) cart before the (factual) horse.”

The core mission of NOVA Parks, of which Mr. Gilbert is the executive director, does not include transforming the Washington & Old Dominion Trail into a major commuter thoroughfare up to 26 feet wide, wider than some residential streets.

Although Mr. Gilbert decries “inaccurate assumptions” by the project opponents, he nonetheless proceeds to offer assurances – unsupported by facts, analysis or studies – that this project will “enhance safety, help more people commute in a carbon-free way, expand the biodiversity, improve the stormwater performance,” never mentioning that it will replace almost two acres of park green space with impermeable paved surface, including in areas of the Four Mile Run floodplain and resource-protection area.

The reason for this lack of supporting facts and analysis is simple: NOVA Parks has failed to develop an adequate needs analysis or conduct an environmental assessment; an alternatives analysis of other potentially viable, but less environmentally damaging approaches (including use of the parallel Four Mile Run Trail); or a comparative safety analysis. But, most importantly, NOVA Parks failed to first undertake to justify this proposal with our community and address all of these critical issues before submitting its funding application to Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA).

Mr. Gilbert notes: “The answer to the future can never be to resist change. The challenge is to make sure the change is good.” Before receiving any funding from NVTA or furthering this project, NOVA Parks needs to ensure that this proposal is indeed not only “good change” but the “best change” for this situation, through an adequate and appropriate-public engagement process that addresses relevant needs and concerns.

Rick Epstein, Arlington

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