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«Countywide Park Trails Plan THE MARYLAND-NATIONAL CAPITAL PARK AND PLANNING COMMISSION Montgomery County Department of Parks Park Planning and ...»

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Countywide Park Trails Plan

THE MARYLAND-NATIONAL CAPITAL PARK AND PLANNING COMMISSION

Montgomery County Department of Parks

Park Planning and Stewardship Division

Approved and Adopted July 1998

As amended through September 2008

Abstract

Title Update to the Countywide Park Trails Plan

Author The Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission

Subject Countywide Park Trails Plan Update in accordance with M-NCPPC Planning Board adoption of new Community, Park and Trail Corridor Master Plans Date September, 2008 Agency The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission Source of Copies The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission 8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3760 301-495-4568 Number of Pages 87 including covers

Abstract

This Plan provides background materials, describes the planning processes and outlines a plan for the development of Countywide Park Trails in Montgomery County, Maryland. It contains materials on natural and hard surface trail corridors and planning, needs assessments and implementation strategies.

The maps in this Plan are for use solely as a planning tool. Proposed trail routes indicate desire lines and should not be considered specific trail alignments. These routes require further study. Several of these routes are being studied and relevant master plans will determine the nature and location of the trail. Alignments will be selected and developed pursuant to the trail implementations and recommendations set forth in the Plan text, the Plan Implementation Guide, and applicable Local, State and Federal regulations.

COUNTYWIDE PARK TRAILS PLAN

Prepared by

THE MARYLAND-NATIONAL CAPITAL PARK AND PLANNING COMMISSION

Montgomery County Department of Parks Park Planning and Stewardship Division 8787 Georgia Avenue Silver Spring, Maryland 20910 Approved and Adopted July 1998 As Amended through September 2008

THE MARYLAND-NATIONAL CAPITAL PARK AND PLANNING COMMISSION

Elizabeth M. Hewlett, Chairman William H. Hussmann, Vice Chairman

COMMISSIONERS

Montgomery County Prince George's County Planning Board Planning Board Planning Board Planning Board

–  –  –

Introduction The Countywide Park Trails Plan (CWPTP) was initially adopted in 1998. The Plan proposed a 250-mile interconnected system of hard surface and natural surface trails of countywide significance. Since 1998, many amendments to the Plan have been adopted as part of more detailed Park and Community Master Plans. This edition of the Countywide Park Trails Plan reflects these amendments as of September 2008. Although the Plan focuses on trails within the more than 25,000 acres of parkland owned by The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), some trails in parkland owned by Federal, State, and Municipal agencies have also been included.

The Plan also addresses the importance of facilities such as bike paths that are located outside of parkland but provide safe, attractive access to park trails.

History Park trail planning in Montgomery County has a long tradition beginning in the 1930's with the planning and development of Rock Creek and Sligo Creek stream valley parks.

Over the years, trail planning has continued as master plans for different parts of the county and different parks have been completed. A Planning Guide to Trails was done in 1991 but focused primarily on trails within county parks and left the issue of connecting to trails and bikeways outside the park system largely un-addressed. A Staff Draft Update to this Guide was distributed in 1995 but the Update was never finalized.

The absence of an updated countywide concept for Trails has made it difficult to understand how a particular trail proposal relates to an overall county system and has made prioritizing funding for trails difficult.

In the summer of 1996, the Montgomery County Planning Board recognized the need to comprehensively examine all these planning efforts and establish from them an integrated, countywide vision for park trails. The Planning Board directed staff to prepare a plan of trails of countywide significance. This Plan is the result of that directive and has been reviewed and approved by The Planning Board.

What this Plan IS - and What this Plan is NOT

This Plan IS a concept plan that:

Proposes an overall vision for Countywide Park Trails.

Identifies potential trail and bikeway linkages between key destinations.

Relies on approved and adopted master plans as a starting point.

Proposes routes and corridors that are of countywide significance.

