When officials of the National Park Service began to let the grass grow on several previously mowed spots in Rock Creek Park, they envisioned research meadows full of native wildflowers and a general increase in the wildlife population.
To a large extent, their expectations have been met. A number of species of plants and animals have returned to use the park as habitat.
Things look different, however, to members of the North Portal Estates Civic Association in upper Northwest Washington. They see the meadow near their homes as just another unkempt lawn, which aggravates their allergies and looks awful.
In a letter to Secretary of the Interior Cecil D. Andrus, signed by Robert Henri Binder, the association has demanded that the meadow be "eliminated."
Retired Army Col. Harry T. Jones, of North Portal Estates, complained of the "condescending tone" of park officials. "We don't want to be treated like botany I students," he said. "We want the meadow mowed."
Park officials' latest effort at accommodation include reducing the area of the meadow by 10 percent, mowing it twice a year, in April and July, and planting native species of wildflowers in an effort to speed up natural succession, which they admit has been slower than anticipated.
Jones said he will not be satisfied "until the area is taken care of, even if we have to get our there and do it ourselves."
"The health of our residents comes first," said Jones. Although James Redmon, superintendent of Rock Creek Park, has pointed out, and NIH experts confirm, that pollen travels great distances and can't be traced to any one area, Jones blames the meadow.
Besides pollen, what really irritates Jones is "we have the federal government conducting experiments across the street from us without even consulting the residents. There must be dozens of other spots where they could run tests."
Park officials say the only scientific research conducted at the meadow includes extensive vegetation and bird surveys.
Although the meadow is largely invisible from the street, residents think it is an eyesore, and Jones said he believes property values have been affected.
As for the association's next move, Jones said, "You can always go to Congress or file suit. It will be a decision of the association."
Meanwhile, in another section of town, other neighbors of Rock Creek Park have asked for a meadow of their own.
Ellis Seagraves and Katharine and Mary Anglemyer of the Park Road area enjoyed walking in a 100-year-old park meadow near their homes until it was allowed to grow into forest in the 1960s. They wrote to officials of the park asking that the area be cleared once again and maintained in its meadow state, which generally means mowing once or twice a year.
After an environmental assessment, which is always done if major changes are to be made in land use within the park, the trees were cut last year.
Park Road residents report that they are once again hearing owls, which use the meadow as a food source, and seeing the brilliant orange wildflower called butterfly weed. They said they are anticipating a lush springtime in their meadow.