Trash On Trails: More Than An Annoyance

Trail Rangers do lots of different trail projects: promote trails, answer questions, clip back vegetation, ride trails (and write the word “trails” a lot). Why do Trail Rangers spend some of their time removing trash?

We want more folks wanting to feel trails are welcoming and use trails. People don’t like walking or biking through trash – it’s not fun to look at or be around. Studies have found that litter on trail decreased trail use by 20%. Trails are appealing for a number of reasons but being outside in the natural world is a common one – does this look appealing to you?

Another study found that how folks perceive safety is influenced by trash – eliminating litter from an image increased the perception of safety 30%. It’s hard to encourage more folks to enjoy trails if they feel unsafe or that it’s not a pleasant place to spend their time.

Trash can cause problems. It’s much easier to pick up a whole glass bottle just off the trail now before it breaks and causes flat tires. And it’s no fun to fall because you hit a carryout container just right and then–whee, sideways!

We want a healthy environment. All of our trails are part of the Anacostia River watershed, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay. Trash in the river has been so bad in recent years that the Anacostia River was declared “impaired by trash” by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act. Whatever we don’t pick up will eventually likely go into the bay and from there into the ocean (unless it’s picked up by a few trash traps or the DC Water skimmer but they only make a dent). Plastic and manmade materials are not part of the ocean ecology – let’s keep them out!

 

So how do you help the team and encourage more folks to be on the trails?

Don’t litter. We’d rather be doing something else! Save us a step.

Request a trash can! There are definitely places along the trails and roads that have higher incidence of litter because people expect there to be a trash can (ex: Stanton Rd and Suitland Parkway). There is a whole category in the city 311 reporting system on requesting new trash cans

More info about effective 311 reports here.

Join the team for a cleanup! We do public cleanups a few times a year to make a bigger impact. The next one is January 15th for Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on the Metropolitan Branch Trail. More details and signup here.  

Get updates for all of cleanups by joining our email list. Yes!





Also lots of other organizations are involved in trash reduction efforts so if you’re not near a Trail Ranger trail, there is probably something going on close to you!

What’s going on with the Met Branch Trail in Ward 4?

On Tuesday, December 5, the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee for Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B is hosting an informational meeting to discuss and debate the merits of the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) in Ward 4. This meeting is a key opportunity for Ward 4 residents and 4B neighbors to get to know the project and encourage elected commissioners to support the trail as planned. If you want a continuous biking and walking trail connecting Silver Spring and Downtown that also makes Blair Road safe for all, come to Tuesday’s meeting!

ANC 4B PWI meeting on the Met Branch Trail
Tuesday, December 5
5:30 pm – walking tour meets at Peabody St. & Blair Rd NW
6:45 pm – indoor meeting at Takoma Village Co-housing (6827 4th St. NW)

Let us know you’ll be there

If this sounds familiar, it should. Since June the District Department of Transportation has been seeking ANC feedback on the MBT 30% design plans so that design can continue towards construction. In that time, the PWI committee, ANC commissioners, and the full ANC have held numerous meetings on the details of the route, design, benefits, and impacts of the MBT. DDOT’s plan routes the trail off-street alongside Blair Road from McDonald Pl to Rittenhouse then in a repurposed travel lane from Rittenhouse to Aspen St.

In October, the ANC passed a resolution supporting just 1500 feet of the 1.6 mile trail plan in Ward 4. On January 22nd, Commissioners will finally vote on a resolution considering the rest.

What is at stake?

Despite strong attendance from trail supporters at meetings, more than 150 petition signatures from 4B residents, and dozens of emails to commissioners asking for support on DDOT’s plan, many commissioners oppose routing the trail on Blair Rd at all, claiming that Blair is somehow too dangerous for traffic calming to work or that delaying drivers for the sake of non-driver safety is unfair and suggesting instead that trail users go to Eastern Ave or 3rd St or other roundabout “alternatives.”

Many options were considered by DDOT during the past four years of planning and community input and found to be unworkable. At this stage, altering the route has dire consequences for the usability and success of the trail, adds years of delay and prevents needed safety improvements on Blair Rd. Traffic studies indicate that the trail as planned could add as many as six(!) seconds per block to peak driver travel times along Blair Road. This is not a good reason to delay a critical regional connection for people biking and walking.

