The new trail that will connect Fishers Lane to the Rock Creek Trail

>>Click here to read the latest info<<

Here I'll provide information about the new trail
and updates on construction (once it's begun)

Fishers Lane is a short street that crosses Twinbrook Parkway ("TP") from the southern part of the Twinbrook neighborhood in Rockville MD -- I live in Twinbrook, hence my interest. On the corner of Fishers and TP is the headquarters of the United States Pharmacopeial Convention, and at the eastern terminus is the rear entrance (usually closed) of Parklawn Cemetary. On the south side at that end of Fishers is the old FDA headquarters, currently being gutted and renovated. (Coincidentally, I worked there before and after my 1st year of law school in the summers of 1983 & '84; yes, I'm olde....)

On the north side of the east end of Fishers, the new National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) headquarters is under construction. Ubiquitous developer JBG is putting up the NIAID building, and is required (by the County) as part of the project to build a hiker-biker trail from Fishers Lane to the Rock Creek Trail ("RCT"). This will be wonderful because (1) it will pass through some lovely woods and fields, and (2) it will provide easy hiking / cycling access from the southern part of Twinbrook to the RCT, which is currently dangerous (Veirs Mill, terrible shoulder, very fast cars) or inconvenient (Linthicum, ok if you're going north to Lake Needwood or Lake Frank, way out of the way if you're going south):

The new trail is shown on the original (but see below) approved site plan below:

(click on it to see a very large pdf version -- you can zoom way in)

UPDATE: 17 September 2017

Pro: cleaning up, looking good! Con: temporary bridge to Veirs Mill is gone

Click here for video riding from the south end to where the Veirs Mill temp bridge used to be, greener and somewhat less messy

Where the old bridge was, over the side creek, looks a bit better than it did before this project started -- this is how it looked in Sept 2013 (pic is also way below):

It's still ugly, but they removed the asphalt, and anyway you'll never see it from the trail:

The approach to the bridge looks great:

And you can ride over the bridge, to the end of an elevated and blocked-off boardwalk:

Looking south:

Looking north, to the Veirs Mill bridge:

This field is looking great:

Trees planted -- but the old decrepit bridge is still there (far right), which is a hazard:

Grass planted, but plenty of stumps needing removal:

A nice path to the apartment building parking lot:

Minor UPDATE: 24 August 2017

WSSC is working!

WSSC is working at last. A little has been done on the boardwalk, but real progress awaits WSSC finishing: hope for good weather!

UPDATE: 4 August 2017

It's paved all the way to the bridge: click here for video!

As great as this is — and it IS — there is nothing going on on the east side of the bridge.
Because WSSC is still dawdling (see below), and there's no way to know when they will finish — WSSC told me last July that it would be done by May this year — I've asked for an update.
There's alot to be done over there, hard surface trail and three boardwalks (see the pink portions here and the nitty-gritty details here).
McParks tells me the wee boardwalk that will abut the Rock Creek bridge will be built imminently, but the rest waits for WSSC....
But wooHOO, you can walk or ride the paved portion now!
At the north end you have to traipse a short ways to Veirs Mill and walk/ride the shoulder to get to the Rock Creek Trail, not pleasant at all.
And, duh, they're still working on it, don't try to use it during weekday work hours.

UPDATE: 3 June 2017

Lots of progress on the western side!

I hadn't been to the southern end in a while, and alot has happened: it now connects all the way up to the bridge.
This sequence starts at the southern tip, at the north end of Rock Creek Mill Road (which isn't named on maps), off of Fishers Lane, running east alongside the NIAID parking lot, then turning north in the woods:

A little ways into the woods. It's been raining alot recently, and it's very muddy, so I didn't get very far when I came a couple of days ago on my bike.
Today I returned with hiking boots and our puppy.

There's going to be a bridge over this creek

Did I mention it was muddy?

The bridge. Nothing appears to be happening yet on the other side.

My hike, via Strava, on top of the planned route of the trail.

Click here to see the pix on a map!

UPDATE: 18 February 2017

The bridge is up!

UPDATE: 19 June 2016

Work has begun!

From McParks in April:

The first phase, starting at Veirs Mill, is underway. The contractor has installed tree protection fence and sediment controls and has proceeded with the tree clearing. The work includes the large bridge across Rock Creek and we anticipate completion of this phase in about three months.

