WE'RE ALL FOR beautiful, safe parkland, and we've supported many moves to curb auto traffic and encourage more people to ride Metro. But the National Park Service's plan to close a central section of Rock Creek Park forever to automobiles is a case of good intentions gone totally awry. Rock Creek is not a national wilderness, nor is it supposed to be the exclusive playground of bikers, hikers and joggers. It is a beautiful urban park with modest roadways running through its upper picnic areas, which families and gatherings of all ages and physical abilities should be able to approach by car.

To say this is not to advocate a six-lane highway with cars blasting through the woods at breakneck speed, nor need it mean sending all the bikers and foot travelers diving into the gullies at every rush hour. Bikers and runners should have paths for their use at all times, while cars can and should be held to the 25-mile-an-hour speed limit. It would be far safer, too, if the Park Service would end its dangerous practice of trying to save money and energy by not using the lights it has along the winding and very dark roads in this part of the park.

Speaking of danger, will the Park Police be on bicycles, or will they jog around the picnic areas on patrol? Do officials really believe that the 20,000 commuters who do drive through the park will just evaporate, decide to take some bus-and-subway combination or clog up and endanger other already jammed and artificially narrowed streets such as Reno Road?

Nobody minds the Park Service's current practice of closing small sections for awhile during certain weekend hours, with police cruisers threading through the bikes, strollers and dogs. We've enjoyed many refreshing outings there with kids and dogs. But these areas should be shared, open at other times for all to enjoy.