Here in Washington, the Feds like to close roads. Then they also take regional leaders to task for the traffic problems.
The latest outrage: the National Park Service wants to close Rock Creek Park to vehicle traffic from 9:30am to 3:30pm weekdays. Let me explain about Rock Creek Park for those of you who don’t live here.
Rock Creek Park is a huge park that runs north-south through DC. It’s an amazing piece of wilderness smack dab in the center of the city. Through the park runs Beach Drive, a windy two-lane road. Because of protests in the 60s, there is no cross-city highway through DC, but there is Beach Drive – the only contiguous route across the city with few traffic lights. For someone like me – living at the southern tip of DC and working at the northern tip – it’s the only viable, direct route to work every day.
As it is, the commute using Rock Creek Park is restrictive – the road that connects to Beach Drive, Rock Creek Parkway, is already closed in one direction until 9:30am and then again at 3:30pm. This means I must go to work after 9:30 in the morning, and leave the office before 3:30 to avoid the road closure.
The timing of the Beach Drive closure makes it clear that the Park Service has it in for Virginia drivers, who need this route more than anyone else (Maryland has literally hundreds of routes into DC, Virginia only a few because of the river). But just as they open Rock Creek Parkway, they’ll close Beach Drive.
What is the thinking behind this closure? They claim that it will be for the park patrons. Bull. I drive through that park every day, and almost never see a single person in the actual park. The only people this will benefit are the rich, snotty, and litigious residents of Cleveland Park, Bethesda, Chevy Chase… people who have a long history of wanting to close roads to keep their personal park pristine.
A couple of letters to the editor in today’s Washington Post:
The proposal to close Rock Creek Park to automobile traffic during the day is shortsighted and elitist [“Park Service Proposes Beach Drive Closures,” Metro, March 30].
First, with the threat of a terrorist attack, why would the National Park Service even consider closing a major means of travel through the city?
Second, closing the road to cars effectively would bar the elderly and disabled from visiting some of the prettiest parts of the park. The only way that they could see the affected areas would be during rush hour.
Third, the people who would profit from this change would be the rich residents of Chevy Chase, Bethesda and far Northwest. Who else bikes or walks a dog in this part of the park on a weekday? No one seems to be planning a similar approach to Fort Dupont so the residents of Anacostia can have recreational opportunities during the week.
The Park Service should drop this half-baked idea, which is being pushed by cyclists trying to turn Rock Creek Park into their personal preserve.
JEREMIAH J. BARRETT
The idea that the National Park Service proposal to create a recreational zone on weekdays in Rock Creek Park would somehow compromise emergency evacuation plans is a red herring.
The Park Service plan would close a three-mile section of winding, two-lane Beach Drive to automobiles from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays, making it possible for people to use this magnificent park by bicycle or on foot. The city’s emergency evacuation plan does not consider the road significant enough to mention. And in any case, the gates closing the road to cars could be swung open in seconds in case of an emergency.
While opponents try to claim that this narrow, two-lane road constitutes a major north-south artery, it in fact carries fewer than 500 vehicles an hour during off-peak times.
Thousands of people enjoy walking and bicycling on Beach Drive every weekend. The expansion of this ability to weekdays would enhance the quality of life for people in the District and in Maryland without significantly affecting automobile traffic.
Washington can be a tough place to live these days. Let’s not let unfounded fears prevent us from creating a weekday respite for residents in Rock Creek Park.
The writer is coordinator of the People’s Alliance for Rock Creek.
Can I just make one more quick point? Who do you suppose will be enjoying recreation in the park between the hours of 9:30am and 3:30pm? The unemployed in the poorer parts of town to the east? Or the rich, snotty bastards around the park who need their maids to walk their dogs? One day I’ll tell you about the obnoxious behavior of the privileged residents of Cleveland Park, where I used to work. I promise I’ll do that in the next day or so as I’m still hot about this issue…