She’s 77 years old, and Diana Fazzari has been walking for exercise her entire life. It started as she grew up in England, continued in Canada, where she moved at age 21, and then on to Fairfax County, where she has lived since moving to the United States in 1979. Always looking for new challenges for her only form of exercise, Fazzari decided 2017 would be the year she tackled the Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail. The 41-mile, multi-surface trail connects the entire county from one end to the other, from the Potomac River in Great Falls National Park to the Occoquan River in Occoquan Regional Park.
The Fairfax resident started walking the trail in February with a few essentials in her pocket – like her cellphone and identification – but perhaps none more important than a printout of the Trail Buddy map. Fairfax Trail Buddy is an interactive, web-based mapping application for navigating the county’s 900-plus miles of trails, bikeways and sidewalks, which have been mapped and incorporated into a Geographic Information Systems database. Fairfax Trail Buddy also provides access to the Bike Fairfax interactive bike map, which highlights the most desirable on and off-road bike routes for recreational and commuter bicyclists.
Trail users can download the Trail Buddy app on their smartphones or access Trail Buddy on a tablet or computer, which is how Fazzari uses it because she does not own a smartphone. She started walking the trail at mile marker 1, breaking it into roughly two-mile segments that she walks on Sundays. Fazzari doesn’t walk every weekend, so she hopes to complete the trail in November.
Meeting with Fazzari at mile marker 30.5 in Springfield one delightful early fall morning, it’s easy to see why she finds Trail Buddy so helpful. She was able to easily identify a place to park our cars and begin our walk. Asphalt markings helped lead us onto the path, which took us through lush greenery.
Fazzari first discovered Trail Buddy when she was searching for other maps on the Fairfax County Park Authority website. As a big fan of Fairfax County’s trails, she said she was pleased to find a map with such detail. For example, the legend tells you whether a stretch is paved or not and whether crossings are all-weather, such as bridges, or fair-weather, such as stones. Fazzari says knowing what to expect on the trail helps her feel safe.
Although we saw very few people on the trail when we walked together, Fazzari said that’s unusual, which is heartening to her as an avid walker. “Walking is good for sorting the thoughts,’’ as well as relieving stress, she says.
During the week Fazzari walks close to home, but she’s already thinking ahead to next year’s project. It’s hard to believe she hasn’t walked everywhere in the county, but she said there are still some trails she hasn’t explored, so 2018 might be a good time to walk all those other trails.
Author Lori K. Weinraub is a professional journalist and a volunteer writer for the Fairfax County Park Authority.