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Montgomery County Council Asks for Recreational Trails along Power Lines as Condition of Utility Merger

The move may allow for the creation of a trail along utility routes that could connect Cabin John Regional Park with South Germantown Regional Park


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The county's proposed trail plan could be more likely to happen with the right to use utility rights-of-way owned by Pepco.

The Montgomery County Council is hoping to link parks in the county with more trails and the possibility of a merger between utilities Pepco and Exelon is providing the opportunity to ask for the ability to do so.

Council members are asking the Maryland Public Service Commission to consider allowing the county to create recreational trails along utility rights-of-way—which often are large clearings where power lines run—as a condition of approving the merger.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) is reviewing the $6.83 billion merger proposal of local utility Pepco and Chicago-based Exelon, which would elevate Exelon’s status as the largest utility in the state. Exelon already owns Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE), which serves Baltimore and the city’s suburbs.

Eight of nine council members sponsored the request, which is scheduled to be discussed today.

The council is putting forth the resolution after Montgomery Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson proposed the idea in a letter to the executive secretary of the Public Service Commission at the end of December.

In that letter, Anderson asked the PSC to allow the county to use utility rights-of-way to achieve objectives proposed in the planning department’s Countywide Park Trails Plan.

Specifically, Anderson highlighted the following three corridors that would connect parks in the county, including a Pepco corridor that could connect South Germantown Recreational Park with Cabin John Regional Park in Bethesda (text is from Anderson’s letter, slightly abridged):

 

  • One PEPCO corridor runs parallel to Patuxent River State Park, approximately between Howard Chapel Road and Annapolis Rock Road (MD 94), part of which is within the coverage area of Potomac Edison, not PEPCO. A trail in this area would help county planners achieve the objective to link the Rachel Carson Trail Corridor (and Rachel Carson Conservation Park [in Brookeville]) with the future extension of the Seneca Greenway Trail north of MD 108 toward Patuxent River State Park [in Woodbine].

 

  • Another PEPCO Corridor runs through communities in the area of Potomac. In terms of trail (and park) connectivity, the segment the county would be most interested in is between South Germantown Recreational Park and Cabin John Regional Park. South Germantown Recreational Park features numerous trails and a host of other recreational facilities, and nearby is Schaffer Farm, a regionally renowned mountain biking area with numerous trails. The PEPCO lands then cross and connect to area parks and ultimately link to Cabin John Regional Park [in Bethesda], which features a natural surface trail network.

 

  • A third corridor starts in Seneca Creek State Park [in Gaithersbug] and travels northeast across the county, ultimately connecting to the PEPCO corridor along the Patuxent River. The PEPCO transmission line and corridor cross nearby to many parks and open space, and pass through Carson Farm Special Park [in Laytonsville], where a bicycle skills area is planned. This PEPCO corridor also could help recreational trail users travel from the Upper Rock Creek stream valley parks and trails to the state park as well as nearby South Germantown Recreational Park and Schaffer Farm.

 

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