Focuses on hard surface and natural surface trails.

PART 1 – UPDATE TO THE COUNTYWIDE PARK TRAILS PLAN

This Plan is NOT:

A detailed plan of trail alignments that have been field checked and approved by all involved.

This level of analysis will occur sometime after the concept plan has been approved.

Potential connections must be subjected to an analysis of alternatives and appropriate environmental and engineering feasibility analysis.





A trail management plan that designates which user groups should use which trails.

This Plan focuses on two major types of trails: hard surface and natural surface. Decisions about what user groups should be allowed on what trail must await more detailed planning.

Guidelines for making these decisions are included in the Plan An acquisition plan.

This Plan does recommend some trail corridors in areas not owned by the public.

Determining the appropriate location of a trail and whether easements could be used in lieu of purchase should be made in the context of subsequent trail studies and future master plans.

A comprehensive map of all the recreational trails and bikeways in Montgomery County.

This Plan focuses on trails of countywide significance. There are many trails (such as public use easements obtained for equestrian enjoyment) and bikeways that exist or are planned which are not reflected in this Plan. The intent of this Plan to reflect “big picture” concepts and to rely on local master plans and park master plans to show the complete local network.

Everyone’s ideal plan.

Preparation of this Plan included numerous public meetings and workshops. Although there seems to be general agreement that a comprehensive concept plan like this is needed, individual comments vary as to what this Plan should include and propose. The concepts proposed in this Plan are intended to strike a balance among all viewpoints heard during the Plan process.

Terminology In terms of park trails, this Plan uses the terms “hard surface” and “natural surface” trails rather than “paved” and “unpaved.” Hard surface trails may include paved surfaces but they may also be any firm and stable surface capable of supporting most on-road or hybrid bicycles (the C&O Canal towpath, for example). Natural surface trails are typically narrow (2-4 feet wide) dirt trails. Surfaces may include wood chips or stones. These trails generally involve no major tree cutting, but may involve water bars, stairs, boardwalk or erosion control measures, where necessary.

In terms of non-park trail connectors, this Plan identifies bikeways, public use easements, utility rights-of-way and sidewalks as ways of providing safe and attractive access to park trail corridors.

Planning Process and Public Involvement The Countywide Park Trails Plan planning process is shown in Figure 01. Public input has guided the development of the trail concepts contained in this draft. A complete list of meetings and other activities is included in the Technical Appendix.

–  –  –

Relationship to the General Plan Refinement of the Goals and Objectives for Montgomery County As with most planning efforts in Montgomery County, this Master Plan relies on the County’s General Plan for guidance. Originally adopted in 1964 and amended in 1993, the General Plan establishes the vision for the County’s future, taking into account land use, housing, employment, transportation, community facilities and the environment. A summary of the General Plan Refinement Goals related to this Plan is included on the next page in Table 1.1 Relationship to Regional Trail Network The trail network does not stop at the County borders. Many of the trails described in this Plan connect to similar facilities outside Montgomery County.

Using these existing and proposed connections, hikers, cyclists, and other trail users can reach trails and bikeways of regional and even national significance. This Plan seeks to reinforce the county’s links to the regional trail system. Major regional trails are shown in Figure 02. Descriptions of the regional trails and how they link to Montgomery County trails is discussed below.

C&O Canal Trail One of the oldest trails in the region, the C&O Canal Trail runs from Georgetown to Cumberland, Maryland. The canal corridor is managed by the National Park Service as the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. The hard-packed soil of the towpath allows for use by most bicycles as wells as hikers and other uses. Montgomery County residents can access the trail at several spots including Great Falls Tavern Visitor’s Center Park. The Capital Crescent trail parallels the towpath for 2.5 miles between the Key Bridge and Fletcher’s Boathouse with many connections in between. However, north and east of Fletcher’s Boathouse, connections between trails in Montgomery County and the towpath are more difficult and less direct.

