ACTION ALERT! Write, Attend, Testify on Sept. 3 to Save the Trail

On September 3 the Montgomery County Planning Board will determine the future of a 3+ mile equestrian trail in Boyds. Your help is needed NOW to secure future use of the trail. Please write to the Planning Board and/or consider attending the hearing and testifying in support of the EPIC easement to demonstrate that safe and sustainable public trails are important to trail riders in and around Montgomery County.

BACKGROUND & TALKING POINTS
1. In 2010 EPIC was invited by M-NCPPC/Park Planning staff to serve as grantee of a trail easement that would advance the Countywide Trails Master Plan and help link existing public and private trail systems. EPIC accepted the invitation and agreed to manage and maintain the trail. The Planning Board subsequently approved a proposed subdivision (Subdivision Plat No. 220120040–220120060, 220120510, Greentree Farm, formerly Barnesville Oak) that included the requirement that the developer include on its plat recordation a recreational trail easement naming EPIC as the grantee.
trail easement
trail easement
The illustration at left depicts the required easement. The trails are both wooded and along the edge of crop fields and will be mostly untouched by the approved residential lots. It is a beautiful 90-minute ride from Whites Store Road near Bucklodge Road to Two Sisters Farm at the western edge close to Route 109.Planning Board requirement:
Record Plat to reflect a Public Use Trail Easement (“PUTE”) through the property as shown on the preliminary plan. The PUTE will name Equestrian Partners in Conservation (“EPIC”), a 501c3 non-profit corporation, its successors or assigns as the Grantee and must include, at a minimum:(i) the conditions and restrictions governing uses that are within the definition of “Recreational Purpose” as defined in the MD Ann Code, Natural Resources Article, ‘§5-1101; (ii) the right of Grantee to construct, maintain and repair the trail, with no obligation by either Grantee or the Grantor to do so; and (iii) rights of enforcement by both the Grantor and the Grantee, with no obligation on either to do so.
From Montgomery County Planning Board Resolution August 2010 conditionally approving Barnesville Oak Farm subdivision, Condition #3

Applicant’s Record Plat submitted July 30, 2015:

a. “Covenant” in lieu of “easement.” Easements are typically affirmative, giving the public the right to use the trail, whereas covenants are typically negative, limiting what the public can do. The Planning Board’s intent, and the language used in condition #3, specifically references an easement.
b. NO grantee.
c. NO mention of EPIC.
d. Trail maintenance PROHIBITED without authorization of property owner.
e. NO provision for sign posts or trail naming.

2. The plat submitted by the developer does not include an easement or an easement grantee and does not allow for necessary maintenance. It should be rejected and replaced with a proper easement granted to EPIC as called for in the Planning Board Condition #3.3. EPIC is uniquely qualified to serve as grantee in part because it already posts, maintains and maps two trail systems on private land. With donations and hours of volunteer labor, EPIC sets posts and markers, posts maps online and maintains the trails to high standards.4. We support the easement language presented by EPIC and ask the Board to reject the plat and covenant submitted by the developer. Preservation of this historic trail is important to all trail users in Montgomery County. It provides an important link between public and private trails and horse parks. It deserves to be protected and well-maintained for the safety and the enjoyment of trail users.

5. The future of equestrian trails rests in private, not public, land in the form of easements on private land. This is particularly true when it comes to the creation of trail connections that link existing trails to one another. Proposed residential housing developments provide opportunities to either save existing trails or establish new ones by requiring developers to establish trail easements on the property being developed.

The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. in the auditorium at 8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, MD. There is an outside and covered lot in the back on Spring Street. The agenda for the day is posted online, but all times for specific items are approximate and often run late.

If you wish to submit written testimony or letter/email, it can be sent to mcp-chair@mncppc-mc.org at least 24 hours before the hearing.

To TESTIFY you can sign up online in advance (by going to http://www.montgomeryapps.org/planning_board/testify.asp or you can simply show up and sign up to testify. Individuals and/or individuals representing organizations will each be allotted 3 minutes for testimony. Planning Board members can and will ask questions but will not interrupt people giving testimony. They usually wait until the entire table or individual witness has delivered their testimony before asking questions.

Please submit your written testimony at least 24 hours before the hearing by sending it to  mcp-chair@mncppc-mc.org.

Send questions and/or (blind) copies of any emails or testimony to info@epicmontgomery.org.