BLADENSBURG – Local, state and federal officials donned helmets, mounted bicycles and sped off Friday morning on the new bike path at Bladensburg Waterfront Park, part of a trail network project underway to help restore the polluted Anacostia River watershed.
The planned Anacostia Riverwalk Trail Network will stretch across nearly 60 miles of Prince George’s County and Washington, D.C. The section dedicated Friday runs 1.5 miles in Maryland and 12 miles in the District.
The officials came to the park Friday to tout its benefits — increasing revenue at local businesses, promoting active lifestyles and restoring the watershed.
“Once this is finished, you’ll be able to bike all the way to the District, but more importantly, they’ll be able to bike all the way here,” Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker said.
Slideshow by Sarah Meehan/Capital News Service
Gov. Martin O’Malley said he saw the trail as a way to empower local residents to restore the Anacostia River by connecting with each other and with the natural world.
“It’s a great cause and a great source of strength for the community to be able to restore her health and restore the outdoor environment,” O’Malley said in an interview. “The magic of these bike trails is that they bring the community together.”
Building the trail is part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, which aims to connect Americans with the environment through local, state and federal partnerships.
The project also aligns with local programs to promote bicycle use, Bladensburg Mayor Walter James said.
Officials agreed the trail will promote economic growth and environmental awareness throughout the region.
“It is in everyone’s best interest to be able to do what we can to restore this river, to create trails,” D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said. “It is such an inherent part of making the District of Columbia sustainable.”
Construction to complete the entire trail is slated to begin next year, O’Malley said.
The project is expected to cost $50 million to design and construct over the next four years. Federal air quality funding and presidential appropriations are expected to pay the bulk of the cost.
Several bikers who attended the ceremony, such as 2005 single-speed, mountain-biking, world champion Marla Streb, said the trail will help Marylanders of all ages see the positives of cycling over driving.
“It really enriches your day if you’re not just sitting in a car,” said Streb, the bike safety coordinator for Bike Maryland. “I feel really strongly about getting other kids out of their cars, out of gridlock and walking and riding to the parks.”
Video by Emily Hooper/Capital News Service
Others said the new trail is one more chance to experience natural wonders in the state.
“It’s lovely — there are so many pockets of interesting biking in this area that I’m just starting to discover,” said Jim Bole, a member of the Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts.
And getting people outside of their homes and onto the path will ultimately benefit the communities through which the trail passes, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said.
“I think it’s huge. It shows that people can really get connected to other communities and get connected to the outdoors,” Cardin said. “This is all a plus for the community and it will create jobs. … It will help both P.G. County and the surrounding community.”