Once we receive the aforementioned easements and permits for the second phase, the anticipated construction duration for phase two will be about four months. We hope to have the trail completed in November, but this schedule may be impacted by the work performed by WSSC. We have had several coordination meetings with them at the site and, for now, they anticipate that they will need access through the site for much of 2016. They will need to use the temporary access roads until their work is complete. We will be able to complete our project once the mats have been removed.

I rode around in there on 18 June -- the yellow line is my route (riding mostly on WSSC temp roads) superimposed on the path the trail is going to take (purple/red):

Note the overlap, where actual trail has been constructed. This is the entrance to the nascent trail, looking toward Veirs Mill:
From the trail, at point A in the above pic, this looks down on where the bridge will cross Rock Creek:
And this looks at that area from the other side of the creek:
The current extent of the trail terminates at point B, where it cannot yet cross a WSSC temp road:
This area used to be athletic fields, a long time ago. Presumably WSSC's remdiation will clear that large pile of dirt that didn't used to be there. (See this pic from way below.) At the current trail end, looking north -- note the bridge pieces!
As you can see from my yellow path, there's still lots of WSSC mess out there, and I didn't even ride it all; e.g.:
This shows what WSSC is doing, from its website (you have to zoom way in):
I saw no evidence of current work being done by WSSC, no idea what's going on. On the WSSC map you can click on the various jobs, but the Estimated End Dates are all in the past, e.g.:
I've queried Mr. Halboni.
But at least work can progress on the bridge!

UPDATE: 4 April 2015

The final, approved Forest Conservation plan is here. Lots of nice details. From McParks:

JBG received bids from contractors on this project. Parks staff met with JBG representatives and went over the bids together two weeks ago. We agreed on the implementation strategy and JBG is working with the low bidder to clarify certain bid items. Hopefully they can finalize the contract soon. In the meantime, JBG and the Commission need to enter into an agreement to build the trail. We hope the construction can start this summer to take full advantage of the prime grading/construction season.

UPDATE: 12 July 2014

Current revised plan, soon to go out for bids -- the path is shown in purple, with bridges and boardwalks in red (click on it to see it much larger):

The plan I gleaned this from is here.

UPDATE: 29 Jan 2014

The revised plan was approved by the Planning Board on 23 Jan -- the staff report is here and the staff slides here. JBG is committing $900K and will work with Parks staff to build the trail, and if it costs more than $900K then Parks will strive to come up with the money, or the trail will remain uncompleted until Parks can finish it. While not optimal, I think this is a reasonable resolution that gets the project moving. The “design and permit plans for the full length of the Trail” are due 1 Apr. Below is a slightly revised map of the new alignment shown roughly in red:

(Click on it to see larger)

UPDATE: 8 Nov 2013

From McParks' Steve Findley:

"Not a done deal yet, but more progress. The applicant (JBG) continues to offer resources considerably exceeding their required PAMR payment to get the trail built, but are concerned that the cost of constructing the trail will be well above that level of payment. The Planning Department has agreed to cap the total financial commitment from JBG. The Parks Department appears willing to step in and provide the rest as long as costs to them are not exorbitant, and to potentially provide an interim natural-surface trail connection until the entirety can be paved. Next steps: Parks Department engineers will work with JBG’s consulting engineers from VIKA to “value engineer” the trail design to reduce costs. Then hopefully JBG can finish the design and secure permits, then bid out the trail for construction. Bidding the project cannot occur until the final design is completed, and permits are secured. The likely time line is that the project will be bid sometime next summer. The actual cost from the bid will determine how far JBG’s commitment will go and how much the Parks Department has to provide to fund completion of the trail. Everyone agrees that we want to see it done, and that it is a priority. A couple of weeks ago, I was concerned that this trail might not happen after all. The willingness of the Parks Department to take on some of the construction cost has revived the project. In the meantime, we are working on a Site Plan amendment to allow JBG’s Federal client, NIAID, to occupy the building just after the first of the year."
Sigh.. . . . . . . .

