Long in the works, Klingle Valley Trail ‘crosses the finish line’

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Mayor Muriel Bowser helped cut the ribbon for the Klingle Valley Trail on June 24, 2017. (photo by Jennifer Packard)

The long-anticipated Klingle Valley Trail officially opened to hikers and bikers on Saturday in a ribbon-cutting ceremony officiated by Mayor Muriel Bowser.

More than 100 community members and local officials were on hand for the festivities, including representatives from the Sierra Club, the D.C. Department of Transportation and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.

Construction began in 2015 for the three-quarter-mile trail, which stretches from Cortland Place to Porter Street NW and connects the Woodley Park and Cleveland Park communities to Rock Creek Park. The $6 million project outfitted the multi-use trail with new drainage and stormwater systems along with eco-friendly lights, new signage, benches and a fence.

“We are here today to talk about ways to make D.C. a healthier, more vibrant place to live in,” Mayor Bowser said at Saturday’s ceremony. “That means we have to invest in our infrastructure.”

The new trail replaces a long-closed section of Klingle Road NW through Rock Creek Park. (Brian Kapur/The Current/June 2017)

Bowser stressed the importance of continuing to invest in green initiatives all over D.C., a sentiment echoed by Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh.

“It’s no longer the case that we think we have to elevate the car culture above all else,” Cheh said. “Cars have to coexist with other forms of transit.”

The Klingle Valley Trail replaces a former vehicular roadway to which the city cut off access in 1991 due to severe erosion. The following two decades saw intermittent but impassioned debate on whether to reopen the road to cars or turn it into a hiker-biker trail, with the D.C. Council finally voting to permanently close the road in 2008.

Cheh said that many past community concerns were resolved with the new trail. “What we have done is another example of a way that we have come forward in thinking about what makes for quality of life. For those hiking the trail, we recommend hiking sticks,” she said.

Opponents of the project still smart over the cost of the trail, which they see as benefiting primarily adjacent homeowners; other criticism focuses on the purported need for an additional east-west vehicular connection.

The new trail replaces a long-closed section of Klingle Road NW through Rock Creek Park. (Brian Kapur/The Current/June 2017)

But speakers and observers at Saturday’s event expressed their hope that the Klingle Valley Trail will help reduce D.C.’s air pollution and encourage environmentally transportation projects.

“If we can make walking and biking accessible, we can make a big difference in the climate and air quality,” said Greg Billing, executive director for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.

“It feels so great,” said Austina Casey, environmental policy analyst for the Transportation Department. “So much work, so much collaboration and so much expertise came into this, and it’s nice to see it’s what we dreamt.”