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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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Preserve and enhance a diversity of plant and animal species in self-sustaining concentrations (Environment Objective 6).

Plan a system of parks, conservation areas, subdivision open space, and easements to support a diversity of species in self-sustaining concentrations.

Ensure protection of environmentally sensitive habitats and un-buildable land through the master plan and development review process.

Minimize forest fragmentation to protect habitat continuity.

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Plan Concepts Guiding Principles

The following principles have guided preparation of this Plan:

Maintain a Countywide perspective Emphasize connectivity Provide variety Establish guidelines to aid decisions at the local planning level Seek balance among recreation, transportation and environmental concerns Establish the priority of key components of the Countywide network Designate a network which is responsive to population centers, both existing and planned recommend implementation strategies Trail Destinations Parkland in Montgomery County totals over 50,000 acres (see Table 1.2 below).

The largest component of the park system consists of over 31,000 acres owned by M-NCPPC. The MNCPPC park system is categorized into different park “types” for planning purposes. Larger parks that serve countywide recreation or conservation needs include regional, recreational, special, conservation, and stream valley parks. These parks contain more than 25,000 acres, over 90% of the total acreage owned by M-NCPPC.

This Plan identifies many of these countywide parks as destinations for purposes of trail planning (see Figure 03). These park destinations are the basis for a comprehensive, countywide park trail system

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Trail Corridors The eight park trail corridors shown in Figure 04 are keyed to parks and recreation areas of countywide significance, whether they are owned by federal, state, county or municipal agencies.

The recreational trail corridors incorporate all the trail destinations and interrelate to create a natural surface and hard surface trail network for the county.

The Plan objectives for each of the trail corridors are shown in Table 1.3.

The Patuxent River, Seneca Greenway, Rachel Carson Greenway and C&O Canal Corridors include the most important elements of the proposed natural surface trail network.

The Rock Creek, Capital Crescent, Eastern County and Upcounty Corridors include the most important elements of the hard surface trail network.

Table 1.3: Trail Corridors and Related Plan Objectives

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Natural Surface Trail Plan The Plan concept for natural surface trails takes advantage of Montgomery County’s extensive frontage along two significant rivers: the Potomac to the south and the Patuxent to the north. The C&O Canal extends the length of the Potomac. The State of Maryland and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission own or intend to acquire most of the frontage along the Patuxent. Natural surface trails already exist in the state-owned portions of the Patuxent River waterfront.

This Plan:

Supports sustainable trails that accommodate appropriate trail uses with minimal impact to adjoining natural systems and cultural features.

Proposes a natural surface trail system along the entire length of the Patuxent River.

Proposes three cross-county natural surface trails to link the Potomac and Patuxent Rivers (see Figure 05):

The Rachel Carson Greenway Corridor includes a natural surface trail that extends from the Capital Beltway to the Patuxent River.

The Muddy Branch-Watts Branch Rock Creek Corridor is largely in public ownership. The City of Gaithersburg has designated the Muddy Branch stream valley a part of the City’s greenway system.

Gaps in trail connectivity in northern Olney are being addressed as part of the subdivision review process; public use easements are being obtained as development occurs. Gaps in the Shady Grove area will need further study.

The Seneca Greenway Corridor is already owned by public agencies and only one “gap” near the Patuxent River needs to be closed to make the greenway continuous from the Potomac to the Patuxent.

Proposes natural surface trail access be improved to the C&O Canal.

Proposes trails associated with the Underground Railroad in Montgomery County be identified and integrated into trail planning for Montgomery County.

Recognizes natural surface trails may be single-use (such as hiking only) or shared use (hiking, horseback riding, and cycling, or hiking and horseback riding, or hiking and cycling).


Hard Surface Trail Plan Hard surface, multi-use trails are increasingly popular in Montgomery County with cyclists, walkers and in-line skaters (depending on surface type). This Plan seeks to enhance the hard surface trail system, particularly in the Upcounty where such facilities are scarce. The Plan’s intent for the Downcounty is to improve connections between existing trails (some of which were built in the 1930's) and to extend trails to population centers like Olney.

The proposed Upcounty and Downcounty trail networks are connected by a bike path, which adjoins roadways in the I-270 Corridor.

This Plan:

Proposes an Upcounty hard surface trail system to serve the residents of Germantown, Clarksburg, and Damascus (see Figure 06).

Although the Germantown Master Plan addresses pedestrian circulation in great detail and the planning area enjoys an extensive network of bike paths along roadways, the Germantown area does not have many recreational trails for cyclists and walkers. This Plan suggests a hard surface recreational trail concept that includes the Clarksburg Greenway Concept proposed in the 1994 Clarksburg Master Plan, the existing Magruder Trail in Damascus; the North Germantown Greenbelt and a portion of the Seneca Greenway.

Recommends a hard surface trail system for Downcounty which links the existing Sligo Creek, Rock Creek, and Capital Crescent hiker-biker trails to proposed trails in the eastern portion of the County (Montrose parkway, Matthew Henson Park, and the ICC right-ofway).

Recommends hard surface trail access to the C&O Canal towpath be improved west of IRecommends that an already planned and largely implemented bike path in the I-270 Corridor link the Upcounty and Downcounty hard surface trail systems.

Does not distinguish between paved or packed surfaces.

The type of trail surface should be determined by studies that are more detailed at time of trail design.

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Non-park Trail Connectors This Plan focuses on park trail “corridors.” For the most part, land in these corridors is either owned or envisioned to be owned by federal, state, or local governmental agencies. When this is not the

case, trail connectivity will depend on non-park trail connectors such as:

Bikeways Public Use Easements Utility Rights-Of-Way Sidewalks All four types of connections are essential to achieve a comprehensive network of countywide trails.

