The guys in the green-and-yellow jerseys pedaling down Montgomery County’s trails may look like the other spandex-clad cycling enthusiasts that flood the parks, but these “spokesmen” are on the clock.
Thanks to the Managers on Bikes program started this summer by Bill Tyler, the chief of the southern parks division, park managers have been stowing their trucks and hopping on two-wheelers to experience the southern part of the county’s more than 100 miles of trails first-hand.
Montgomery Parks is part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which is an independent state agency made up of Parks and Planning in Montgomery County and Parks, Recreation and Planning in Prince George’s County.
“We like to educate people, let them know we’re out there,” said Tyler, who is responsible for an $11.7 million budget and oversees 147 full-time employees, as well as seasonal staff.
On any given day, weekends included, a manager might be cruising up and down a trail, chatting with other walkers and cyclists, looking for problems that need to be addressed and making sure rules are being followed, Tyler said.
The 10 area managers try to get out on the trail once or twice a week, always wearing jerseys that list the trails that crisscross the 80,000 acres of the southern parks: Northwest Branch, Paint Branch, Sligo Creek, Capital Crescent Trail, Little Falls Branch, Long Branch, Matthew Henson and Rock Creek.
It’s just part of being good stewards of the park system, Tyler said.
Managers say being on the ground, out in the elements, provides a more accurate sense of what is going on.
“You get to see a lot more than when you’re in a truck,” said Perry Young, who rides the Matthew Henson trail in Aspen Hill. “You get to experience what the riders experience more up close and personal.”
On the always-busy Capital Crescent Trail, John Boyd and Jeff Devlin, who have a combined 53 years with the parks service, are often stopped by people who have questions — sometimes about things they can answer, such as directions, and sometimes about issues they cannot, like when is the Purple Line being built.
For frequent walkers Joy Macdonald and Catherine Hotvedt, recognizable parks employees on the trail is a welcome sight.
“We’re super grateful,” said Macdonald, who has been walking the trail with Hotvedt five days a week for at least 10 years. It’s reassuring to see someone official checking on the trail and its users, Hotvedt said, especially in light of the infrequent — but often dramatic — crimes that occur, such as the woman who was sexually assaulted on the trail in October 2012.
Park managers say they are much more likely to come across downed tree limbs than active crime scenes, but Hotvedt said she is happy they are there.
“We need you and we thank you,” Hotvedt said,