Mount Vernon Trail The Mount Vernon Trail runs from Theodore Roosevelt Island to Mount Vernon along the west bank of the Potomac. Connections to Montgomery County include the Capital Crescent and Rock Creek Trails via the Key Bridge and Memorial Bridge respectively.

PART 1 – UPDATE TO THE COUNTYWIDE PARK TRAILS PLAN

Washington and Old Dominion Trail Combined with Arlington Virginia’s Four Mile Run Trail, the W&OD trail stretches from the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac to Bluemont, Virginia in Loudon County. The W&OD trail can be reached from Montgomery County through DC via the Rock Creek or Capital Crescent Trails and one of several bridges crossing the Potomac to Arlington, or via ferry at White’s Ferry to Leesburg.

Monocacy Scenic River Greenway Trail Frederick County has proposed a greenway and trail along with Monocacy River, which flows from Pennsylvania to the Potomac River at the Montgomery County Border. Such a trail would link the C&O Canal, Sugarloaf Mountain Park, the Monocacy Natural Resource Management Area, and Buckeystown Community Park. Montgomery County residents could access the proposed trail from the C&O Canal towpath.

Rock Creek Trail The Rock Creek Trail in Montgomery County terminates at Beach Drive at the District of Columbia border, Capital Crescent and Metropolitan Branch Trails These trails, described in more detail later, are the backbone of the down-county system and important connections to the District of Columbia.

Anacostia Trail System Prince George’s County recently completed the Anacostia Tributary Trail System, a network of paved trails in the Northwest Branch, Sligo Creek, Northeast Branch, Indian Creek and Paint Branch stream corridors. Some of these trails are part of the coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail. Montgomery County residents can access the trail system from Sligo Creek or Northwest Branch Trails. This Plan also shows a desire line along the Paint Branch that would connect into the Anacostia Tributary trails.

Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Trail The proposed WB&A rail trail runs along an old trolley line from the Glenarden (near the Beltway in Prince George’s County) to the Baltimore and Annapolis Trail in Anne Arundel County. Both Anne Arundel and Prince George’s Counties have budgeted money for design and construction of the trail. Montgomery County residents will be able to use the Anacostia tributary system to reach the WB& A Trail.

PART 1 – UPDATE TO THE COUNTYWIDE PARK TRAILS PLAN

Table 1.1: General Plan Refinement of the Goals, Objectives & Strategies Related to Trails Provide a coordinated and comprehensive system of parks, recreation and open space (Land Use Objective 8).

Give priority to open space, park and recreation investment in areas with the greatest existing or proposed residential density and in areas with important environmental features.

Use open space, parks, and recreation facilities to shape and enhance the development and identity of individual neighborhoods, cluster developments, existing communities, and transitions between communities.

Integrate open space, parks and recreational facilities into urbanized areas to promote public activity and community identity.

Plan for and encourage the provision of greenway to connect urban and rural open spaces, to provide access to parkland, to connect major stream valley park areas, and for recreational purposes such as walking and biking.

Provide pedestrian and bicyclists safe, direct and convenient means of travel for transportation and recreation (Transportation Objective 6).

Connect parks and conservation areas to form an open space and conservation-oriented greenway system (Transportation Objective 2B).

Conserve County waterways, wetlands, and sensitive parts of stream valleys to minimize flooding, pollution, sedimentation, and damage to the ecology and to preserve natural beauty and open space (Environment Objective 4).

Identify and protect wetlands and other sensitive parts of watersheds.

Prohibit development too close to streams, in the 100-year ultimate floodplain, and in flooding danger reach areas of dams, unless no feasible alternative is available.

Maintain the natural character of drainage areas in the immediate vicinity of streams, rivers and lakes.

Minimize impacts from construction and operation of public and private facilities located in stream valleys, buffers and floodplains; first priority should be given to preserving natural areas (avoidance), second priority to mitigation, and third priority to replacement with functional equivalents.

Mandate “no net loss” of wetlands.



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