SOUTHERN PRINCE GEORGE'S
Purpose of the Coalition
The Southern Prince George’s Trails Coalition was established to support the expansion of the hiker-biker-equestrian trail system in our area. The Coalition has identified priority trail projects in Southern Prince George’s County and works as closely as possible with local, State, and Federal officials to ensure that the trails are completed and properly maintained. To help build public consensus for trails projects, the Coalition maintains news media contacts to publicize its concerns. Information about trails policy, planning, and current issues are regularly disseminated to Coalition members.
Our ultimate goal is a network of trails that links all neighborhoods in southern Prince George’s County with the area’s many parks and other scenic attractions, such as Fort Washington Park, Piscataway Park, Fort Foote, Oxon Hill Farm, Cosca Regional Park, and as much of the Potomac River shoreline as possible. The local trails should be linked to the larger Washington regional trail system and the Branch Avenue Metro Station, further enhancing the system’s recreational opportunities and making bicycle commuting a practical option for southern Prince George’s residents. The trail system should complement on-road bicycle routes and walkways to create walkable, bikeable communities, as envisioned by Maryland’s "smart growth" policy.
The Coalition consists of community organizations in Southern Prince George’s County that strongly support the area trail system. There are no fees or dues for joining the Coalition, but each member organization appoints at least one Coalition liaison to receive and distribute information about Coalition activities. Current members of the Coalition are:
Trail Projects and Issues
Southern Prince George’s County has the least access to dedicated hiker-biker-equestrian trails in the Washington Area. In contrast to the large, interconnected trail system that serves the rest of the region, southern Prince George’s has only a five-mile segment of the scenic Henson Creek trail, which has remained uncompleted for more than 20 years.
County officials have indicated that a major reason for the lack of new trail construction in southern Prince George’s has been a lack of public pressure from the community, perhaps because the area includes very few incorporated municipalities. The Trails Coalition is addressing that situation by demonstrating broad public support for completion of the Henson Creek Trail and the rest of the planned trail system.
Thanks to the strong support from its member associations, the Trails Coalition has already begun having a significant impact. As noted below, funding was appropriated for extending the Henson Creek Trail in fiscal year 2001, and preliminary design work is now underway by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC). Coalition members are also taking an active role in the Prince George’s County Bicycle/Trail Advisory Group (BTAG), helping to assure high countywide priority rankings for trail projects in our region.
Henson Creek Trail. The existing segment of the Henson Creek Trail runs for five miles from the southern end of Oxon Hill Road near the Broad Creek Historic District to Temple Hill Road. When complete, the trail is to extend from the Potomac River to Suitland Parkway. The northern end of the trail would link to the Branch Avenue Metro Station and a planned Suitland Parkway trail. The southern end would extend to the shore of the Broad Creek inlet off the Potomac River, with one branch extending into the Indian Queen neighborhood and another branch connecting to the Harmony Hall Regional Center and Riverview Road. The link to Riverview Road will provide excellent access from Tantallon and adjacent neighborhoods along the Potomac. The waterfront segments of this trail will eventually become part of the Potomac Heritage Trail, discussed below.
Completion of the Henson Creek Trail is BTAG’s top priority for parkland trails, and also the number-one trail priority in the 2001 Prince George’s County Transportation Priority List. Prince George’s County approved an appropriation of $240,000 in FY2001 for the southern extension of the Henson Creek Trail, and the M-NCPPC Capital Improvement Program (CIP) previously included another $250,000 for the project in fiscal year 2002, but that funding has been delayed until FY2004 over the objections of the Trails Coalition.
With the $240,000 already appropriated, M-NCPPC has begun planning the southern end of the trail, from Oxon Hill Road to a shoreline easement along Broad Creek, and into the Indian Queen neighborhood. This new trail segment will provide a beautiful riverfront destination for all users of the Henson Creek trail. This project is also planned to include a permeable-surfaced segment near Livingston Road and St. John’s Episcopal Church, which is to eventually become part of the trail connection to Riverview Road. Despite the availability of funds, planning has proceeded slowly, partly because of opposition from some waterfront property owners in Indian Queen. The Trails Coalition strongly urges that M-NCPPC planners focus more attention on this top-priority project.
