Last Update:
Dec 11, 2001

BACKGROUND: There is a proposed bicycle trail that would run from Gaithersburg to the C&O Canal (about 6 miles). It would follow the Muddy Branch Stream from where it crosses Rt. 28 near the former National Geographic Site, to where it hits the Potomac River just west of the intersection of River and Travilah Roads. This trail has been on the Master Plan for 24 years.

Map of Area

Map of Area

THE PROBLEM: Just as the County could begin implementing the trail, there is movement to greatly reduce or even eliminate this trail entirely. The current draft of the Muddy Branch Stream Valley Park Trail Plan put out by the Maryland National Capitol Park and Planning Commission calls for eliminating most of this bike trail. This draft calls for only a natural surface trail like mulch or dirt, not suitable for biking, to run the entire length of the Muddy Branch Stream Valley Park from Rt. 28 to the C&O Canal. A hard surface trail suitable for biking would be included in only one segment (~1.25 miles)- on the west side of the stream from Rt. 28 to the Horse Center on Quince Orchard Rd. The park bike trail would then be sent out of the park along Travilah Rd. (as a sidepath) to the Canal. This route should also be built, but it is not a substitute for an in-park trail. The draft also fails to provide for an on-road bicycle accommodation on Travilah Road A direct continuous in-park trail connection from homes to the C&O Canal would be a wonderful asset for the area. You could get to a park without having to drive a car to get there. The reason given for limiting the hard surface trail in the park is to reduce environmental impact, although this park already has been dug up to run a sewer line down its entire length. A good portion of this sewer line has been cleared of trees and is used by WSSC to access the sewer. A hard surface trail could be installed without much additional impact. In fact, by reforesting these cleared areas along the trail, we would end up with more trees than we have now.

TAKE ACTION BEFORE JANUARY, 2002!!: This plan has been presented to the Park and Planning Board. The Board will make a decision in January. Meanwhile, the Revision of the Potomac Master Plan, that includes this trail, is currently before the Montgomery County Council. If the council is not made aware that the majority of the people support this hard surface trail in particular, and others in general, it is possible that the trail could still be eliminated. Contact the Council with your support for the trail. Even if you just sent a copy of the letters that you previously sent to the Planning Board that would be a great help.

The Council contacts are: You can send emails to the attention of all members at this address:

We need to make clear to the Council that a sidepath along a road is not a substitute for an in-park trail. In-park trails are greatly preferred for cycling with families with children, and many people will just not ride along roads. If we do not give these people a wonderful place to bike, such as a park, they will never have the chance to acquire the skills and confidence to become frequent cyclists.

The cost of a hard surface trail has been raised in the public debate on the trail. Hard surface trails typically get 10 times the use as natural surface trails, indicating their high popularity. This high use more than justifies the extra cost of these trails, as the cost per user is comparable. In addition, because the three other nearby parks do not have hard surface trails, it is a more than reasonable compromise that this one park has such a trail.


  1. This trail would give a great many people direct bike access from their homes to the county park system and the C&O canal.
  2. This could be a fantastic park trail like the Lake Needwood/Rock Creek Trail.
  3. This would be great for family outings.
  4. This would reduce the need to drive a car to the park and reduce the number of cars parked at the canal which leak oil on ground.
  5. This connection would allow people to learn that they can actually use a bike to get to a destination, not just for recreation.
  6. Connectivity is crucial.
  7. The route in the park would serve the largest number of users.
  8. Hard surface trails get 10 times as many users as does a trail with a natural surface .
  9. We have very few county park facilities in this area.
  10. Hard surface allows access by more users than just cyclists.
  11. The revised draft master plan calls for deleting the hard surface trail planned for Watts Branch, Cabin John and Muddy Branch Stream Valley Parks. They are proposing only one small section of Muddy Branch to have a hard surface trail and calling that a balanced plan. They should allow at least one park to have a continuous hard surface trail. (Seneca Creek also has only natural surface trails.)
  12. They are proposing relying on a trail along Travilah Rd. to get cyclists from the hard surface segment to the C&O Canal. But according to County department working on implementing a bike path along Travilah Rd., it may not be possible due to right-of-way limitations and objections of people with homes very close to the road. If this alternate route cannot be built and the plan forbids a hard surface trail within the park, there will be no connectivity to the Canal.
  13. This hard surface trail has been on the master plan for 24 years.
  14. People rely on the master plan in choosing homes. Previously agreed on elements should not be deleted lightly.
  15. In the past 24 years the County has acquired most of the land for this park trail. Now that they have the land they want to pick a new option requires land along the road that may not be attainable.
  16. The concern that the hard surface trail will cause environmental damage may not be accurate. Hard surface trails have less erosion than a natural surface trail, especially when horses are users.
  17. The concern that the park has steep sides not conducive to a bike trail is also not a real problem because there is always one side of the stream that is flat. By adding a few bridge crossings a flat trail could be implemented along the entire length.
  18. This park already has a sewer running its entire length. There are segments where the sewer line is covered by grass so the trail would not result in destruction of trees. Additional trees should be planted along with the hard surface trail.
  19. This park has numerous old road beds that could be used for this trail.
  20. It improves quality of life and enhances property values .

Please send a copy of your comments to the WABA Office For more information on the Muddy Branch Trail please contact WABA volunteer Allen Migdall, 301 869-2683 or