They Come Bearing Burdens

Here in town the holiday season has been unusually peaceful. Half-empty buses have been delivering us early, the office phones have been eerily silent and the normally packed cafeterias have been calm. But some of the many residents now returning have cited two particular aggravations that they met along the the way.

Train-takers have been running into a baggage problem at the Union Station/National Visitor Center complex. At the street entrances, lucky people may find a cart for their bags, or perhaps even a porter. But neither is in adequate supply. Then, if you manage to get your bags through the great halls of the visitor center and back toward the tracks, you have to wait in a sort of staging area until the gates to the trains finally open. Understandably, the porters from streetside aren't about to hang around. So unless you've been able to commandeer a cart, you'd better be willing to drag your bags the extra mile to the first available car on the train. Can't the railroads spring for another fleet or two of carts for prime times?

At National Airport, Maryland-bound passengers have a singularly difficult time getting reasonable taxicab service. Virginia-based cabs have their own stand - but Maryland and D.C. cabs share one. According to Maryland Reps. Gilbert Gude and Gladys Noon Spellman, Maryland based taxis are on somewhat shaky legal grounds when they pick up passengers for D.C. destinations - and are barred from soliciting any business in the District. Thus Maryland cab drivers find it unprofitable to wait in the D.C./Maryland cab line at the airport without any guarantee of a Maryland-bound fare.As a result, Maryland residents wind up in cabs from other jurisdictions whose drivers are unfamiliar with the Maryland suburds (and may ring up some unfamiliar charges on the way).

How about a stand at National for Maryland-based cabs? A Gift of 10 Island

In keeping with what is probably than-you-note time in many households around town, we would be remiss if we did not rely the gratitude of this region for a treasurable gift of unspoiled land that has been made by Christian Heurich Jr., a local real-estate investor and former brewery owner. As most longtime Washingtonians remember, Mr. Heurich and his family were the people who made "Old Georgetown Beer" down at "The Vat" on the site where the Kennedy Center now stands. What many of us hadn't known was that the Heurichs owned 10 Potomac River islands near Seneca, about 22 miles from the city. The islands, which add up to 150 acres, are filled with sycamore, walnut, poplar and oak trees, forming perfect shelters for deer, songbirds, wild turkeys and woodpeckers. There are also some Indians ruins.

Mr. Neurich has just donated these beautiful wooded islands - worth an estimated $250,000 - to the Nature Conservancy, a private, nonprofit group that performs a great service by acquiring and preserving ecologically valuable land. The gift was made under the auspices of the American Land Trust, which has the commendable goal of acquiring $200 million in "ecologically significant" land within the next two years, as a bicentennial gift to the nation.

The nature Conservancy, meanwhile, hopes to turn over Mr. Heurich's islands eventually to the National Park Service. Officials are banking on passage of a bill to be reintroduced by Rep. Joseph L. Fisher (D-Va.) that would designate the Potomac from Washington to Cumberland as a national park; this would permit federal acquiaition of the islands. For aiding such efforts - and for sharing the natural beauty of his beloved countryside with everyone - Christian Heurich deserves a special thank-you from the community. The End of the S&W Line

It is easy to become overly sentimental each time a certain cherished local building or institution disappears, whether it's an old turreted home, a favorite shop or a neighborhood church. Though we appreciate the authority of governements, property owners and developers to make changes in the name of "progress," often moves have a dramatic impact on lifestyles. Such is the case with the closing of the S&W cafeteria at Seven Corners.

As staff writer Lynn Darling reported in this newspaper several weeks ago, the cafeteria was "a second home to several hundred senior citizens . . . a focal point of lives, a place where they could stretch fixed incomes far enough to buy a nourishing meal at inexpensive prices."

The Seven Corners cafeteria had been in operation since 1957. But now the landlord, Westminister Investing Corp., has no place for the S&W in the $1.5 million renovation of the shopping center. The cafeteria, said a corporate official, "is just a relic of the past as far as management is concerned. It's not oriented to the contemporary, new, exciting image we're looking for." The old customers have protested, rallied and written letters, but the cafeteria is no more. S&w officials have looked at a few nearby locations but nothing has come through.

To be sure, the corporation has every right to proceed with its plans for the property. But it is sad. As Ruby Wine, a daily lunch customer for the last four years, observed, "It's like losing a part of our lives."