Funding for the North Branch Hiker-Biker Trail has not been included in the county executive’s latest Capital Improvements Program Budget, although design is already underway.

The paved trail would be about 2.2 miles long, with two segments, in the Rock Creek Regional Park and North Branch Stream Valley Park. It would connect larger trail systems in the county and Washington, D.C.

In June the Montgomery County Planning Board approved a plan for the design stage of the trail, and the trail has been recommended in several master plans, several Rock Creek area plans, and the Countywide Park Trails Plan.

These designs are expected to cost $520,000 once complete. The department has spent about $370,000 of that so far, out of the last CIP budget.

The Parks Department recommended $4.29 million to be allocated for the project in the next county CIP budget, through 2020.

“Due to affordability, the executive could not recommend that funding be put in,” said Amy Wilson, a management budget specialist. “We’re still coming out of the recession and we do have limited availability of funding, so it was just weighed against other priorities,” she said. Wilson emphasized that this is a new project; it was not previously included in the budget.

But with the design near completion, park staff was disappointed by the omission.

“Park staff is particularly concerned about this project, since final construction documents are underway and this project was promised to the community in 2010,” wrote Marian Elsasser, landscape architect for the parks department, in an email. She wrote that it was promised “as a follow-up project to the ICC environmental stewardship project for the Lake Frank Trail connector.”

One segment of the trail would connect Lake Frank Lakeside Trail to the Emory Land Bikeway at the intersection of Muncaster Mill Road, northeast of Rockville. The northern segment would connect the Route 200 Bikeway to a future trail planned by a private developer at the Preserve at Rock Creek, west of Olney. The section planned by the developer will connect to a part of the North Branch Trail previously constructed north of Bowie Mill Road.

“This trail is a critical segment of a continuous regional park trail system,” Elsasser wrote.

Barbara Falcigno, president of the Greater Olney Civic Association, said the association had assumed the trail would be built. She was disappointed to see it left out of the budget.

“It’s a very short section that needs to be completed for huge parts of the county to be opened up,” and accessible through the trail system, she said.

Designs for the trail have already been funded, but construction, planned to begin in 2016, is reliant on the council’s decision whether or not to include the trail in the next budget.

The County Council will hold hearings on Wednesday and Thursday on the budget in the council hearing room at 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville. On Monday, the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee will have a meeting discussing the budget before the entire council considers it.



sscully@gazette.net