Roger Myers, wearing a green “penny” marking him as a trail volunteer, was clearing out a water channel when I happened upon him on a recent Sunday in Rock Creek Park. Myers heads a volunteer group that maintains the popular Black Horse Trail along Rock Creek. And he had news for me.
Myers has been volunteering on a section of this trail for 15 years, and the Black Horse Trail Preservation Club formed 12 years ago. A former National Park Service deputy superintendent gave them permission to do their work, Myers said. But NPS did not formally recognize the group or the trail’s name until last year. Rock Creek Park Supervisor Julia Washburn confirms that the Black Horse Trail Preservation Club received formal recognition in 2018 as a SOLVE partner, a group that takes care of a particular area of the park.
And the Black Horse Trail, known unofficially by that name for years, received formal recognition as well. Washburn said it will get signs and blazes like any other trail, and brochures at the Rock Creek Nature Center have been updated with the trail’s name. (There’s also an updated map online but the trail is not yet shown on the second map on this page.)
The Black Horse Trail Preservation Club has been a good steward. Its volunteers have advocated for downed tree removal, trail reconstruction, installation of riprap (large stones shoring up the bank of the creek to prevent erosion) and better channeling of water flowing from the higher elevation to prevent it from accumulating on the trail.
And with all the rain we’ve had in the past year, the volunteers have had their work cut out for them: keeping channels clear of debris, cleaning up trash that flows with the stream, and minor repairs of the trail.
Like the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and Rock Creek Conservancy, this group of more than 60 volunteers helps maintain the Rock Creek trails that many of us enjoy. If you would like to volunteer or start a volunteer group, click here for information.
Correction: The first version suggested that the Black Horse Trail Preservation Club looks after the entire trail. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club maintains the sections where the trail follows the Valley Trail.
Alex Sanders of PATC explains the Black Horse Trail’s route:
“It serves as the eastern half of the horse trail loop with the White Horse Trail. The Black Horse Trail crosses Rock Creek three times above Military Road…. North of Military Road, it continues on the west side of Rock Creek until around Milkhouse Ford where it crosses Rock Creek and Beach Drive and intersects with the Valley Trail. It follows the Valley Trail until Rolling Meadows Bridge where it re-crosses Rock Creek and goes north just west of Beach Drive. The Black Horse Trail crosses Beach Drive and Rock Creek again at Riley Springs Bridge and continues on the same route as the Valley Trail until its terminus at the MD boundary, where one can pick up the White Horse Trail going south.
“While the official NPS map didn’t note the names of the White Horse and Black Horse Trails until recently, the two routes have been in place for years. PATC’s Map N has included them since at least our 1990s edition.”