June 3, 2011
Kensington Patch
My View and That How I See It – Save the Capital Crescent Trail
by Gina Hardiman

(May 28) When my daughter was very young and couldn’t pronounce words correctly, she would say, “I’m ‘fused,” indicating that she was confused about something. Today as I volunteered for Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail Save the Trail 5K I shared her feeling, “I’m ‘fused.”

Over 400 runners and walkers and scores of volunteers gathered early this morning at the Elm Street Park in Bethesda, Maryland, to participate in the Save the Trail 5K hosted by Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail. Runners completed the 5K in as little as 14 minutes. It was a beautiful day and many volunteers gathered to assist in registration, poster making, food distribution, course preparation, and cheering. There were many white-shirted volunteers standing throughout the area, and the participants happily thanked them for their help. It was a picture-perfect day with the sun shining and motorists gladly stopping while the large group passed down the streets.

The purpose of Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail is to preserve land and open space. According to their website, the Capital Crescent Trail is in danger of being destroyed.

“If the current Purple Line plans are approved, 20 acres of mature trees on the Capital Crescent Trail will be clear-cut. An entire forest ecosystem inside the Beltway will be destroyed forever. 10,000 hikers, joggers, and bicyclists, young and old enjoy this shaded trail every week.”

And herein lays the basis of my confusion. Rarely a week passes without another study about the prevalence of obesity in adolescents in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The existence of obesity in children aged 6 to 11 years has increased from 6.5 percent in 1980 to 19.6 percent in 2008. Among adolescents ages 12 to 19 years, the prevalence of obesity has increased from 5 percent to 18.1 percent.

The article, “Obesity Prevalence in the United States – Up, Down, or Sideways” (The New England Journal of Medicine, March 17, 2011), reports that, “most concerning are the effects of childhood obesity on health in both childhood and adulthood. Growing numbers of children now have diseases once considered to be “adult” conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and hypertension, and there is evidence that an earlier age of onset of obesity-related diseases may be associated with more severe health consequences in adulthood.”

“Obesity Threatens a Generation,” an article in the Washington Post (May 17, 2009), states that, “an epidemic of obesity is compromising the lives of millions of American children, with burgeoning problems that reveal how much more vulnerable young bodies are to the toxic effects of fat.”

What are the suggestions for preventing obesity in children? To create healthy lifestyle habits which include healthy eating and physical activity. The Capital Crescent Trail provides a venue for such activity. It is a trail that runs from Silver Spring to Georgetown. Along the way you can visit downtown Bethesda or take a dip at the Bethesda Community pool. On a recent walk from downtown Bethesda to Little Falls Parkway there were literally hundreds of walkers, bicyclists, and runners, many of whom were adolescents. Clearly the trail is being used.

I overheard John, a young boy who participated in the 5K, tell his friend that he uses the trail almost every day to get to his high school, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, and to hang out with his friends in Bethesda or Chevy Chase. He doesn’t like getting a ride because the traffic makes the trip take too long. Instead he runs or bikes down the Capital Crescent Trail. What does this require of John and the countless other adolescents using the trail? It requires physical activity.

I cannot fathom why there is even a proposal to destroy a trail that is providing a place for adolescents to get physical activity. We read the articles about childhood obesity and ponder the ways to prevent it. Does it make sense to anyone that the way to teach our kids to get the exercise they need is by putting in a train that will allow them to “ride”, a sedentary activity, rather than walk, bike, or run? Does it make sense to anyone that rather than keep a trail surrounded by nature that is being used we convert it to an asphalt rail line? It does not make sense to me and leaves me feeling as my daughter said, “ ’fused.”

We need to stop thinking of ways to fight childhood obesity and recognize that we already have the answer in the Capital Crescent Trail. We know it and the adolescents of Montgomery County know it; they are using it. We need to stop playing politics and keep fighting for our kids. This may not be your opinion, but it’s my view and how I see it.