Greenbelt Park, the 1,000-acre campground and park near the Beltway and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, should remain largely as it is for the next two decades, the National Park Service has decided after more than a year of study and public meetings.
The decision calls for only minor improvements in roads and 174 campground sites, and even these may not be made for several years because of a tight Park Service budget.
Thomas McFadden, superintendent of Greenbelt Park, the parkway and Catoctin Mountain Park, said last week that "what money we've had has been drained off for repairs to the parkway and that may well happen again" in the coming year. A proposal to transfer the parkway to Maryland is in limbo because the state has said it doesn't want the four-lane road unless the federal government first rebuilds it at an estimated cost of $100 million.
Congress transferred the Greenbelt park land to the Park Service in 1950 to be developed as an overnight campground for people visiting the capital. Under the latest plans, camping will continue to be the major activity in the park.
Now one of the largest parks around Washington, the land originally was acquired by the federal government for the second "Green Town," an expansion of Greenbelt, a planned community of moderately priced homes built by the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. The project was abandoned with the start of World War II.
The Park Service last year studied several development plans for the park, ranging from doing nothing to spending $1 million to improve the park, its roads and camping areas, build a new headquarters and open the 280-acre section of the park on the east side of the parkway. The present park headquarters is a trailer.
McFadden said that although the latest plans call for no construction, he hopes to put the campground utility wires and pipes underground, build showers for campers and improve entrances to the park. But he said Greenbelt's limited budget will not permit even these improvements for at least a year or two.
McFadden's budget for the parkway and Greenbelt Park, which are lumped together, has remained at roughly $300,000 for several years, despite inflation and escalating utility costs.
"We've reduced our utility consumption by 85 percent over the past seven years, but our utility bills today are higher than they were seven years ago," McFadden said. Two years ago half of the camping areas were closed for the summer because of insufficient funds to maintain and police them.
The Park Service hopes within the next year to reopen a small park entrance and parking lot on Good Luck Road and is negotiating with state officials for a traffic light at the park's main Greenbelt Road entrance. A long-range goal is to have a new park entrance on Kenilworth Avenue.