The National Park Service prides itself on being current with the latest bureaucratic names for its landholdings. The simple "national park" used to suffice, but then came ever-more-accurate spins: national seashore, national historical park, battlefield park.
With Rock Creek Park officially given over to cars Monday through Friday ["New Paths for Rock Creek Park; The Proposed Improvements," front page, Nov. 30], we have the novel phenomenon of the weekend park. Any day now we'll confront the sign: "Rock Creek National Weekend Park -- See you on Saturday!"
The writer is co-founder of People's Alliance for Rock Creek Park, which represents 33 groups.
After 91/2 years of thought, the National Park Service hasn't proposed much new for Rock Creek Park. Two-thirds of the 24 points mentioned in its plan summary involve continuing current practices, maintaining existing trails and enforcing the law. The rest of the items mostly have to do with moving offices and facilities.
In earlier drafts of the plan, the Park Service announced that its preferred alternative was to open the park to increased recreation by establishing three car-free zones on Beach Drive for six hours a day during non-rush hours. While the proposal had broad support from the public (two-thirds of the comments received were in favor, according to park officials), it was opposed by local political leaders and neighborhood groups that feared a flood of traffic onto quiet streets.
In the hopes of finding common ground, a plan was developed that recommended closing just one segment between Broad Branch and Military roads. This segment of Beach Drive has no bike path and offers a parallel route for cars, Ross Drive, which could handle the diverted traffic and leave surrounding neighborhoods unaffected by the closure. Vehicle access to almost all picnic areas, the golf course, the stables and the tennis courts would have been preserved, just as it is now on weekends. But the final version of the plan rejected both approaches without explanation.
From Central Park to Yellowstone National Park, efforts are being made to protect and preserve parks from the deleterious effects of heavy automobile traffic. Apparently, the National Park Service believes that Rock Creek Park does not measure up to these other national treasures.
Washington Area Bicyclist Association
The map of Rock Creek Park that accompanied the recent article on its future mentioned under the Beach Drive-Rock Creek Parkway intersection: "To be redesigned for safety."
I've been puzzled for a long time about why the Park Service hasn't come up with a better solution to this often congested and dangerous intersection. I know I speak for thousands of frustrated motorists who have sat in backups there, sometimes as far away as the National Zoo entrance on Beach Drive. I've seen numerous serious crashes there, too.
The Park Service should put a simple traffic circle there, which would improve traffic flow and safety tremendously. The organization must be in a sorry state to be unable to come up with such a logical solution.
A. MAARTEN SINGELENBERG
The National Park Service showed great courage in resisting pressure to close Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park. The concept was overwhelmingly opposed by surrounding communities. Closing Beach Drive would have created inequalities in access to the park.
The management plan will improve existing hiking and bicycle trails and examine the possibility of new trails. Through lower speed limits and new traffic-calming devices, park roads will be safer for all to share. Visitor centers will be renovated and new ones added.
I look toward to a bright future for Rock Creek Park that will provide greater access, more recreational opportunities and a better visitor experience overall.