Capital Crescent Trail
What to Know: With tens of thousands of users per month, the Capital Crescent Trail has been deemed one of the most heavily-used trails in the nation. The 11-mile, paved, shared-use path connects the District’s Georgetown neighborhood with Silver Spring. But a 2006 survey administered by the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail (CCCT), a non-profit advocacy organization for the trail, indicated that the majority of the users – 23,000 to be exact – walk, bike, and jog on the portion in Bethesda.
Recently, the local community is on edge about two major decisions that will greatly impact the Capital Crescent Trail this year: the proposed construction of the Purple Line, and the lack of county funds allocated for trail maintenance. While the Montgomery County budget has allowed up to $200,000 for trails in previous years – which is quickly spent, according to Senior Specialist Gail Tait-Nouri at county the Department of Transportation – this year, she said, it has set aside zero.
The fiscal 2012 budget is still being finalized at the County Council.
This leaves much of the maintenance of the trail to groups like CCCT, which organizes its own events to preserve the Capital Crescent’s appearance and condition. It meets the first Wednesday of every month to manually remove invasive weeds and vines on the endless trees that provide beautiful scenery to trail-goers.
Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, another non-profit advocacy group, recently focused on its “Save the Trail” initiative, a campaign that strongly opposes the Purple Line project, which it believes will hinder a significant portion of the trail.
“Every week, walkers, runners and bikers from all over the region use the Capital Crescent Trail,” said Friends member Christiana Asmar, a native of Bethesda. “[The construction] would affect people’s everyday lives whether they use the trail for pleasure, or it being in their backyard. It is very important to me to save the trail because it is something I use frequently at home.”
But Tait-Nouri said the concern doesn’t make sense to her. The rail construction will result in new developments that will actually expand upon local trials, she said. In line with that philosophy, the Washington Area Bicyclists Association, whose main objective is to create healthy and safe venues for local bikers, advocates for the Purple Line.
“WABA, as credible, regional cycling advocates who love the trail … stand on this project,” wrote executive director Shane Farthing on the group’s website. “While the trail will change, in most ways it will be for the better. The fact is the Purple Line is the best way, in fact, the most realistic way, to get improvements to the existing segments of the Capital Crescent Trail and to extend the trail into downtown Silver Spring.”
Where to Go: The Capital Crescent trail provides access to some of the area’s most popular restaurants and boutiques in downtown Bethesda and Georgetown. One of the main connectors of Maryland and D.C., it crosses paths with several local trails, such as the Rock Creek, C&O Canal and Cabin John trails.
Also in close proximity of the Capital Crescent is the North Bethesda Trail, a 2.8-mile developing bicycle path that connects Rockville with Bethesda. It begins around White Flint Mall and ends on Woodmont Avenue, just feet away from Mile 3 of the Capital Crescent trail.
“What we think about when we decide where we’re going to put a trail is a variety of things, like what we can connect with the trails,” said David Onsocker of the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (MNCPPC). “Where do people work? Go shopping? Live? Can we connect to Metro stations, to parks, or to facilities people want to get to?”
These are all questions that were considered when implementing the North Bethesda Trail, which not only connects some of the state’s most popular shopping, dining, and tourist experiences, but also provides access to and from the National Institute of Health and its adjacent Metro station, Medical Center. Bridges above I-270 and I-495 make up a portion of the trail for bicyclists and walkers.
Who to Know
The Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail
- Organizes regular meetings and cleanup events to maintain the condition of the trail.
- Has a hotline for citizens to report unsafe trail conditions: 202-234-4874.
Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail
- Accepts donations for the preservation of the trail, including its anti-Purple Line initiative.
- Will send you a “save the trail” sign upon request.
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
- Sends monthly e-newsletters and action alerts to update citizens on their latest rails-to-trails projects.
- Sells eco-friendly clothing and accessories in its online shop.
Cabin John Trail
What to Know: Unlike its neighboring Capital Crescent, the Cabin John trail is an all-natural surface trail used primarily for hiking and bicycling. It stretches from the Cabin John Regional Park to the C&O Canal towpaths. Full of natural and historic sites, the scenery along the Cabin John Trail overpowers the noise of adjacent major highways.
The Cabin John area is also facing significant cuts in both funding and manpower. Its staff is down 20 positions, said the county parks’ Southern Region Division Chief Brian Woodward, who added that its 2012 budget will be at least 11 percent less than this year’s.
“It’s made a difference already,” Woodward said. “We used to have a dedicated trails crew that worked on hard surface trails; it was a two-person crew that went around and trimmed overhead trees, took care of patching small jobs and inspected the trails on a regular basis. We no longer have that trail inspection crew.”
Now, regular Southern Division crew members are picking up the slack. But because of regular duties that preoccupy their schedules, it’s often difficult to address issues on the trails in a timely manner, Woodward added. “This time of the year, they’re mostly doing athletic fields … they get to the trails when they can.”
Being the first year the division is operating with the cuts, the actual impacts are showing up slowly. The first issues in the spring deal with erosion. “With erosion, if you don’t get out and fix it immediately, it just exacerbated,” Woodward said, adding that with the new crew system, more than a month can go by before anyone knows about the problem. He said the division is relying on the public to report such issues. If hazardous conditions arise, such as fallen trees across the trail, his crews will respond immediately.
Woodward also said he wishes his division, which oversees 16.1 miles of trails in addition to hundreds of parks and athletic fields, could do more: “We should be out looking at all of our trails every month. We just don’t have the capacity to do that anymore.”
Where to Go: The Cabin John trail is connected to several recreational and historical sites in the area. As part of the Cabin John Regional Park, the trail is directly accessible to green parklands filled with campgrounds, shady trees, wildflowers, stream valleys and wildlife. Visitors have seen deer, foxes, turtles and woodpeckers as well as other animals throughout the park. A popular attraction is the indoor Cabin John ice rink located on Westlake Drive, which is open year-round and offers classes, a skate shop and a venue for celebrations.
At the east end of the historic Cabin John Bridge on Wilson Lane, there is a connection to the C&O Canal towpath, a 184-mile interstate trail and popular spot for bikers, joggers and tourists. From the towpath, visitors can access points in D.C., Maryland and Pennsylvania, including Great Falls Park, the Rock Creek Trail and the Mount Vernon Trail.
Tip: The southernmost portion of the trail – the two last miles near Seven Locks Road – is not paved and therefore cannot accommodate bikers. This portion is intended for hiking only.
Who to Know
The Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission
- Will send you e-mail alerts about local trails.
- Will accept incident reports (such as fallen trees.)
Friends of the Cabin John Creek Watershed
- Has five major objectives, each a different type of maintenance for the parklands.
The C&O Canal Towpath Yahoo! Group
- Brings citizens together through active online discussions about the trail.