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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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Recommendation Explore with representatives from M-NCPPC, WSSC, and the State of Maryland, how a continuous natural surface trail system could be provided along the Patuxent.

Where State or WSSC-owned land is too narrow or constrained to support a trail, explore whether trail connections could be provided on private Issues Needing Further Study Extending trail system through land not owned by public agencies.

Trail maintenance Connection to other trail corridors WSSC policies toward trails in watersheds Inter-agency coordination for trail development, maintenance and management Corridor 2: Seneca Greenway Plan Objective: Provide a continuous natural surface trail in the Seneca Greenway from the Potomac to the Patuxent.

Existing and planned State and County parkland combine to form a 30-mile greenway along Seneca Creek from the Potomac River to within one mile of the Patuxent River. About half of the corridor, from the Potomac to MD 355 is contained in Seneca Creek State Park. Most of the portion northeast of MD 355 is owned and managed by M-NCPPC as Great Seneca Extension Park and several properties within the Corridor north of Davis Mill Road are identified for future acquisition.

Existing Conditions and Plans The Maryland Department of Natural Resources, in cooperation with volunteers from the Coalition for Seneca Creek Greenway Trail, has completed a 15-mile natural surface trail along Seneca Creek.

The trail begins at the Potomac River near Riley’s Lock on the C&O Canal and extends to a trailhead at MD 355 in Gaithersburg. With the help of volunteers, M-NCPPC has extended the trail another 10 miles Recommendations Complete a natural surface trail from Seneca Creek State Park through Great Seneca Extension Park to the Patuxent River (see Figure 08).

Close the trail gap near the Patuxent River, the only gap in the Seneca Greenway Corridors.

The only gap or break in the Seneca Greenway concept occurs between the M-NCPPC owned Great Seneca Extension Stream Valley Park Extension and the Patuxent River State Park. A strategy to close this gap needs to be explored, whether it is additional park acquisition or voluntary dedication of a public trail-use easement on private property.

Identify a desire line for a natural surface trail from the Seneca Greenway west to Little Bennett Regional Park.

Support the efforts of private organizations and individuals seeking trail easements in this part of the county.

The alignment would be determined as public use easements are designated.

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Identify a desire line for a natural surface trail from Seneca Greenway eastward to the Rock Creek Corridor.

This trail would serve Montgomery Village and the upper Rock Creek area. The Green Farm Conservation Park would be an important link in this system.

Provide a hard surface trail connection from the trailhead parking lot on MD 355 to the proposed Upcounty Corridor.

This Plan recommends a hard surface trail concept to serve the residents of the Upcounty (see Upcounty Corridor). This concept affects portions of the Seneca Greenway and is described more fully later in this chapter. Further study is needed of this concept, but it is the intent of this Plan to provide two trails: a hard surface trail and a natural surface trail in the County-owned Great Seneca Extension Park. This approach of providing two separate trails would be feasible in areas where a wide band of parkland is available but may prove more difficult where parkland narrows or where combinations of constraining conditions, such as steep slopes and large wetlands, present a barrier to implementation. In these areas, additional parkland may have to be acquired, or some neighborhood streets used for short distances.

Issues Needing Further Study Any trail proposals for Little Seneca Creek from the B&O Railroad Bridge south of Little Seneca Lake downstream to the confluence with Bucklodge Branch must be Carefully evaluated since this is a Use-III stream area.

Minimizing disturbance to Natural Heritage Protection Areas identified by Maryland Natural Heritage Program. There are five such protection areas in the Seneca Greenway Corridor.

Safe Crossings of Roadways. Because the Seneca Greenway traverses densely populated areas along the I-270 Corridor, many major road crossings are involved. An underpass provides access below MD 355 and Great Seneca Highway, but more work is still needed to provide safe crossings on these roads and others such as Watkins Mill Road, Brink Wightman Road, Woodfield Road, Creamery Road and Damascus Road (MD 108). The DNR and the Coalition for the Seneca Creek Greenway Hiking Trail are resolving road crossings in the State Park for roads such as I-270, Clopper Road, and others.

