Tucked away in the South Bradley Hills neighborhood in Bethesda is a rustic path with a burbling brook that looks like it belongs in an English village.
For Lilah Katz, 11, who lives nearby and uses the path regularly, it is a little too rustic.
So the Pyle Middle School student started a campaign to get the county to help renovate the path, which is in a public right of way, to make it safer.
“This path is a very important part of my everyday life,” Lilah wrote in a letter to the County Council last June. “It is poorly lit, it’s zig-zagged, has very sharp turns, is made out of jagged rocks, and is slippery and muddy a long time after every precipitation event.”
Lilah received no response, but she did not give up. Instead she started a petition and by staking out the path regularly, she has collected almost 400 signatures to support her case.
The path, which has narrow concrete slabs — set with stones — placed in a zig-zag pattern, begins where Cornish Road ends at Burling Road and then ends at Glenbrook Road. From there, walkers can jog left and continue east on Elm Street into downtown Bethesda.
It’s a route Lilah knows well; she takes it to the library, friends’ houses and camp. She’s even measured it — the walk is 0.8 mile. Without the path, the trip is 1.4 miles by car.
And while she loves the path, she doesn’t love coming home in the pitch dark of a winter afternoon, especially if it’s been raining or snowing.
“It’s really easy to slip after any type of rain or snow,” Lilah said.
Neighbors such as Agnes Dufey agreed the path was essential to the neighborhood as she walked along with a friend and their children.
“We use it to walk to downtown Bethesda and join up with the Capital Crescent Trail,” Dufey said.
This isn’t the first time a Katz has gone to the county over this issue. In 2007, Lilah’s father, Michael Katz, wrote a letter expressing many of the same concerns as his daughter.
“The path is deemed navigable,” wrote R. Keith Compton, chief of the highway maintenance section of the county’s department of transportation. “I appreciate your concern and regret that we cannot provide additional assistance.”
County spokeswoman Esther Bowring said Tuesday the county needs to do more research on the issue before commenting.
But Lilah is determined that three times will be the charm, and she plans to write a letter to the council and enclose her petition once she gets 400 signatures.
She wants a path that is straighter, smoother, better lit and has better drainage.
“I think it’s really important to help if you can,” Lilah said, even though campaigning for her cause has become tougher to combine with homework. “Whoever has the time and is willing to do it, should.”