All politics is local, but some are more local than others, to mix metaphors and numbers. In my neighborhood are some splendid trails through suburban woods. But they suffer from a lack of safe access to each other and to various nearby connecting streets. A chain of coincidences led me a few days ago to a discussion of this topic by Wayne Phyillaier, which in turn brought me news of an imminent County Council vote on this very topic. As Wayne reported (on [1]):

County Executive Doug Duncan has submitted a Supplemental Budget request to the County Council that includes $62K to begin design of five connecting paths for the CCT. One of those connectors is the Rosemary Hills Connector. The urgent need for this connector is described in the July 20, 2002 update that is below on this webpage. Another is a ramp between the Rock Creek Hiker/Biker Trail and the parking lot at the synagogue at Ray's Meadow, along the trestle bypass route. The other three are in Bethesda, providing access to the CCT from the sidewalks at Bradley Blvd, Arlington Road, and Mass. Ave.

A new Capital Improvements Project (CIP) budget is approved every two years, and this request for supplemental funding outside of the normal two year cycle indicates the Executive is aware of the urgency of this project.

On 29 October the Transportation and Environment Committee of the County Council recommended the Council NOT support the funding, in part because the Council staff recommendation dismissed the CCT as being only "recreational" and as not having any significant transportation value. The issue will be taken up for a vote by the full Council on 26 November. If the full Council upholds the committee recommendation, it will be at least two years before Rosemary Hills will have safe access to the trestle and Trail.

Provoked into a fine and fiery frenzy, on Friday evening I wrote the following turgid and too-long note to my Elected Representatives:

Dear County Council members,

I read that the Council will soon have the opportunity to vote on a Supplemental Budget request to expand access to the Capital Crescent Trail in Silver Spring and elsewhere.

Trails are extraordinarily important to all of us in Montgomery County, for countless reasons. Our trail system offers valuable transportation alternatives for many who bicycle, skate, jog, or walk on their way to work, shop, and reach other destinations. Trails offer safe access to tennis courts, soccer fields, playgrounds, and other recreational facilities. And children (and adults!) can observe and learn about nature along our trails. In recent months during my own excursions I have seen a surprising range of fauna of all sorts, "up close and personal" --- including diverse birds, squirrels, deer, raccoons, snakes, turtles, and rabbits. It's a true delight to see wildlife in our own neighborhoods, and to remember that human beings are only one part of a wide spectrum of creatures that share our world. And the trees and bushes and flowers and ferns and other flora along our trails add further wealth to our lives here in Montgomery County.

But even more important in my belief, and much more often overlooked, are the major benefits to the health of people in our County provided by our trail system. Exercise is simply good for us all --- as new medical studies are constantly re-discovering (surprise, surprise!). My own experience during the past year offers a graphic example. In January 2002 my doctor diagnosed me with hypertension and put me on medication to reduce my blood pressure; I was overweight and over-stressed. She said that I could try getting some more exercise, but she was skeptical that it could make much difference for me.

Silver Spring has been my home since 1979, but until this year I never appreciated the marvelous network of trails that run, almost invisibly, around and through our County. I began to walk and then to run slowly along the paths in my area. I started with short jogs along segments of the Rock Creek Trail. Soon I discovered the Georgetown Branch Trail that intersects it and leads to Bethesda. I extended my jaunts further up and down Rock Creek, and then over to Sligo Creek Trail to the east and the Capital Crescent Trail to the west. It was fun for me (after a while!) --- but it was also a critical part of my health care. I lost weight, gained energy, reduced my stress level, and lowered my blood pressure ... enough so that, by July, my doctor permitted me to stop taking the antihypertensive pills which she had prescribed.

On 17 November I was proud to participate in the Montgomery County "Marathon in the Parks". Over 800 runners went 26.2 miles on Sunday morning, starting near the Shady Grove metro station and proceeding around Lake Needwood, down Rock Creek Trail, and across on the Georgetown Branch Trail to a finish line in downtown Bethesda. I was not fast, and I did a lot of walking along the way, but I finished the course --- and I had yet another chance along the way to marvel at the lovely trail system which we have in this County. I also realized, again, the immense contribution that our trail network made to my improved mental and physical health.

Our trail system is far more than a "recreational" frill for County residents --- it's a vital component of our lives.

I thus respectfully request that you support the trail system in Montgomery County --- as a contribution to better health for County residents, as well as for better transportation, recreation, education, and environmental preservation.

Thank you all for your fine work on behalf of our County!


^z = Mark Zimmermann =

It's not likely to change anybody's mind this time around, at such short notice, but perhaps in the long run similar arguments will help increase investment in urban and suburban access to nature ....

TopicRunning - TopicPersonalHistory - TopicSociety - TopicScience - 2002-11-24

(correlates: PolicyMaking, SteveCisler, RailTrailPolitics, ...)