Some cyclists seek snow, ice removal on trail
Department of Parks officials say effort too expensive; urge caution for Capital Crescent Trail users
Some bicycle commuters say that icy conditions on trails are being overlooked.
The December snowstorm that dumped more than two feet of snow on the Washington region, compounded by a recent snap of cold weather, has caused ice to form on the Capital Crescent Trail. Some are wondering why the Montgomery County Department of Parks didn't plow the trail before ice formed. Parks officials say plowing the county's approximately 75 miles of paved trails isn't within their budget, and are urging caution for cyclists and other trail users.
The Capital Crescent Trail runs 11 miles between Washington, D.C., and Maryland, from just east of the Thompson Boat Club in Georgetown to Stewart Avenue in Silver Spring.
"To me, what it feels like is another example that they don't take it seriously as a commuting option for people," said Chevy Chase resident Paul Basken, a frequent bicycle commuter on the trail. Basken said that conditions are particularly bad on a stretch of the trail north of the tunnel at Macarthur Boulevard, where he says he recently watched two cyclists hit the pavement one while attempting to walk his bike over the ice.
"Not plowing it has now resulted in some really awful conditions for people even to walk on it, forget biking," said Peter Gray, president of the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail, a trail advocacy group.
Gray said the group has advocated for years for the Department of Parks to plow the trail after heavy snowfall. He said he understands funding constraints, but "the fact that thousands of people want to use the trail every day means that it might be something they would put a priority on, but they haven't," he said.
Brian Woodward, Southern Region Division Chief for the Montgomery County Department of Parks, said removing ice and snow on all 75 miles of paved county trails is "not practical." Re-freezing overnight would make the task a daily chore, and the department can't focus solely on the Capital Crescent Trail because "we can't treat one section of trail differently than we treat another."
Though the department hasn't determined how much it would cost to plow the trails, he said the recent snowfall is already taking a toll on the department's budget by necessitating workers to work overtime to keep parkways clear of snow.
Woodward urged trail users to take care in winter months, particularly with the recent cold weather that's preventing ice from melting. Those who use the trail do so at their own risk, he said.
The department hasn't received any reports from trail users about injuries on the trail because of ice this year, he said, though they have received at least one complaint about the conditions, Woodward said. The department has placed a notice of caution on its Web site about winter trail conditions, advising residents that they are unable to shovel, treat, or clear trails within the county park system.
"If you start clearing snow on trails, you give the perception it's going to be a safe and clear passage, and you set yourself up for failure," Woodward said. "I think the best think to do is to let people know they are using it at their own risk."