Making trail connections in Woodside.

The Gazette has outed me and Woodside Civic Association President Webb Smedley while working on a little known “peoples trail” in Woodside, in the January 7 story “Commuters find connections off the beaten path”.

This short peoples trail is directly along the master plan alignment of the future Capital Crescent Trail. Some of us call it our “orphan trail” because it is disconnected from its parent, the CCT.

The “orphan trail” in Woodside

This two block long trail is an attractive walking trail for local residents even though it is alongside the CSXT/Metro corridor. I walk it daily with my dog. But it is disconnected from neighboring North Woodside by 16th Street, and is disconnected from the Silver Spring downtown by Spring Street. It will remain disconnected until Purple Line and CSXT right of way issues are resolved.

The Gazette story goes into the right of way issue:

“Bob Sullivan, a CSX spokesman, says the railroad is always willing to review rail-to-trail requests.

‘The first concern always is safety. Where a sale of land may be required, CSX generally seeks to obtain fair market value for the asset. The company would be willing to review a specific request relating to the Georgetown Branch Trail, but cannot make any other observations without first reviewing plans,’ Sullivan says.”

This Gazette contact with CSXT is in stark contrast in tone to other CSXT contacts regarding a trail right of way. When M-NCPPC was developing its North and West Silver Spring Master Plan in 2000, M-NCPPC planners contacted CSXT about a trail right of way but were unable to get CSXT to discuss the issue. The CSXT website has a CSX Public Projects Manual that states on p. 20:

“Key Points and Procedures

Private or public parallel at-grade paths are not permitted on active CSXT right of way.
CSXT will oppose condemnation proceedings aimed at recreational use of trackside property.
The public agency or private landowner that establishes bike/pedestrian path usage of trackside property must provide unqualified indemnity and adequate insurance to protect CSXT as well as safety measures necessary to eliminate safety risks.
Bicycle/pedestrian pathways cannot cross tracks at grade.”

Attempting to get CSXT right of way for a trail alone remains a daunting task, regardless of the apparently compliant comments made by CSXT spokesman Sullivan to the Gazette. And there remains the question how many first born children CSXT will require in payment for the trail right of way if a sale can be negotiated. Our best hope to connect the Woodside “orphan trail” to its parent CCT remains with the Purple Line project.

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