This winter’s first significant snowfall closed schools and made morning rush hour a mess, but it did allow Montgomery Parks its first attempt at a snow plowing pilot project on the Capital Crescent Trail.
Parks spokesperson Melissa Chotiner said Parks crews did get out to partially clear the department’s 3.5-mile portion of the trail from Bethesda Avenue to the Montgomery County-D.C. line.
She warned there are still icy conditions on the full length of the trail, so users should remain cautious.
The pilot plowing program was approved as part of this year’s county budget, with up to $75,000 being set aside for the operation.
Parks will also clear snow along 12 feeder trails and record the total number of trail users traveling in each direction using automated counters. The counters are able to detect how many users are bicyclists and how many are walking.
The snow removal pilot program will not include salting of the trail or ice removal.
The Georgetown Branch Extension of the trail east of Bethesda Avenue is maintained by the county’s Department of Transportation and isn’t part of the program. That portion of the trail doesn’t have the advantage a hard surface throughout, meaning snow plowing with heavy machinery can’t happen.
In the past, Montgomery Parks has said the idea of plowing the Capital Crescent Trail would mean having to remove snow on all of its trails in the county, a financially difficult task.
But Capital Crescent Trail users complained of trampled down and ice-packed snow making the route hard to use for days and in some cases weeks after snowstorms last winter.
They got the support of some on the County Council. Those councilmembers pressed both Parks and the county’s Department of Transportation to look into trail plowing because of the trail’s importance as a bicycle commuter route to and from D.C.
Photos via Montgomery Parks