Supporters of the “Save The Trail” effort gathered on Saturday in Elm Street Park for the group’s annual 5K race, even as it becomes more apparent the Purple Line light rail will be built along the Georgetown Branch Trail extension in Chevy Chase.
About 10 years after the movement to stop the Purple Line from being built along the Trail extension began, the Maryland Transit Administration is finalizing designs, has a new gas tax increase to provide state funding and is in the process of seeking federal funding for the $2.2 billion, 16-mile light rail system. MTA officials say they hope the Purple Line can open in 2020.
Save The Trail advocates have long argued building the light rail on the Trail, even though MTA will build a paved trail along side, will destroy 20 acres of irreplaceable park land inside the Capital Beltway. Other Trail and bike advocates support the MTA’s plans, saying it’s the only way to connect the Capital Crescent and Georgetown Branch Trails to Silver Spring.
There are many who live near the Trail still against the idea. More than 300 runners gathered in Elm Street Park, just east of Wisconsin Avenue, to run on the crushed gravel extension on Saturday.
Children painted “Save The Trail” signs and Del. Al Carr (D-Dist. 18) spoke about the importance of the Trail greenspace. Ajay Bhatt, president of the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, told supporters that preserving the Trail is more important now than it was when the Save The Trail effort began a decade ago.
“From here in Bethesda to Silver Spring, large scale development is full-steam ahead,” Bhatt said. “As density increases, this park is more important than ever for our health and our environment. It is imperative that we preserve this invaluable treasure for ourselves, for the children that ran today’s race and for future generations.”