Analyzing of other potential constraints, such as steep slopes, rare and endangered species habitat, wetlands and forest interior bird habitat areas.

Corridor 3: Rachel Carson Greenway Plan Objective: Provide a natural surface trail from the Beltway north to the Patuxent River that provides a high-quality passive recreational experience.

The Rachel Carson Greenway extends 22 miles from the southern edge of the County northward to the Patuxent River. Originally referred to as the Northwest Branch Trail Corridor, the greenway was renamed to honor Rachel Carson, who lived in Montgomery County when she wrote Silent Spring, a book that exposed the dangers of modern pesticides. Carson is widely regarded as the founder of the modern environmental movement.


The southern part of the Greenway follows the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River. Most of the stream valley lies in existing or proposed parkland. Because the stream and trail continue south into Prince George’s County and link with both Sligo Creek and the Anacostia River, Northwest Branch is a key component of the countywide trail system.

Northwest Branch is known for its diverse riverscapes and scenic areas, particularly south of Colesville Road, an area noted for its scenic beauty by Theodore Roosevelt. The stream is designated Use IV (Recreational Trout Waters) by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which stocks trout on a put-and-take basis. There are several areas of wetlands and sensitive species discussed in more detail below. In parts of the park, a “wilderness” feeling is created by the dense vegetation.

The northern part of the Greenway includes the Rachel Carson Conservation Park. Additional parkland is needed to extend the Greenway to the Patuxent River. In the Sandy Spring/Ashton area of the Greenway there are several historic homesteads, the Friends Meeting House, the Sandy Spring itself, and other sites that commemorate the area’s agrarian past and the County’s role in the Underground Railroad.

Existing Conditions and Plans The portion of the Rachel Carson Greenway Trail Corridor currently owned by M-NCPPC extends from the Prince George’s County line to Woodlawn Manor Park in Sandy Spring, for a total length of 11 miles (see Figure 9). Existing and proposed unpaved trails extend nearly the entire length of Northwest Branch.

The White Oak Master Plan, which covers the Northwest Branch from the Beltway to the ICC right-ofway, shows an existing natural surface trail from the Beltway to Randolph Road and proposes a paved trail from Randolph Road north to the ICC right-of-way and improvements to neighborhood connections.

The Cloverly Master Plan recommends a bikeway between the ICC right-of-way and Ednor Road, the location and surface to be determined in an environmental feasibility study. Both plans reference the environmental sensitivity of the Northwest Branch and the potential conflict between intensive use and resource protection.

The Sandy Spring/Ashton Master Plan proposes a Rural Legacy Trail along the portion of Northwest Branch between Ednor Road and MD 108.

The Rachel Carson Greenway Trail Corridor Plan recommends the extension of the Rachel Carson Greenway north of MD 108 to the Hawlings River through public use easements or possible acquisition of land for a trail.

The Cloverly Master Plan proposes an equestrian trail connection between the Paint Branch main stem and Northwest Branch via the Left Fork and the equestrian trail in the Hampshire Greens Golf Course.

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Recommendations NOTE: See the Rachel Carson Greenway (RCGW) Trail Corridor Plan (June 2005) for detailed discussion of recommendations.

Provide a continuous 25-mile greenway corridor that will one day feature a natural surface trail its entire length.

Provide trail locations that ensure the right balance between stewardship of natural and cultural resources and public access and interpretation.

Develop signage and thematic programs focusing on appreciation of the natural world and interpretation of county history, culture and archaeology.

Issues Needing Further Study The following implementation issues are included in the RCGW Trail Corridor Plan. These issues will be addressed in more detail as the greenway trail system is implemented. Every other year the Planning Board establishes trail work program priorities. As part of this effort, the following

implementation issues related to the Rachel Carson Greenway will be addressed:

What trail recommendations and trail segments should receive the highest priority?

What is the best strategy for assuring the most effective management of the Rachel Carson Greenway?

How can public/private partnerships help implement the vision for the greenway?

