BY CAROLINE SELLE — Hyattsville residents use area trails for multiple purposes, from recreation to commuting to exercise. Currently, paths run through Magruder Park and along the Anacostia River. But there are clear gaps in the network: bicycle commuters in particular have cited a lack of connections between metros, major roads, and their destinations.
The Prince George’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) intends to create hundreds more miles of trails by 2040 as part of the Formula 2040 Functional Master Plan for Parks, Recreation & Open Space. The plan more than triples the current 120 miles of trails in the county.
For Hyattsville residents, that means planned trails connecting Queen’s Chapel Road to Magruder Park, another running along the length of Belcrest Road between Queen’s Chapel Road and Adelphi Road, and one along Route 1 / Rhode Island Avenue from Hyattsville through Riverdale and up into University Park.
“The plan is an important starting point to making Prince George’s County – and particularly the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area – a major walking and bicycling hub for the Washington Metro region. The connections that are being examined and discussed are going to be vital to making a strong network of trails for visitors and residents alike,” said Aaron Marcavitch, executive director of Maryland Milestones, the regional heritage organization behind the Anacostia trail system.
As part of the Formula 2040 Functional Master Plan, DPR hosted several open houses and listening sessions, including one on June 10 in Riverdale. Meetings with stakeholders and government officials will continue throughout the summer and into early fall, said Eileen Nivera, the planner-coordinator at DPR.
Though some trails are already planned, DPR is seeking public feedback. An interactive map is available (see below) where visitors can note how they currently use trails, what they like and dislike about planned trails, and where they would like to see trails constructed in the future.
“We used the county’s master plan of transportation which has a trails and bicycle facilities component,” said Nivera. She said DPR will be looking at how proposed bike lanes and trails connect to each other and how new trails can connect in the best places with existing routes and roads.
“Right now we’re still in the information gathering, listening phase of the project,” she said.
On the interactive map, users asked for a trail from Adelphi Road in University Park, along Queen’s Chapel Road, Jamestown Road (through the West Hyattsville neighborhood), and down to Hamilton Street. The path would connect the West Hyattsville and Prince George’s Plaza metros.
“This corridor is one I use regularly for commuting [and it] desperately needs better infrastructure on Queens (sic) Chapel, south of East-West Highway,” wrote wikimap user kwaka.
“Almost everyone walking to the metro from the South side of the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia uses this route,” wrote wikimap user drybock. “There is no sidewalk and often the side of the road captures water and people are forced to walk in the street.”
Another user asked for a trail along Queensbury Road — a “trail connecting [the] metro to [the] major artery of [the] existing bike/walk trail system along [the] Anacostia.” Many voiced support for a planned trail connecting Hyattsville and College Park through the Arts District.
According to the DPR website, “A recent community survey conducted during the development of DPR’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan found that construction of more trails in the county was the number one priority among county residents.”
Trails in the Hyattsville area, said Marcavitch, are of increasing economic importance. “With businesses like Arrow Bikes and Franklins seeing such a major economic benefit from bikes (and walkers/users), Maryland Milestones and our partners have all recognized the importance of these trails for more development. The challenges with the trails aren’t so much about the trails themselves as it is the connections between communities.”
“There needs to be a way to get people off the Anacostia Trail into Hyattsville,” said Chris Militello, co-owner of Arrow Bicycle. “There’s no signage.” He said many of his customers take advantage of the nearby trail systems.
“Our trails are safe, but there is a perception of problems (as well as a few actual problems),” said Marcavitch. “We need lighting in spots, cameras, call boxes, and we need to make sure the trails are open and maintained on a regular basis – including winter – for all users.”
Implementing the 2040 plan will include prioritizing what trails will be built first, said Nivera, as well as setting design and maintenance standards.
“How are we going to build these things and how are we going to operate them?” Nivera asked. “If we’re going to build a trail, we’re going to know that we have the staff resources and the police resources to operate it well… [the 2040 Plan and the listening process] will help us determine what kinds of resources we need to allocate to a trail.”
According to Nivera, recommendations for trail improvements and expansions are expected to be finalized in January or February 2015 after an additional stakeholder in Fall 2015. The Planning Board is expected to offer its decision in Spring 2016.
Meanwhile, said Marcavitch, “You can ride the history of aviation, ride the history of agriculture, and when the trolley trail is done, ride the history of transportation. These trails are important storytelling opportunities.”
The interactive map is available at www.wikimapping.net/wikimap/PGParks_TrailsPlan.html