Friday, March 11, 2016

More environmentally-sensitive option to connect Little Falls/Capital Crescent Trails proposed in Bethesda

New paved trail would carve
through this currently-green
space along Hillandale Road
Acknowledging significant opposition from residents and environmental advocates, Montgomery County planners are now recommending the Planning Board approve a more environmentally-sensitive option to connect two popular Bethesda trails. A more ambitious Option A, cutting through forest while chopping down mature trees and potentially causing erosion, was panned by many meeting attendees or via correspondence last year.

The goal is to create a hard-surface connection between the Little Falls Trail and Capital Crescent Trail in the vicinity of Hillandale Road.
Option D (route in
A new Option D, proposed by the Little Falls Watershed Alliance, will essentially consist of a detour around the Bethesda public pool. Cyclists would exit the CCT where it crosses Little Falls Parkway, and go south on a new path along the front of the Bethesda pool. They would then cross Hillandale Road at the light, and take Hillandale east along a new 10' paved trail to the existing Little Falls Trail entrance.

Using the signaled crossing at Hillandale and Little Falls Parkway is designed to avoid cyclists using the unsignaled crossing further east on Hillandale at the pool driveway. However, they do not seem to have taken into account the high number of right turns-on-red made from the parkway onto Hillandale.

Many nearby residents signed petitions opposing the through-forest route, citing environmental damage and cost as major reasons. A significant number of residents also favored the "no-build" option of doing nothing at all, describing the project concept as "a solution looking for a problem," to use the words of resident Jonathan Parker. Many cyclists on the CCT currently just cut through the pool property, which gets you right up to the Hillandale crossing/entrance to the Little Falls Trail.

Option D's estimated cost to taxpayers will be $408,200, about $209,000 less than original favored Option A. It will, however, require the removal of three 12' trees, and four others 10' or less in height. And require hard surface paving through what is currently green space. So while Option D may be more environmentally-sensitive in relative terms, it is not zero-impact, and aesthetically leaves much to be desired. Oddly, the staff memo never mentions the new trail across the lawn in front of the pool, even while showing it on the diagrams.
You can see how close
Option A would have been
to the Willett Branch in this
detail; stream advocates
cited erosion concerns
Opposition to the Option A was not unanimous. For example, several residents of the Kenwood Forest II condos wrote to the Parks department in support of the original "Option A", and protested that their condo board's official opposition did not speak for them. They cited Option A as an easier access route for cyclists in their community to reach downtown Bethesda, or commute into the District.

The Planning Board will take up this project at its March 17 meeting.


Anonymous said...

There is already a crosswalk on Hillandale that local residents use all the time to get to the Crescent Trail and, in the summer, to the pool. No one is going to walk down to Little Falls Road to cross Hillandale. All that is needed to make it safer, and with no loss of trees or a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, is a traffic signal at the existing crosswalk.

G. Money said...

5:43 - Agreed. I used to cross there all the time as a kid going to the pool. I imagine the traffic may be worse now and parents might feel better having a signal, but it should be the kind of pedestrian signal that only activates when the button is pressed.

Robert Dyer said...

G. Money, I agree. There's one of those signals on Westbard Avenue and it works great. People can cross as needed, and the rest of the time there is no impact on traffic flow.