Wednesday, November 30, 2005

New Plan for Rock Creek Park

The Washington Post has a report on a new plan by the National Park Service for Rock Creek Park. The article focuses on the Beach Drive closure issues. Some residents had tried to get a few segments of Beach Drive closed to traffic on weekdays as well as weekends; it will remain closed on weekends but open on weekdays, so there is really not much change there except for a reduction in the speed limit.

Some parts of the plan would rehabilitate trails and streams. Rock Creek itself would be altered to allow certain fish to spawn upstream in their historical breeding grounds. Some trails would be moved to keep them off slopes. While the purpose would be to slow erosion, I think this would be appreciated by hikers and walkers who have to balance carefully and fight gravity as they follow the trails.

The plan also calls for renovations to visitor centers and existing administrative buildings. One point of possible concern comes from the map of proposed changes. The maintenance yard near the nature center appears to be slated as the location for an "administrative facility" if a site outside the park cannot be found. Construction there could degrade necessary habitat for bird migration, as that is one of the "hot spots" while warblers are moving in the spring and fall.

Our powerless delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, complains that the park is underappreciated:

"We have trivialized this park, residents make too little use of it, and tourists don't know where it is," Norton said. "Neither the city or the federal government has bothered to make maximum use of it. The problem is that it had no plan and it's in a state of great deterioration."
As I see it, the main problem is that the park is difficult to access without a car, unless one lives nearby. Several bus lines cross the park, but the only Metro stations near the park are at Silver Spring, Cleveland Park, and Woodley Park. At none of these locations is there a pleasant entrance to the park, and the best areas - from Broad Branch Road up to where Rock Creek crosses into Maryland - can be hard to reach.