The Capital Trails Coalition, made up of non-profit organizations, businesses and governments, calls for adding 408 miles of trails to the existing trail network in the Washington DC metro area. (Map: Washington Post)

The Capital Trails Coalition, a group of non-profit organizations, businesses and area governments, are calling for expanding the Washington DC metro area trail network by 408 miles. The current 470 mile trail system, fairly extensively developed to the west and north of the District, is much more sparse to the east and south. 

The Coalition’s vision is to “create a world-class network of multi-use trails that are equitably distributed throughout the Washington D.C. metropolitan region. The regional trails network will transform public life by providing healthy, low-stress access to open space and reliable transportation for people of all ages and abilities.” 

A recent Washington Post story describes the initiative, estimated to cost $1 billion over ten years. “Building this whole network of trails will cost less than it takes to pay for one highway,” said Leah Gerber, trail planner coordinator with Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit member of the coalition. “And the benefits will be felt across the entire region.” For example, the widening of 22 miles of Interstate 66 to add toll lanes cost almost $4 billion. 

The Post quotes D.C. Council member Charles Allen, vice chairman of the Transportation

Planning Board, stating “we certainly spend a lot of money on our streets, on our sidewalks, on our alleys. We spend a lot of money on Metro. So I am not going to have sticker shock for the fact that it will cost money to invest in this entire network of trails.” 

The story also cites recent research showing significant health care cost savings that result from trail development as people become more active. Moreover, filling gaps between trails leads to overall increases in trail use. 

Explore the existing and proposed trail network in more depth with this interactive map

The Chesapeake Conservation Partnership is in the process of assembling a map of the trail network for the whole Chesapeake Bay watershed. An initial draft map was highlighted recently at the Partnership’s 2019 annual meeting and refinements are currently underway. The Partnership views trails as central to enhancing human health, equitable access to the outdoors, and for ensuring support for land conservation. More information on the watershed trail network map will be shared in the future!

Lightning Update is a regular communication of the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect positions of the Partnership or member organizations.
To share a success story, news, or important event, send your information to:

[email protected]

Support for the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership is provided by:
National Park Service Chesapeake
EPA Chesapeake Bay Program
USDA Forest Service
Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Virginia Outdoors Foundation
US Fish & Wildlife Service
Chesapeake Conservancy

The Chesapeake Conservation Partnership is co-convened by: