Matthew Henson Hiker-Biker Trail to open Saturday
Dedication ceremony will celebrate completion of pathway through state park
The Matthew Henson Greenway Trail is slated to open Saturday nearly two decades after state legislators fought to create a state park bearing the explorer's name.
The approximately 4.5-mile, 8-foot wide hard-surface hiker-biker trail begins at the intersection with the Rock Creek Hiker-Biker Trail at Winding Creek Local Park on Dewey Road, near Aspen Hill and Veirs Mill roads.
It travels northeast through Matthew Henson State Park and along a stand of trees near Hewitt Avenue and Bel Pre Elementary School. From there, it continues east across Layhill Road to Alderton Road, near Indian Spring Country Club in Layhill.
The Matthew Henson State Park and the new trail pay tribute to the African-American explorer and Maryland resident who died in 1955, according to the parks department. Henson was born in Charles County in 1866 and was an associate of U.S. Navy Cmdr. Robert E. Peary during various expeditions, the most famous being a 1909 expedition that claimed to be the first to reach the geographic North Pole. April 6 marked the 100th anniversary of the event.
The state park was created by legislation sponsored by Del. Henry B. Heller (D-Dist. 19) of Leisure World, former District 19 Sen. Leonard H. Teitelbaum and former District 19 Del. Carol S. Petzold, and former District 19 Sen. Idamae Garrott, who also served on the County Council.
The land, which spans Veirs Mill Road to Georgia Avenue in Aspen Hill, had originally been slated as the route of the so-called outer beltway, said Heller, who was the lead sponsor of the three bills that created the park.
"It makes me feel a certain nostalgia [to see it completed]," he said, adding the legislation also helped create the trail and a greenway. "It's been a two-decade project."
Heller said he would like to see more land turned into parks in the Aspen Hill and Wheaton area.
"We're losing more and more of our downcounty parkland and it needs to be preserved," he said.
Petzold, a member of the Aspen Hill Civic Association Board of Directors, said she is also happy to see the trail completed.
"I am pleased that the Matthew Henson State Park will become a little more open and useful to the community with the opening of this trail," she said.
The county's Department of Parks received funding for the Matthew Henson Trail in 2003 and began construction in November 2006.
Representatives from the parks department held a series of community meetings to hear residents' concerns. A lawsuit filed by Strathmore-Bel Pre Civic Association residents and environmentalists arguing that a trail through the park and greenway would damage the park and make neighborhoods was dismissed by a Circuit Court judge in March 2007.
To address area residents' concerns over environmental impacts on the surrounding parkland, forests and trees, the trail features about one mile of wooden boardwalk and 1,000 newly planted trees and shrubs, according to the parks department.
Department of Parks project manager Marian Elsasser said she and staff have received positive feedback from residents about a section of the trail already in use between Georgia Avenue and Alderton Road.
The only section not expected to open this month is a pedestrian crossing that will connect Dewey Road to Turkey Branch Parkway at Veirs Mill Road in Aspen Hill, Elsasser said. The parks department is waiting for the State Highway Administration to finish the project. In the meantime, trail users will be directed to a detour one block up at Parkland Drive, which already has a crosswalk.
The parks department will celebrate the trail's opening 1-4 p.m. Saturday at the field behind Global Mission Church, 13421 Georgia Ave. in Aspen Hill.
The Department of Parks will celebrate the opening of the Matthew Henson Hiker-Biker Trail 1-4 p.m. Saturday at the field behind Global Mission Church, 13421 Georgia Ave. in Aspen Hill. The event is free and open to the public and will include children's activities, trail hikes, giveaways, a Matthew Henson-themed scavenger hunt and other activities. For more information, visit www.MontgomeryTrails.org.