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Jones Point Park
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Jones Point Park

Jones Point Park is located at the southern edge of Old Town just north of where Hunting Creek meets the Potomac River.  At the southern tip of the park, embedded in the seawall at the base of the Jones Point Lighthouse, is the South Cornerstone of the Original District of Columbia set in 1791, marking the point where Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia converged until retrocession in 1846 when all District lands south and west of the Potomac River were returned to Virginia. 

The South Cornerstone was the anchor, the first of 4 cornerstones laid out in a square 10 miles to a side and the first of 40 sandstone boundary markers set down at one-mile intervals moving in a clockwise rotation to delineate the geographic contours of the newly-designated national capital district.  As for the historic white-washed lighthouse built in 1855, the park service says that it is "one of the last riverine lighthouses in the country and the only one still standing in the Chesapeake Bay area."

The 65-acre park is owned and managed by the National Park Service.  It sprawls beneath and beyond the twin spans of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, and offers something for everyone -- wetlands and grasses, bike paths, walking trails, a small pier for boats, a launch for canoes and kayaks, paved areas for roller blading, courts and hoops for basketball, two jetties and shady spots along the shoreline for fishing, covered pavilions for aerobics and crafts, separate playgrounds for tots and children, recreation fields, restrooms, benches and tables, water fountains for people and dogs, a recycling drop-off, close-in parking, and direct access to the Mount Vernon Trail and the pedestrian walkway across the bridge into Maryland.  Even new ladder truck drivers with the Alexandria Fire Department practice their moves at the park.

The original 6-lane Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge was built in 1961.  Construction of the new 12-lane draw bridge started in 2000.  The outer loop span was completed in 2006, and the inner loop span was finished in 2008.  In coordination with the bridge work, the park service unveiled its original plan for a revamped under-bridge park on September 10, 2001, the day before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  In response to those attacks, the park service developed a revised plan in 2007 that imposed access and use restrictions on park visitors designed to protect the bridge from security threats.

In July 2016, the park service published a draft plan to reconfigure and update the park.  A month later, park rangers held an open house at the park to discuss their plan with the public.  Possible changes include separating or rerouting bicycle traffic away from other park users, increasing the variety of recreational facilities that are available to visitors, and making greater and more efficient use of all the available space.

On December 10, 2016, volunteers from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and staff from the park service removed 75 concrete "bumpers" from one of the parking lots beneath the overhead spans of the bridge, swept and removed the dirt and debris that had accumilated around the bumpers, and patched holes in the pavement.  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security prohibits the park service from using the parking lots except by special permit, and WABA and the park service sought to repurpose one of them to be used from time to time for safe bicycling education.

The photo at upper right captures a newly shorn tree stump looking like a mighty hand thrust up out of the ground.  The Jones Point Lighthouse appears in the photo at right.  And the Woodrow Wilson Bridge looms above and casts shadows over the park regardless of where you may be.


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