It is a sleepy sliver of a park on the D.C. side of Chevy Chase, an off-shoot of Rock Creek Park several hundred feet wide and 9/10ths of a mile long, named after the Pinehurst Tributary that cuts through the land between Western and Oregan Avenues and trickles into nearby Rock Creek.
Sunlight filters through the tulip, sycamore, oak and hickory trees, splashing light on a natural carpet of amber leaves. Twigs crack underfoot. Black-capped, white gray and black-coated Carolina chickadees, English sparrows and downy woodpeckers sing and squawk.
They're not the only ones chirping about human intrusion these days.
A recent joint proposal by the National Park Service and the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club to build a hiking trail down the middle of the park, 25 yards or more from private homes, has caused a squawk among some neighbors whose prime residential properties, valued at $150,000 and up, either about or lie near the undeveloped park.
"I'm against it, and there's enough going on around here right now without them building that trail and bringing in the undesirables," said Frank E. Freeman, 80, a retired Interior Department employe and resident of the area for 10 years. He, like others opposing the trail, is worried that it would bring inner-city crime to suburbia. "We don't want people congregating in the park throwing their rubbish," he said.
Phillip Barringer, a part-time Trail Club official and full-time Department of Defense executive, said the 3,000-member club has helped to rehabilitate about 20 miles of park trails already and the Pinehurst trail would link with the others. "The trail is needd to complete the trail system for the whole park and give people a greater access to enjoyment of the park," Barringer said. "What's the problem?We've run into suburbia and suburban attitudes."
A few neighbors call the proposal " a new disturbance" and "another encroachment." "Burglars have gotten away through that park," said one irate neighbor who asked not to be identified. "If you have a trail in there, then people will come and park in our neighborhood. The place will attract mischief. Our yards back up to the park and we don't want kids thinking our yard is a part of the park."
Neither money nor land is a question. The land, as a part of Rock Creek Park, is owned by the Park Service. The Trail Club has volunteered to refurbish the trail with Park Service materials, as they have refurbished numerous trails since 1977 that already exist in Rock Creek Park and other parks in the region.
The park Service doesn't need the community's approval nor that of the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission. But, says park official Bob Ford, "We want their input because we want to be good neighbors. We have made no decision on the trail yet."
"It's important to point out that we don't have a crime problem in the parks," said Ford, who attended a recent ANC meeting. "Some of the residents think that a trail would be an easy exit route for criminals, but my own thinking is that his could happen anyhow, trail or no trail. Because of where it's located, 99 per cent of the users will be local residents anyway."
According to police, crime in the Pinehurst area isn't worse than in the Foxhall Road and Georgetown areas, comparable neighborhoods with high property values and low tolerances for the intrusion of outsiders. Recent statistics don't show any significant increase in crime in the Pinehurst area, D.C. police say.
So the matter rests with the eight member of ANC 3G, who, with bureaucratic speed, have called for police crime analysis statistics and testimony from residents and park experts. After further debate, the ANC is likely to consider the issue at an April meeting.
"We've heard from others who have had trails put in tributary parks in their neighborhoods and they had no problems," said Allen Beach, chairman of ANC 3G.
Marguerite Cotter, a Chevy Chase resident who lives near a park, is another who doesn't see a problem with the trail along the trickling tributary. "I don't think it would bring anything undesireable. We really do not care one way or the other.
"Why, it's -- it's a gully," she said.
But for the moment the gully is the talk of the Barnaby Woods and Hawthorne neighborhoods.