Based on the regional importance of this trail segment, DDOT could decide to move ahead without ANC 4B support, but WABA hopes the Commission will support this long-anticipated addition to the neighborhood.

What can you do to help?

  1. Attend Tuesday’s meeting. Get to know the project, and demand that your neighborhood representative support DDOT’s plan for the MBT and a safer Blair Rd. RSVP
  2. Join our Facebook Group. Get involved in rallying support for the Met Branch Trail in Ward 4.
  3. Sign and share our petition. Help show your elected neighborhood leaders the broad community support for the Met Branch Trail.

You can learn more about the routing and plans for the Met Branch Trail on this interactive map or at metbranchtrail.com/resources.

Cleanup of the Paul Meijer Garden

Fourteen friends of the Metropolitan Branch Trail gathered at the Paul Meijer Garden this Sunday for a short garden cleanup. The garden is filled with tulip bulbs to honor Paul’s Dutch roots but a summer of enthusiastic Bermuda grass growth meant they would be chocked out next spring.

We pulled out as much of the grass and other weeds as we could, spread a light mulch layer and prepped the garden for growth next spring after a dormant winter. And in trail reclamation bonus, the mulch was from a tree on the trail. It was no longer safe as a tree but it has a new life in the garden!

Thanks to everyone who joined us, and to Rich and Dan for going above and beyond with extra supplies!

Contract Awarded for the Met Branch Trail Extension to Fort Totten

A bird’s eye rendering of the Met Branch Trail around the Fort Totten Metro (Source DDOT)

This morning, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced a key milestone for the extension of the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) from Brookland to Fort Totten. After a long procurement process, DDOT awarded the contract to complete the design and construct the next phase of the popular multi-use trail!

This new trail will extend the sidepath on the east side of John McCormack Dr to the base of the hill across from the Fort Totten waste transfer station. Instead of turning up the hill, as it does today, the trail will continue north alongside the train tracks. At the Fort Totten Metro, the trail will climb up and over the Green Line tunnel portal, descend to street level and continue on First Pl NE towards Riggs Rd.

Existing MBT in green, new segment in blue, interim on street route in red (Source Google Maps)

This phase of construction will add nearly a mile of new trail, improving walking and biking access to the Fort Totten transit hub and the new development surrounding it. The project will include stairs for a direct route down to the Metro entrance and an improved trail through Fort Totten Park westward to Gallatin St, where the interim MBT route continues to Silver Spring. The new 10-12 foot wide trail will include lights and a relatively gradual grade compared to the steep climb up Fort Totten Dr. For more renderings and detailed design drawings, go to metbranchtrail.com/resources/.

When complete, the Met Branch Trail will span more than 8 miles between Union Station and the Silver Spring Metro Station. So far, the southern 5.5 miles are a mix of off-street trail, protected bike lane, and low traffic streets. Once built out from Bates Rd to Fort Totten, about 2 miles will remain to be built through Ward 4 to the Maryland line. Completing final design and construction should take roughly 18 months or by spring 2019. This new timeline is almost a year behind the schedule published in May 2016.

Let’s not delay the Met Branch Trail another 5 years

Last week, ANC 4B’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee met with DDOT to talk about the future of the Metropolitan Branch Trail in Manor Park, Lamond Riggs, and Takoma. After nearly 3 hours of discussion, we’re still not sure who supports this trail, which is not good.

Tonight, that committee is holding a larger public meeting, and we want you to be there. Despite years of planning that have created a terrific trail plan, some ANC members are asking for major changes that will both delay and jeopardize the success of the trail.

The committee’s decision, and the full ANC resolution later this month, is an important one. If they green light the route that DDOT has spent years developing, planners can finish design work and start construction. If the ANC asks for big changes, we’re back to the drawing board, setting us back years, and likely resulting in less direct, less continuous trail.

Ward 4 needs a complete Met Branch Trail.

Attend Tonight’s Meeting

Come show your support for the Met Branch Trail as it is planned on Blair, Aspen, and Sandy Spring. Tell your trail story and help us demonstrate the need for and benefits of the trail.