Some of the FY01 funding was used to complete a long-awaited segment of the Henson Creek Trail near Brinkley Road. For more than 20 years, the Henson Creek Trail had a substantial gap that forced trail users to cross Henson Creek on the narrow and busy Brinkley Road bridge. Thanks to an agreement between M-NCPPC and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro), Metro completed most of the missing portion of the trail, and the final 240 feet of the trail segment was completed by M-NCPPC at the end of 2001. Citizens, community leaders, and government officials celebrated the new trail link with a formal dedication in April 2002.
There is currently no funding in the six-year CIP for the northern extension of the Henson Creek Trail to Suitland Parkway and the Branch Avenue Metro Station. The Trails Coalition is strenuously pushing for funding for the northern extension, which would provide bicycle and pedestrian access to Metro for a broad segment of Southern Prince George’s County and would be eligible for Federal matching funds under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21). Maryland receives millions of dollars of TEA 21 funding each year, and Southern Prince George’s County has received none of it. Moreover, completion of the Henson Creek Trail is the County’s top trail priority; the northern segment should at least be included in the CIP for future funding.
Potomac Heritage Trail. The congressionally designated Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail is to run along the Potomac River from the Appalachians to the Chesapeake Bay. The Prince George’s County portion of the trail, called the Potomac Heritage Trail, is planned to generally follow the Potomac River south from Oxon Cove, where an existing trail segment heads north into the District of Columbia. The trail would run along the shoreline where possible, and in developed areas it would follow inland routes and street rights of way. A BTAG subcommittee is identifying and evaluating specific routing alternatives for various sections of the trail. An on-road bicycle route has been mapped out as an interim measure, although it may be most suitable for experienced adult cyclists.
The planned National Harbor development near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge occupies a crucial segment of the Potomac Heritage Trail. A shoreline trail previously was planned for the National Harbor property, but the current developers persuaded the Prince George’s County Council to abandon it to allow construction of an urban waterfront. Instead, the trail is to be routed from a planned bicycle-pedestrian crossing on the replacement Woodrow Wilson Bridge directly to Oxon Hill Road near the Beltway. The Trails Coalition considers this route, while providing an important connection to Oxon Hill, to be an extremely poor substitute for the originally planned shoreline route.
Although the shoreline route now appears to be incompatible with the current National Harbor plans, the Trails Coalition is working with the developer to find an acceptable route elsewhere through the property. Such a route would provide a vital connection with a planned shoreline segment of the Potomac Heritage Trail south of the National Harbor boundary that would go to Fort Foote Park. The trail would also provide a key link to Oxon Hill Farm and to Rosalie Island on the Maryland side of the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge, where bicyclists and pedestrians could cross to enjoy the extensive trail system on the Virginia side of the river. From the Wilson bridge connection on Rosalie Island, the trail would continue north along the shore to Oxon Cove. The Potomac Heritage Trail segment from Fort Foote to Oxon Cove is the number-four parkland trail priority in the 2001 Transportation Priority List. The Capital Improvement Program previously included $100,000 in FY2003 and $100,000 in FY2004 for the project, but that funding has been delayed by two years, until FY2005 and FY2006.
South of Fort Foote, a key highlight of the trail will be the Broad Creek Historic District, site of the earliest port settlement in the Washington area. The Trails Coalition is working with M-NCPPC, the National Park Service, and the Broad Creek Historic District to develop a trail plan that will complement the area’s historic features, such as the Harmony Hall and Wantwater estates and a colonial-era shipping canal. Some of the Broad Creek segments of the Potomac Heritage Trail are included in the Henson Creek Trail southern extension project, discussed above.
