In Defense of Greenspace

Maryland’s Capital Crescent Trail–is it parkland or a transportation corridor? (Credit: Dan Klotz)

Tuesday, November 17, is the deadline for proposals to knock down hundreds of trees and pave over a stretch of the popular Capital Crescent Trail in Montgomery County, Maryland.

If that sounds kind of backwards, well, it is. The planned conversion of a greenspace corridor into a transportation corridor—for the commuter train system called the Purple Line—is taking place even though the land is flanked by two active transportation corridors, the I95 Beltway and the East West Highway, route 410.

But the thought of adding the Purple Line to either roadway and altering car traffic patterns was deemed unnecessary, given that the available greenspace was just sitting there.

Officials in Maryland of all stripes—from the counties, state agencies, and the legislatures—are unable to look past the origins of this greenspace. It was once a one-way rail line for freight trains, not even wide enough to fit a second set of tracks for the return trip. These officials have insisted that it is still a viable transportation corridor. It is after all one of the more heavily used bicycle paths in the country, one that I use in my daily commute. But that’s not what they mean, of course.

To them, it’s still meant to be a place for trains; despite the Capital Crescent Trail’s popularity, no one ever updated the government maps to reflect reality. And this is a region that was once praised for how it values parks.

Choosing cement over trees and prioritizing cars over parkland is a textbook symptom of suburban sprawl. The value of greenspace, especially in urban and suburban locations, has often been overlooked. Parks are always expendable, prime targets for infrastructure development.

Several years ago, for example, New York City decided to build a <a target="_blank" —> Read More