Save the Trail petition Part Six – locally owned

The first post of this “Save the Trail” petition series summarized the history of the petition. The next posts detailed some of the misinformation and gross exaggeration that many of the petition signatures are based upon. This concluding post of the series will look at who is behind the petition drive, and examine whether they are motivated to fairly represent all of the many and diverse trail users throughout the region.

I’ll go straight to it – I believe the “Save the Trail” petition organizers are interested in local neighborhood interests much more than in regional trail interests. I believe the petition organizers want to preserve the Interim CCT as a local neighborhood walking trail for the principal benefit of the adjacent neighborhoods, and are hostile to the goal of having the Interim CCT become a regional trail that can better support purposeful bicycling and other uses. The websites of the petition sponsor and of the petition organizer and comments they have made on the record make the case.

The sponsor of “Save the Trail” petition is the Greater Bethesda – Chevy Chase Coalition (GBCCC). They describe themselves at their website. Twenty nine GBCCC “Save the Trail” organizational supporters are listed on their website under “Who we are”. All of those listed are local neighborhood associations or condominium associations except two – the Columbia Country Club and the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trial (CCCT). But the CCCT does NOT support the cornerstone “Save the Trail” goal of “… fighting to preserve the green space of the Capital Crescent Trail — Georgetown Branch — right-of-way as solely a hiker/biker trail”. The CCCT position is that transit and trail can share the corridor, provided key design requirements are met. The CCCT testimony on the Purple Line AA/DEIS was reported in a previous post. The full CCCT Purple Line position statement is available on its website at the “Advocacy” web page. GBCCC is dishonest to list CCCT as being with them in fighting to preserving the corridor for the exclusive use of the trail. When CCCT is removed from the supporter list, GBCCC does not have a single environmental or trail oriented group remaining as a member.

The petition organizer, Pam Browning, describes the “Save the Trail” mission in her website. Her website gives lip service about the importance of this essential trail link between Bethesda and Silver Spring in a few places, but the information presented on the website is focused solely on less than ½ of the trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring – the part in Chevy Chase neighborhoods. The website features many photos of the part of the trail to be “saved”, but the photos shown are almost exclusively within the less than two mile section of trail between East-West Highway and Jones Mill Road. The website does not have a single photo of the trail east of Rock Creek even though that makes up half of the Georgetown Branch Trail. There is not even an acknowledgement on the website that the trail remains largely unfinished in the Silver Spring neighborhoods.

The bias of “Save the Trail” was displayed recently in the comment left by Pam Browning on the Post article by Dr. Gridlock, Purple Line passes important test:

“Mr. Thompson, your reporting on the Purple Line is always shamelessly biased. This was not an even handed report of the COG Transportation Planning Board Meeting.”

“For example, why not for once mention that the Purple Line Draft Environmental Impact Statement clearly states that the Trail can be extended into the Silver Spring Transit Center with all of the Bus Rapid Transit alternatives, including the Jones Bridge Road alternative?”

“Light rail along the trail is not necessary to extend the Trail.”

“The only reason I can see for a biking organization like WABA to support the closing of the Trail for years of Purple Line construction, and the needless destruction of all the trees and shade along the Trail, is that perhaps WABA cares only about high speed biking and is happy to create a Trail that will in effect remove walkers, families and children, nature lovers, dog walkers, and anyone who might slow them down.”

Posted by: PamBrowning | June 17, 2009 10:28 PM

The hostility Pam Browning has for purposeful cyclists and to organizations like WABA that represent them is evident. But also consider the disregard Pam Browning shows for the trail outside of her own Chevy Chase neighborhood. Pam Browning is advancing the Bus Rapid Transit on Jones Mill Road (BRT on JBR) alternative here. The deficiencies of BRT and of the JBR route as a good transit alternative were discussed in a previous post series and need not be repeated here. But BRT on JBR is also a bad alternative as it relates to the trail. BRT on JBR would place transit directly alongside the trail for over ½ of the length of the trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring. That includes across the only true park in the corridor, Rock Creek Park. That also includes through sections where the trail now has a full tree canopy that is as strong as any in Chevy Chase.

The BRT transit mode Pam Browning supports for Silver Spring neighborhoods would have buses that emit exhaust directly along the trail, while running on a solid asphalt or concrete two lane roadway. Pam Browning asserts that running emission free light rail transit vehicles on grass tracks will devastate the trail in her own Chevy Chase neighborhood, while at the same time she advances buses running alongside more than 2 miles of the CCT as acceptable for Silver Spring neighborhoods.

The Greater Bethesda – Chevy Chase Coalition has every right to make its voice heard on behalf of its member neighborhood associations. But when the GBCCC tries to mask its local neighborhood interests by wrapping the “Save the Trail” banner around itself to appear as an environmental or trail user organization, and then Pam Browning speaks for them as though she knows what “overwhelmingly, trail users believe…”, then GBCCC deserves to be called out. Waving boxes of “Save the Trail” petition signatures that contain many very outdated signatures, gathered while presenting gross misinformation about the Purple Line plans, does not give GBCCC standing to speak for all of the many diverse trail users throughout the region. If politicians, decision makers, and reporters want to know what trail users want, then they need to do the hard work of listening to the many diverse organizations that represent them, including not only “Save the Trail” but also WABA, CCCT, MoBike, the Sierra Club and others.


2 Responses to “Save the Trail petition Part Six – locally owned”

  1. Lindemann says:

    This is a post that needs to be read by county and state decision-makers, just in case their enthusiam for LRT along the Capital Crescent right-of-way should ever waver. Much more fair and balanced than I would have written it, too.

  2. Ben Ross says:

    This is an excellent post. Here are a few more quotations that support your point:

    "…a victory for all of us. We are going to have a trail…
    …a mixed gravel trail-suitable for walking jogging and leisurely biking through the right-of-way."
    - Town of Chevy Chase's announcement of its 1/7/96 victory party

    "The new trail, put in by the County, is of crushed gravel which keeps bikers going slow enough to accomodate pedestrians."
    - Dallas Read, letter to Gazette, 7/9/97