Another scenic segment of the Potomac Heritage Trail would run along the north shore of Piscataway Bay between the Fort Washington Marina and the Piscataway Creek Trail. The Potomac Heritage Trail would then continue along the south shore of Piscataway Bay to Piscataway National Park, providing bicycle, pedestrian, and equestrian access to the National Colonial Farm and other recreational attractions along the river. Much of the trail in Piscataway Park may follow existing hiking trails and farm roads to minimize environmental disturbance.
Piscataway Creek Trail. The proposed Piscataway Creek Trail would connect Piscataway National Park with Cosca Regional Park and the proposed Mattaponi Creek Trail, which would run to the Patuxent River. An additional segment could run up Tinkers Creek to Rose Valley. This trail would be within easy access of neighborhoods in the Tantallon area, as well as communities near the Henson Creek Trail and Piscataway Road. Most of the Piscataway Creek stream valley is already owned by M-NCPPC. The Capital Improvement Program includes $300,000 for the trail for fiscal year 2005, plus an additional $300,000 in FY2006.
Mattawoman Creek Trail. The proposed Mattawoman Creek Trail would run along the Prince George’s-Charles County border from Accokeek to Cedarville State Forest, linking to an existing network of trails in the State Forest. Most of the land for this project is yet to be acquired, and no funding is currently proposed.
"On Road" Trails. In many areas, the only practical location for bicycle and pedestrian connections may be along existing roads. Such "on road" trails may consist of dedicated bicycle shoulders or lanes, or parallel bikeways where road rights-of-way are wide enough. Priorities for the Trails Coalition are Oxon Hill Road and Fort Washington Road. The first segment of the Oxon Hill Road bike trail, also a top BTAG priority, is currently being funded and planned. These priority segments would provide improved bicycle access to Oxon Hill Farm and the new Wilson Bridge bicycle/pedestrian crossing and to Fort Washington Park. It is important that these projects be designed according to national guidelines.
Trails on Federal Land. Several potential trails in Southern Prince George’s County would require Federal Government cooperation and funding. A major segment of the planned Potomac Heritage Trail lies in Piscataway National Park, potentially linking to the planned Piscataway Creek Trail system. A potential trail through Fort Foote could link to the proposed Potomac Heritage Trail segment south of National Harbor. The National Park Service fully supports local efforts to create the Potomac Heritage Trail. Completion of the Suitland Parkway Trail, which now stops at the D.C. line, could provide access from the Henson Creek Trail into Washington and the rest of the regional trail system.
Trail Spurs to Neighborhoods. Trail spurs to connect neighborhoods to the trail system are needed in many locations. Safe connections to the trails will greatly increase their value to area residents. An example is the Squires Woods Community, which is adjacent to the Henson Creek Trail but has no direct connection. This project was appropriated $100,000 for FY2001, although it has since been delayed.
Trail Safety and Maintenance. The Trails Coalition also emphasizes the importance of maintaining trails once they are built, and ensuring their safety. The coalition supported repairs of eroded areas along the Henson Creek Trail, for example. The coalition strongly supports M-NCPPC’s Trail Renovation Fund, which previously was to provide $500,000 from FY2000 through FY03 for repaving crumbling trails, repairing erosion, and conducting other major trail reconstruction. However, future expenditures for the Renovation Fund have been delayed by two years, meaning that no new funding is to be provided during FY2002-03. A BTAG subcommittee has developed priority projects for use of the renovation money.
The Coalition also strongly supports efforts by the Road Runners Club of America to publicize criminal incidents and threats involving runners and bikers throughout the metropolitan area. Such efforts have helped make dedicated hiker-biker-equestrian trails among the safest environments available for outdoor recreation.
For more information, contact Mark Holt, Trails Coalition Coordinator, at 301-292-0852, or e-mail to MHOLT@CRS.LOC.GOV. Information is also available from each member organization.
Recent news and information from the Trails Coalition is also available on the Oxon Hill Bicycle & Trail Club web site, at: http://ohbike.org/bikesbelong/index.html#coalition
Updated January 13, 2003
Southern Prince George's Trails Coalition
Oxon Hill Bicycle & Trail Club