The illustration below is an example of how a public road right-of-way can be re-designed to serve as a safe, attractive connection between park trails.

The Wayne Avenue Green Trail, proposed in the Silver Spring Master Plan, will link the Rock Creek and Sligo Creek regional trails. The Wayne Avenue right-of-way will be reconfigured to provide separate trails for pedestrian and cyclists while still accommodating bus and automobile traffic. The Green Trail will consist of a two-way bike path and a separate sidewalk flanked by two rows of trees.

In the Western part of the County, public use easements will help provide a 220 mile regional trail system that will eventually connect the Woodstock Equestrian Park to the C&O Canal, Sugarloaf Mountain, Black Hill Regional Park, Bucklodge Conservation Park, Little Bennett Regional Park, Rickman Farm Horse Park, and Seneca State Park. Many of the future trail corridors rely on property owners allowing narrow trail easements through their properties. As much as possible, trail corridors are located through existing and future parkland that has been determined to be appropriate for equestrian trail development. The proposed trail pattern is shown in the following chapter titled, “Bikeways and Other Non-Park Connectors” in Figure 17.

Illustration of a nonpark trail connector in an urban setting.


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Trail Recommendations by Corridor Overview This Plan identifies eight significant trail corridors oriented to recreational and regional parks and Plan objectives for each (see Figure 04).

These corridors are the basis of a long-range vision for a well-planned, organized, well maintained, and accessible trail network. This Plan focuses on trails of countywide significance and builds upon existing or planned trail systems. New trails are proposed to extend trail systems, to provide new trail opportunities for existing and/or planned population centers, or to improve access to key recreational destinations. This Plan recommends generalized trail routes within each corridor. These routes are conceptual.

The level of field work and site analysis associated with trail location and design is beyond the scope of this Plan. More detailed planning and design studies will be needed. The Trail Corridor Plans and Implementation chapters discuss how and when these studies will be undertaken.

Plan Analysis This section describes the process used to arrive at this Plan’s recommendations.

Step #1: Identify Key Destination Points

The key destinations for the trail corridors are shown in Figure 3 and include:

Major parks including Recreational and Regional M-NCPPC Parks as well as State and municipal parks;

The Potomac River (C&O Canal);

The Patuxent River; and Existing or planned park trails.

Step #2: Designate Corridors Which Link Key Destinations After identifying destinations, potential linkages or corridors between the key destinations were mapped. Corridors may function as links between destinations but also as destinations themselves.

The Park Trail Corridors are depicted in Figure 04.

Step #3: Identify Generalized Trail Routes within Each Corridor This Plan proposes generalized trail routes within each of the corridors for further study. These trails are discussed by corridor in the next section.

Step #4: Relation of Environmental Concerns to Trail Planning and Design During the Master Plan process, public concern arose over environmental and other impacts of the proposed trails. It should be emphasized that the proposed trails, as described in the text and depicted on the maps are not specific alignments and are subject to further review of their feasibility.

The feasibility review should consider a range of options that avoid environmentally sensitive areas.

Environmental concerns, which need to be addressed as trails are implemented, include:


Protection of stream and stream valley quality Protection of wetlands and other environmentally sensitive areas Protection of rare, threatened, or endangered plant and wildlife species In the discussion that follows, environmental features needing attention as planning proceeds are identified for each trail corridor. How environmental issues should be addressed and balanced with other planning objectives is discussed in more detail in the Corridor Planning chapter and in Appendices A, B, C and D.

The Trail Corridors shown in Figure 04 are discussed in this chapter.

Corridor 1: Patuxent River Plan Objective: Provide a continuous natural surface trail along the Patuxent River.

The extensive frontage along the Patuxent River is owned by two public agencies. The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) owns approximately 2200 acres extending from the Prince George’s County line to Georgia Avenue (see Figure 07). The WSSC acquired and manages this waterfront acreage to protect two important water reservoirs: Triadelphia Reservoir and Rocky Gorge.

The balance of the Patuxent River acreage is owned or will be owned by the State of Maryland and managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as the Patuxent River State Park.

Roughly, half of the 6,647-acre park falls in Montgomery County and half is in Howard County.

Several trail corridors proposed by this Plan terminate at the Patuxent including the Seneca Greenway, Rock Creek and Northwest Branch corridors. A natural surface trail system along the Patuxent would link all these trails.

Existing Conditions and Plans WSSC allows limited recreation in both Patuxent Watersheds. The Duckett Watershed contains an equestrian trail for most of its length on the Montgomery County side of the River. The Triadelphia Watershed contains a short nature trail at its western end as well as informal trails throughout the watershed, and a dirt road that runs along the perimeter of the watershed property boundary.

WSSC has not determined whether a formal trail the length of their watershed is desirable due to potential erosion and lack of resources for the maintenance of trails. M-NCPPC will continue to work with WSSC and its citizens’ advisory boards to address their concerns and pursue the possibility of a more extensive, formal trail system.

Northwest of the WSSC land lies the Patuxent River State Park, a relatively undeveloped park with limited public facilities. About 1,800 of the 6,647 acres are designated as State wildlands, where DNR only allows activities “consistent with wilderness character of the area, including hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, horseback riding, nature interpretation, bird watching, research, and appreciation of natural processes.” Informal trails run throughout the State land, but there is no designated trail through the Patuxent corridor. DNR is not opposed to such a trail Concept. However, because Patuxent River State Park currently receives minimal staff time and funding, the State could not undertake the development and maintenance of a trail.

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