An “essential link” cut short

In my prior post, Mapping the essential link, I presented maps of the future Capital Crescent Trail alignment for the essential link between Bethesda and Silver Spring. I explored East-West Highway to show why it can never support a good off-road trail.

There is another map of the Capital Crescent Trail being promoted on the internet. It has been posted recently by so called “Save the Trail” based in Bethesda/Chevy Chase, at Capital Crescent Trail Map. The essential link between Bethesda and Silver Spring is shown on that map as below.

partial Capital Crescent Trail map

The original source of the map Save the Trail uses is the Washington, DC DOT bike route map available online at The DDOT source map shows only a few trails and bike routes outside of the D.C. boundary. Save the Trail further restricts information by cropping everything east of Rock Creek out of the map. (Note – the right side of the map shown above is as it was cropped by Save the Trail, see their map.) Save the Trail leaves us with only a “to Silver Spring” notation on the map edge that gives no information about how the future Capital Crescent Trail will reach Silver Spring or what trails it will connect to there. The trails and communities east of Rock Creek simply cease to exist in the Save the Trail map.

Save the Trail also excludes everything east of Rock Creek in the text presented with the map to describe the regional trail network:

“The Capital Crescent Trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring (also known as the Georgetown Branch Trail) is an essential link in a circuit of Trails. It connects with Rock Creek Park Trail going north to Kensington, Rockville and Lake Needwood, and going south to Georgetown, crossing the Potomac River into Virginia and connecting with the Custis Trail and the Mt. Vernon Trails. Going south on the Capital Crescent Trail it connects with the C&O Towpath to Cumberland, Maryland.”

Save the Trail presents a very limited vision for a trail network that does not include a single trail east of Rock Creek. Most trail advocates and public officials are working to complete a much larger regional trail network that looks like this:

An early WABA map of the planned regional trail network
Source: Washington Area Bicyclist Association

This is a true regional trail network that includes major off-road trails east of Rock Creek and serves eastern Montgomery County, upper Prince George’s county, and D.C. The Sligo Creek Trail and Anacostia Tributary Trails are completed. The Metropolitan Branch Trail is about 1/2 complete, with a new section from New York Avenue to Catholic University scheduled to open this fall. The keystone to this regional trail network is at the apex of the diamond – the future Capital Crescent Trail from Rock Creek into downtown Silver Spring. This is truly an “essential link” because without it the regional trail network will remain cut down the middle, with the trails east and west of the Rock Creek stream valley not connected by any off-road trail north of the National Mall.

The vision that Save the Trail presents on their website is a trail network that serves only west Montgomery County. Their “circuit of trails” hinges on using the Rock Creek Trail into D.C. to Georgetown, but much of that route is on-road on Beach Drive and is only free of heavy motor vehicle traffic on weekends when cars are prohibited. Do we want a trail circuit that only serves west Montgomery County and only works on weekends?

MetBranch Trail in Takoma Park

Save the Trail may present this severely cropped vision of the regional trail network to avoid some inconvenient facts:
1) Save the Trail has no solution for completing the “essential link” for the regional off-road trail network into downtown Silver Spring without the Purple Line, for the reasons given at (Future) Capital Crescent Trail.
2) The Metropolitan Branch Trail is an important part of the regional trail network. That trail is a trail-with-rail in many places. Save the Trail is fully committed to the fiction that any trail near rail will be dangerous and unattractive, and the Metropolitan Branch Trail does not support that fiction.

The “essential link” needed to complete the regional trail network continues to be the one shown in the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail map.

partial Capital Crescent Trail map

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