By Lyna Bentahar
SEABROOK – During a Sept. 3 meeting, Bowie City Council approved the latest update on the Trails Master Plan, a design for a trail network that would improve the city’s walkability and expand bike lanes and walking trails.
The plan, first approved in 2002, has been a key component of Bowie’s capital improvement program (CIP). The 2016 Sustainability Plan in previous years has been a significant program of the Bowie Green Team, whose larger action plan also found approval during the meeting.
The Trails Master Plan was updated and presented to show the council updates on trail renovation after the Green Team’s own summary of their three-year action plan. Unanimous votes approved both the Trails Master Plan and the Bowie Green Team’s action plan. Councilmember Henri Gardner was not in attendance.
“I think it’s a wonderful addition to the community,” said Councilmember Dufour Woolfley about the Green Team’s action plan. “It’s not just about making the place greener, but also about bringing the community together.”
The Green Team’s plan is part of the city’s requirements become Sustainable Maryland Recertified. The certification program, inspired by the Sustainable Jersey initiative in New Jersey, is an effort for municipalities to become sustainable and reduce their carbon footprints. About half of the 157 municipalities in Maryland are currently in the Sustainable Maryland program. Bowie was one of the first dozen to join, according to Gary Allen, former mayor and Environmental Advisory Committee chair.
“One of the best programs that this community has embraced in the last decade is the Sustainable Maryland program,” said Allen. “(These programs) could ultimately move this community’s quality of life forward.”
The Trails Master Plan, while promoted by the Bowie Green Team, was part of a separate approval process. Their timeline works in coordination with the city’s sustainability plan, which exists independent of the Sustainable Maryland program.
“(The plan) provides us with the opportunity to look more comprehensively at how people can walk the community, how people can bike the community and how kids can be ridden around the community by their parents,” said Allen.
The trail network divides into a primary trail that bisects the city, and numerous secondary trails, most of which are planned new routes, which connect parts of Bowie isolated from the primary trail, to improve walkability.
The plan has also designed “aggressive” bike lanes, which would be painted green for high visibility, and to make shared parking and bike lanes easier to manage. This high visibility becomes a safety issue when it comes to roads that the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) has determined to be intolerant of pedestrians, such as Annapolis Road and US 301 intersections.
“Walking over to the Bowie Baysox, we went to a wonderful game there this summer, but I wouldn’t dare walk across 301 to get there,” said Jim Klein of Lardner/Klein Landscape Architects, PC, whose landscaping company prepared and presented the Trails Master Plan.
The plan considers green paint to highlight “bike boxes” and hybrid beacon signals that would make pedestrians more visible to drivers. Crosswalks would potentially also have “leading” walk signs, where pedestrians are on the crosswalk before drivers are signaled to move.
“The adoption of this plan by the city marks the end of a process and represents a collective vision for the city, increasing safety, livability, comfort and recreation opportunities for our citizens,” said Patricia McCaughey, a member of the Bowie Green Team subcommittee promoting the Trail Master Plan.
“This plan is not the end but the beginning of a much larger task ahead,” added McCaughey. “We must not lose momentum but proceed forward.”
The Trails Master Plan staff will prepare a resolution for adoption at the next city council meeting on Sept. 16.