ANC 4B Public Works & Infrastructure Committee
Tuesday, September 5, 6:30 pm
Shepherd Park Library 7420 Georgia Ave NW

More on the Met Branch Trail

When complete, the Metropolitan Branch Trail will be an 8 mile multi-use trail from Union Station in DC to Downtown Silver Spring in Maryland. So far, the southern half is complete to Brookland. The largest unfinished section is in Ward 4. Next year, DDOT will finish design and start construction on the piece from Brookland to Riggs Rd. leaving the last piece in ANC 4B. Click here for a map of the trail under design.

Halfway Through the Summer: A DC Trail Ranger Report

The DC Trail Ranger team has been up and running this year since the beginning of April – riding the Metropolitan Branch, Anacostia River, Marvin Gaye and Suitland Parkway trails doing outreach and maintenance with our distinctive green bikes and yellow trailers (say hi if you see us!). We’ve organized guided bike tours, joined massive festivals, popped up with ice water on hot days, and played hundred of games of trail etiquette trivia.

But in between the bigger events, the team is out on the trails keeping them safe and passable – glass removed, vegetation trimmed, trash gone. What does 275 hours of trail cleanup look like?

Further Delays for the Purple Line and Capital Crescent Trail

Purple Line and trail bridge over rock creek (Image by Maryland Transit Administration)

In May, Maryland’s Purple Line project received some bad news which further delays construction of the 16-mile light rail project and jeopardizes major improvements for bicycling in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.

On May 22, 2017, US Federal Judge Richard Leon ruled that the State of Maryland and the Federal Transit Administration must complete a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before proceeding with construction of the Purple Line light rail transit project. The SEIS would address the issues the Judge found with regards to the future projected ridership on the Purple Line. The plaintiffs argued that future ridership would not be as large as modeled and thus not support building the transit project because its ridership depends in part on people transferring to or Metrorail. Metrorail ridership has declined in recent years from delayed maintenance and extended system closures for repairs. The Judge ruled the State of Maryland needs to reevaluate the ridership projections before the transit project can move forward. The Judge also ruled on May 30 that the other environmental issues raised by the lawsuit seeking to block the project were without merit.

The ruling means major construction on the 16-mile line connecting Montgomery and Prince George’s counties remains on hold until the lawsuit filed by Purple Line opponents is resolved. The State of Maryland has already appealed the ruling and there is still hope that a timely ruling by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals could reverse Judge Leon and allow the project to proceed.

The Purple Line is Great for Trails

WABA has enthusiastically supported the Purple Line for many years because it will vastly improve the trail connections between Bethesda and Silver Spring and along much of the transit corridor in Prince George’s County. The Georgetown Branch Trail, upon which the Purple Line will be built,  is an unpaved and incomplete trail that runs from the Bethesda central business district across Rock Creek to Stewart Avenue, still 1.5 miles outside of downtown Silver Spring. The trail crosses major roads, like Connecticut Ave and Jones Mill Rd, at grade which creates difficult and hazardous crossings for trail users. As part of the Purple Line project, the trail will see some major improvements.

The Purple Line project will finally complete the vision of a Capital Crescent Trail directly linking downtown Silver Spring to Bethesda to Georgetown. Alongside the rail line, the trail will be upgraded from a rutted gravel path to a paved 12 foot wide asphalt path with lighting and new neighborhood connections. New bridges and underpasses will take the trail across Connecticut Avenue, Jones Mill Road, and Colesville Rd to avoid cars on busy streets altogether.  At the Silver Spring Transit Center, the trail will connect directly to the Metropolitan Branch Trail, which will soon extend south 8 miles to Union Station in DC.

Without the Purple Line, the Georgetown Branch Trail will remain unimproved, disconnected from the regional trail network, and most useful only to the its immediate neighbors. WABA will continue to follow developments relating to this vital transportation project in Maryland. To help when it counts most, sign up for WABA advocacy alerts here and read Purple Line Now’s blog coverage of this ongoing legal process here.

UPDATE!

In early July, a federal appeals court reinstated the Purple Line’s environmental approval while the appeal is decided. This decision allows the Maryland Transit Administration to restart construction activities on the 16 mile transit and trail project. The final hurdle is securing a full funding agreement with the Federal Transit Administration for $900 million in federal funds. For more, read the Washington Post’s coverage.