How can safe crossings of roadways be provided?


Corridor 4: C&O Canal Plan Objective: Improve trail connections to the C&O Canal towpath.

The most significant trail in the western part of the County is the C&O Canal towpath (figure 10) managed by the National Park Service as the C&O Canal National Historical Park. The Canal towpath extends 180 miles from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland; the portion of the trail in Montgomery County is approximately 38 miles in length. The C&O Canal towpath is a compacted mix of gravel and clay. An estimated 300,000 cyclists, pedestrians, and equestrians use the trail each year.

Existing Conditions and Plans In the western, less densely populated portion of the County, hard surface trail access to the C&O Canal towpath occurs on roadways which cyclists share with motorists. Several scenic bike routes have been identified by M-NCPPC in the vicinity of the Canal.

In the more populated Potomac planning area, over 130,000 people live in residential communities within four miles of the C&O Canal towpath. Three linear M-NCPPC parks offer varying degrees of

access to the towpath from these communities:

Cabin John Regional Park has a signed and maintained natural surface trail (5.8 miles in length), courtesy of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club that extends to the Cabin John Local Park at MacArthur Boulevard. A Master Plan for Cabin John Regional Park is now underway and the need for an improved network of trails will be one of the issues studied.

Passage from Cabin John Local Park to the C&O Canal is possible, but involves a dangerous crossing on MacArthur Boulevard and a steep combination of an informal dirt path and old steps in poor condition.

Watts Branch Stream Valley Park contains an informal trail from the PEPCO right-of-way to just south of Piney Meeting House Road.

Muddy Branch Stream Valley Park extends to Blockhouse Point at the C&O Canal towpath.

In addition to the informal trails which run throughout Muddy Branch, there are some formal trails near the Maryland Horse Center and a formal trail system in Blockhouse Point Conservation Park. Federal, state, and M-NCPPC lands meet at the point where the Blockhouse Point trail meets the C&O Canal.

All of the above trail systems which offer, or potentially offer, access to the towpath are natural surface.

Recommendations Rely on natural surface trails in the Muddy Branch; Blockhouse Point Conservation Park, Watts Branch and Cabin John Stream Valley Parks as the primary trail access to the C&O Canal towpath.

Natural surface trails are located and used by the public in all three stream valley parks. In Cabin John, a natural surface trail extends the length of the stream valley and is formally maintained and signed. Trails in the Muddy Branch and Watts Branch parks are informal.

This Plan recommends the pattern of informal, people’s choice trails be evaluated and preferred alignments selected and signs be provided to guide trail users.

Retain a proposal for a hard surface trail in the upper portion of the Muddy Branch Stream Valley Park.

–  –  –

This proposal will:

Provide a safe, attractive trail connection northward to the Gaithersburg Muddy Branch Greenway trail system Provide a connection to the I-270 Corridor bikeway Provide access to the C&O Canal towpath bike path in concert with a proposed bike path along Travilah Road.

The hard surface trail proposal for Muddy Branch Stream Valley is discussed in more detail in the Muddy Branch Stream Valley Park Trail Corridor Plan. The trail concept for the park is shown as Figure F.1. A final decision as to whether or not to construct the hard surface trail should await completion of a Facility Plan to address the issues and concerns identified in the Corridor Plan.

Remove a hard surface trail proposal from the lower 2/3 portion of the Muddy Branch Stream Valley Park.

The lower two-thirds of the stream valley is characterized by a wide, flat wooded floodplain, wetlands, wooded ravines, steep rock outcrops and high quality upland forest. The steepness in this portion of the stream valley would require switchbacks and extensive grading to accommodate a hard surface trail. For these reasons, a natural surface trail is more appropriate.

Implement the recommendation in the Potomac Master Plan to provide a bike path along Travilah Road.

Providing a bike path along Travilah Road is critical to providing continuous access for hikers and cyclists to the C&O Canal towpath.

Issues Needing Further Study Coordinate with State and federal agencies to provide natural surface trail access from the three stream valleys to the C&O Canal.

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