More than one quarter of the people who testified spoke up for trails at last week’s budget hearings of the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission in Fort Washington. Most of these speakers mentioned trails as one of the things that the Commission needs to support. Two speakers focused entirely on trails.
Representing WABA, I urged the Commission to fund a design study to extend the WB&A trail two miles to the west across US‑50 and the Capital Beltway. (See map). Extending the WB&A across US‑50 and the Capital Beltway would immediately improve the usefulness of the trail because the Beltway is often a serious barrier to mobility. It would also provide a route to the New Carrollton Metro. On the broader scale, extending the WB&A across the Beltway is a key step toward the eventual goal of a trail between the WB&A and the Anacostia River.
Because this extension would be along MD-704, the State Highway Administration is likely to fund the construction. These upgrades are at the top of the county priority list sent to SHA this year, so a design study would have a good chance of moving the project along. I did not discuss the extension of the WB&A into Anne Arundel County because the Commission has already authorized funds for a design study, but the WABA blog summary of the testimony also discusses recent developments on that extension: We are concerned that Anne Arundel County wants a developer to build houses on top of the right of way while constructing an expensive detour for reasons that have never been officially articulated
Potomac Heritage Trail
Mark Holt of the Southern Prince Georges Trails Coalition reported that the Piscataway Creek Trail in Fort Washington (part of the Potomac Heritage Trail) is moving forward. The first segment of the trail will be in Fort Washington National Park (For the last two years NPS and M-NCPPC have been passing their memorandum-of-understanding back and forth with Mr. Holt regularly calling officials to make their edits and move it along.) Holt urged the Commission to keep moving on plans to extend the trail up Piscataway Creek to Clinton. He also reminded the Commission that Prince Georges County is failing to make full use of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail:
We also strongly urge that bicycle and pedestrian access to National Harbor and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge be improved as rapidly as possible. Hundreds of thousands of people have used the new Wilson Bridge bicycle/pedestrian crossing since it opened two years ago, but the trail still basically dead-ends at Oxon Hill Road. Several workable ideas have been proposed to link the existing trail to the rest of Oxon Hill and neighborhoods to the south, and these need to be implemented. For example, the Peterson Companies, developer of National Harbor, is obligated to build a trail along Oxon Hill Road, but plans for this project remain in limbo.
For most practical purposes, the the Wilson Bridge is the gateway to the Potomac Heritage Trail of southern Maryland.
In written testimony, representing some of the trail users around Glenn Dale, I urged the Commission to retain two improvements to the Folly Branch Trail, which will eventually run from around the Seabrook MARC station to Upper Marlboro.
First, the budget for this year included a short segment along Folly Branch that would connect the WB&A Trail to the Vista Gardens shopping center, by using the overflow culvert to get under MD-450. Several years ago, the neighborhood next to the shopping center blocked the segment of the Folly Branch Trail to the shopping center, and persuaded Councilman Hendershot to support them. You can see the trail bed next to a closed gate near Panera Bread. The new segment will go under MD-450 and then straight up that trail bed, while the main Folly Branch Trail will go on the East side of the swamp. The neighborhood of big houses on the other side of the swamp from Vista Gardens wanted a trail to the shopping center--it was just the townhouses near the shopping center that did not want the trail.
Second, the budget for 2014-2015 has a trail from Glenn Dale across or around Folly Branch to the existing Folly Branch Trail parallel to Forbes from MD-450 almost to the Amtrak line. That will give Glenn Dale a trail to the Seabrook MARC station. A few people in Lincoln might find this a more direct route to Seabrook as well. Conversely, people in parts of Seabrook might prefer this way of getting to the WB&A. It will also create a terminal loop (until WB&A is extended) for people coming from Bowie on the WB&A along MD-450. (See map).
(Jim Titus is a member of WABA’s Board of Directors. The opinions expressed herein are not necessarily the views of WABA. For a blog on some of the same topics that does represent WABA’s official view, please see the WABA web site .)