On Dec. 16 J. Jackson Walter, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, wrote about the historic value of the McMillan Reservoir {"At Stake, Not Only Open Land, but a Landmark," Close to Home, Dec. 16}.

Walter wrote that decisions already have been made to choose a developer without ensuring that plans "take into account the reservoir's historic character," and concluded by asking, "What's the rush?"

It appears Walter has not reviewed the proposals competing for the development rights to the McMillan site. If he had, he would know that both proposals have considered its historic significance. But Walter missed the real reasons for development and the need to move rapidly.

The Bloomingdale area needs more than "ivy-covered towers and cavernous underground vaults." In fact, a resolution concerning the development adopted by the Bloomingdale Civic Association includes among its goals a full-service library, a community facility, a police substation, a park area, an educational trust fund, housing for senior citizens, a day-care facility for seniors and children and affordable housing for ownership by low- and moderate-income families.

Also to be derived from the development is additional space needed by Children's Hospital, not to mention thousands of jobs for District residents and millions of dollars in tax revenues to the District.

Surely these components of the development should take priority over an inoperative "19th century water purification system for the capital city."

Certainly there is merit in historic preservation, but preserving the past cannot take priority over preserving the present and future.

-- George W. Crawford is president of the Bloomingdale Civic Association.