Little Bennett Regional Park: Request for public comment on restoring trail connectivity.
The purpose of this petition is to provide public information for park staff regarding loss to trail access and use at Little Bennett Regional Park, in Montgomery County, Maryland. During a critical time in the trail system’s redevelopment, it is important for park planners to hear your views and opinions to help them better understand the interests and needs of the trail user community. A link to your responses will be provided to park planners.
Restoring perimeter trail connectivity.
By using this petition format we hope to better allow participants to easily support the views detailed below, and add other comments about what would improve their trail experience.
Little Bennett Regional Park is truly a gem of Montgomery County Park system. No other park in Montgomery County offers the combination of size, variations in terrain, natural beauty and history. For many of the parks patrons, the foremost asset of the park is the more than 15 miles of natural surface shared-use trails (hikers, equestrians, cyclists, runners and nature observers).
Trail Conservancy, in conjunction with Montgomery County Parks has joined forces to improve the trail experience at Little Bennett. The approved Master Plan for the park calls for many of the older unsustainable trails to be closed and rerouted with newer and more enjoyable sustainable trails. This can already be seen with dramatic improvements to several trails…and more are on the way. One of the concepts proposed is providing trailhead parking lots around the edge of the park, enabling visitors to enter the perimeter trail at different access points.
About a year ago an important segment of the perimeter trail at the north end of the park was lost. Due to erosion and safety issues the Dark Branch Trail was permanently closed. Unless you are familiar with the park you may not understand the disruption caused by losing this trail connection. Although a newer and improved Dark Branch Trail loop was built to replace it, the critical east/west connectivity it once had is gone. Before it was closed, the trail served as the most direct connection for those utilizing the Prescott Road parking lot to the Western Piedmont Trail (formerly Hyattstown Mill Road). Also for those traveling from the opposite direction, it provided better access to trails eastward.
This severed connection has some unexpected ramifications. Now the entire new Dark Branch Trail loop has become mostly isolated from the perimeter trail route. And the recommended detour requires trail users to ford the not so shallow Little Bennett Creek, which may force the more casual trail users to turn around rather than get their “feet wet”.
Based on numerous reports from trail users who had previous used the Dark Branch Trail connection, we believe that it is important to the park and it’s users to restore trail connectivity between Dark Branch and the Western Piedmont Trails. Re-establishing an improved and sustainable trail connection will have a positive effect on the park by providing a more accessible perimeter trail option from all directions, and encourage more users to utilize the park and its facilities, including the park’s campgrounds where campers can also gain access to the shared-use trails. We note here that there is only one shared-use trail in the campground. The numerous other trails surrounding the campground are off limits to bicycle and equestrian use. This is unfortunate, as there are plenty of examples where camping and shared-use access coexist successfully, including many Maryland state parks.
The park is neither for nor against this particular connection at this point. By signing this petition and including your comments and anything else you think would make your trail experience better, you assist park planners in better understanding your viewpoint as a trail user.
Please respond by November 16th, and also include your primary type of modality in your response (bicyclist, hiker, etc…).
Find an older map version of the Little Bennett trails go here:
For a closer look at a rough draft for one option of a restored connector trail see this link:
Thank you for participating.