June 21, 2011
Chevy Chase Patch
Good for Children? The Capital Crescent Trail—Let’s Keep It
By Mary Rivkin

What is leafy, shady, long and green, and links six schools: Westland Middle School, Washington Episcopal School, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Our Lady of Lourdes School, North Chevy Chase Elementary School and Rosemary Hills Primary School? More clues? It is flat, goes safely under two busy state highways and bridges a third, crosses high over a rippling creek and has dozens of ways to get off and on. It is laced with wildflowers and birds that swoop and flutter at all seasons. Sound like a good environment for children?

This describes the Capital Crescent Trail, in particular, the section from Massachusetts Avenue to its current end by Rosemary Hills Primary School in Silver Spring. The six schools border the trail, more or less a block away, except for Washington Episcopal and Rosemary Hills, which are adjacent. The Trail is a safe and healthy way to travel to school for many children, and it could be so for many more, with clear benefit.

The White House has publicized the reams of research documenting the growing obesity rate in children, and a new report says that vitamin D deficiency is also common. Exercise and sunlight ameliorate both of these conditions. Furthermore, the 2010 census shows that the child population of Bethesda is growing, requiring more open space for play and exercise.

The Capital Crescent Trail is a unique resource for children. Even schools a few blocks away can access it for nature hikes—the school attended by the Obamas’ younger daughter, for instance, as well as Bethesda Elementary School. Somerset Elementary School children can walk down their hill for a trail hike. The child care center located next to the trail regularly extends the children’s outdoor space with nature walks.

We should safeguard this irreplaceable strip of outdoors. Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Silver Spring children have a safe, beautiful piece of nearby nature that also makes them healthier. The lamentable plan to impose a two-track light rail—the Purple Line—on the trail’s Bethesda-Silver Spring section is desperately shortsighted.

Mary S. Rivkin, Ph.D., is a mother and grandmother who has lived in Bethesda for many years. She teaches early childhood eduction at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County.