Peter Harnik's lament that Rock Creek Park is "underused" ["A People's Place," Outlook, Oct. 10] overlooked the nonhuman users of the park that would be affected by further human intrusion. The less than 4 percent of all lands set aside as national parks were designated to be places "untrammeled by man," and the National Park Service rightly does not value outdoor restaurants and latte vendors more highly than leaving its parks untouched.

The trees in Rock Creek have been protected for more than 100 years and allowed to mature into what is perhaps the finest urban forest in this country, if not the world. This allows Rock Creek to abound with animal life, most obviously its dozens of bird and mammal species but of equal importance the smaller forms of life that make it a thriving and viable biotic community.

Just knowing the park is there in the middle of this great conurbation brings an intangible sense of satisfaction. Sitting quietly on the bank of an old ravine and watching a litter of fox kits emerge from their den to play in the light of a late afternoon can raise that satisfaction to sublimity.

Rock Creek Park is Washington's largest, if least recognized, memorial -- a living commemoration to the natural world from which we should not remove ourselves. It is right that it be left as it is.



Urban Wildlife Program

Humane Society of the United States