UPDATE: 24 May 2013

Below I've superimposed the path of the new trail in pink on an aerial shot of the area -- [UPDATE] with the new alignment shown roughly in red:

(Click on it to see larger)
The new alignment will not bridge the tributary stream that runs along the south side of Veirs Mill to Rock Creek, because it would have to cross that tributary then cross Rock Creek at a ~45° angle, which is impractical. Instead it will cross Rock Creek further south where it can go straight across. So, alas, no connection to the Veirs Mill sidewalk.

UPDATE: 11 May 2013

Yay, from McParks' Steve Findley:

"JBG and the Parks Department have tentatively agreed on a revised alignment that roughly follows the approved plan but moves the trail off of Viers Mill Road and puts it on Montgomery County Park land parallel to the road. The biggest issues now are: (1) This requires a separate bridge over Rock Creek to carry the trail, requiring both more cost and additional engineering; and (2) this will require additional permits from Maryland Department of the Environment for wetland and floodplain disturbances. We have met in the field with MDE, and they have indicated a willingness to grant the permit if they feel the impacts are justified. The Parks Department is going to write a letter to MDE in support of JBG’s permit request.
"Meetings are now occurring between the Parks Department, the Planning Department, and JBG and their consultants to expedite the new engineering and plan amendments to make this happen. I have to give credit to JBG for taking on the additional work and expense of the revised alignment, and to the Parks Department for agreeing to take more of the trail, with its impacts, maintenance and policing responsibilities onto their property to make this happen. It isn’t a done deal yet, but, absent any “stoppers” it is moving toward a solution. This will take a few more months to get to construction, but we are beyond the impasse."

UPDATE: 17 February 2013

I recently learned that problems have arisen with the plan shown above, because of plans Maryland has for Veirs Mill that will use some or all of the existing huge shoulder. As a result, they are evaluating alternatives -- I don't know what they are yet.

So, pup and I took a hike. I parked in the soccer fields lot, walked along the cemetery driveway to the southwest side of Rock Creek, and walked along the southwest side up to Veirs Mill, then back along the Veirs Mill shoulder (not pleasant, that last part):

I was curious whether the trail could snake around on the southwest side of the Creek and either connect to the cemetery driveway or have its own parallel bridge. (I have no idea where the cemetery property stops and park begins.) There's some detritus, but it would be quite doable at the southeast end:

You can see that the land on the northeast side of the Creek is low and wet (that's the RCT bridge over Veirs Mill back there):

Farther northwest, the southwest side has a steep slope up from the water -- a trail here would have some challenging sections:

Apparently some folks who live in the apartment buildings sometimes come to the top of this slope to drink beer and wine, and throw the bottles down -- it's a horrific mess (click on the pic to see the garbage in hi-rez):

The Veirs Mill bridge over the Creek:

The old bridge over the side-creek, Veirs Mill to the right:

The view of the old bridge and old playing-fields access road from the Veirs Mill side:

On Veirs Mill, looking northwest and southeast from the bridge over the Creek -- if the State's plans use the shoulder, obviously a separate new bridge for the trail over the Creek will be necessary:

As seen in the pic above, much of the land south of the Veirs Mill bridge west of the road is low and wet -- I don't know if that's technically "wetlands", but a trail would have to be elevated:

26 September 2012

When I first learned about this trail, I walked around the area to try to figure out where the trail would go. I found some pink wire+plastic markers with VIKA written on them, which is the name of the engineering contractor designing the trail:

Entered the woods here, behind the apartment buildings:

There's a trail -- left?

Or right?

I headed left, which was north, toward Veirs Mill:

Obviously this used to be a road:

The remains of a bridge that used to cross the stream for access to/from Veirs Mill -- a new bridge will replace this:

The stream to the left (west):

The stream to the right (east):

I turned around and continued south of where I entered the woods:

Apparently there used to be athletic fields here:

The path of the new trail goes into the woods, no longer following any existing trail:

The southern end of the stream, viewed from the existing parking lot, which the new trail will skirt alongside:
(Unlike the others, this pic was actually taken on 12 Jan 2013, which is why everything's leafless and brown....)

There used to be a pedestrian bridge behind the apartment buildings, which is partially collapsed -- this will be removed as part of the trail project:
(Somebody has put out plastic trashcans on their sides, as habitat for wild cats (which scattered when I approached) -- they also keep water bowls clean and filled.)

You can see these pix and a few others on a map on Picasa here.