Planning Board Set to Review Options to Connect Little Falls and Capital Crescent Trails

Planning Board Set to Review Options to Connect Little Falls and Capital Crescent Trails

Leading options include a boardwalk proposal or a surface trail to avoid Bethesda swimming pool parking lot

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For years, bicyclists and pedestrians trying to connect between the Little Falls Trail and Capital Crescent Trail have navigated the Bethesda Outdoor Pool’s parking lot.

Now the Montgomery County Planning Board is considering three options to make that route a little safer. Two call for new trails, while the third option would aim to make the existing routes safer without constructing a new trail. The third option is the cheapest—the safety improvements, primarily to improve the current crosswalk at Hillandale Road, are estimated to cost $65,000.

The trails were first recommended to be connected in 1992 by the parks department.

The two new trail options include a more expensive proposal to construct a boardwalk as well as one favored by parks staff in a report to the board that would create a new trail to run along Hillandale Road and Little Falls Parkway.

The proposed boardwalk is estimated to cost more than $600,000 and would connect the two trails with a scenic path that would offer views of the Willet Branch stream and vegetation. The wooden boardwalk would rest on wooden posts, according to the proposal. The boardwalk route would avoid all three Bethesda Pool parking lot entrances, but its construction would require the removal of seven trees.

The other proposal calls for construction of a surface trail extending southwest along Hillandale Road and with an at-grade crossing at the road’s intersection with Little Falls Parkway. The connector would then travel alongside Little Falls Parkway before connecting with the Capital Crescent Trail. Planning staff wrote in its report the option would be easier to construct than the boardwalk proposal and it’s conducive to cyclists because there are no steep slopes along the route. This option is estimated to cost $400,000.

Of the 14 letters in which individuals shared their opinions on the proposals that parks staff received, four favored the boardwalk option, five favored the surface trail connector and five said all the proposals should be rejected in favor of doing nothing.

Ruthann Bates, writing to the planning board on behalf of the Chevy Chase West Neighborhood, wrote that the neighborhood “sees no apparent advantages to the more expensive options to connect the two trails," and believes there is a need "only for some improvements in the existing connection, via the crosswalk on Hillandale to make passage safer for cyclists, pedestrians and those with handicaps.”

Sarah Morse, executive director of the Little Falls Watershed Alliance, endorsed the surface trail option, writing that it would provide a safe crossing of Hillandale at the traffic light and no mature trees would have to be removed.

Meanwhile, Alexander Culiuc, a resident of the Kenwood Forest II condo community who also identified himself as an avid user of both trails, supported the proposed boardwalk, saying it would be able to re-use the existing crossing at Hillandale Road as well as avoid the pool parking lot, which he wrote “should be the main safety concern addressed by the project.”

The planning board is scheduled to review the proposals during the afternoon of its meeting Thursday at 8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring.

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