WABA's Preliminary Recommendations for
Rock Creek Park
General Management Plan
June 20, 1997
Rock Creek Park was created by Congress in 1890 as "a public park and
pleasure ground" with the purpose of "preservation from injury or
spoliation of all timber, animals, or curiosities within said park, and
their retention in their natural condition, as nearly as possible." Yet,
over the years, the Park has been allowed to become a major commuter
artery for automobiles at the expense of its recreational and natural
resources. Among the Park's most neglected facilities has been the paved
trail which parallels Rock Creek for through most of the Park.
The National Park Service is currently undertaking its first ever
"General Management Plan" (GMP). By next winter, the Park Service will be
making critical decisions about the future of Rock Creek Park, such as
what to do about excessive automobile traffic, and how to divide resources
between traffic management, recreational needs, and protection of the
environment. WABA is encouraging the Park Service to adopt bold measures
to discourage commuter traffic and to refocus its attention and resources
on environmental and recreational needs, to restore Rock Creek Park's
adherence to its statutory principles.
WABA offers the following 15 recommendations for consideration by the
Park Service in developing the GMP. They include both traffic management
measures and trail improvement measures. Traffic measures are designed to
discourage automobiles from using the Rock Creek Valley as a commuter
route, while improving access for Park users. Trail improvements will
enhance recreational opportunities, particularly on the popular paved
trail used by bicyclists, joggers, skaters and pedestrians.
Recommended Traffic Management Measures
- (a) Permanently close 3 sections of Beach Drive that are now closed
only on weekends: Sherrill to Wise; West Beach to MD line; and Broad
Branch to Joyce, including Boulder Bridge. This measure would provide
popular recreational opportunities on weekdays while reducing commuter
traffic through the Park. It would also close the missing link for a
continuous bicycle route along Rock Creek and complete a 20-mile
recreational loop that is virtually auto-free (when combined with the
Capital Crescent Trail).
- (b) As an alternative to #1a above, create Ross Drive/Glover
Road/Boulder Bridge scenic loop with restricted automobile access.
Designate Ross Drive and portions of Glover Road and Beach Drive as a
one-way counter-clockwise scenic loop, accessible by automobile only from
the north. Gates on Beach Drive and Glover Road would prevent through
traffic at Broad Branch; Boulder Bridge section of Beach Drive would
connect to Glover Road only. This would discourage automobile commuting
via Rock Creek Valley, while providing scenic drive and improved park
- Eliminate reversible one-way rush-hour traffic lanes on Rock Creek
and Potomac Parkway. This would reduce rush-hour traffic throughout the
park, improve emergency services response in and near the park, and free
up police resources for other needs (including increased police patrols on
- Utilize bicycle-compatible "traffic calming" measures and increased
enforcement of traffic laws throughout Rock Creek Park to discourage
speeding and automobile commuting.
- Close 1/10 mile section of Glover Road between picnic area #13 and
Grant Road, while leaving parallel section of Glover Road open. This would
discourage commuters from cutting through the Park on Grant Road.
- Restrict traffic volume on two-lane roads to the
8000-vehicles-per-day maximum of the NPS road design standard. For
example, use traffic signals, HOV restrictions, and other measures to
restrict through traffic on Beach Drive between Parkway and Broad Branch
Recommended Trail Improvements
- Provide safe crossing for paved trail on Shoreham Hill (below
Calvert Street), e.g., an underpass or stoplight; in meantime, provide
police assistance during rush hour.
- Undertake comprehensive repairs to paved trail, e.g., washouts and
buckled pavement, and upgrade trail to meet or exceed AASHTO guidelines
for bicycle facilities where feasible and consistent with Park
- Provide increased Park Police patrols on paved trail, particularly
in secluded areas.
- Construct dedicated or cantilevered trail bridge at south end of
- Reconstruct trail bridges to widen them and/or eliminate right
- Where trail parallels Parkway, increase separation between them
and/or install barriers.
- Create on-roadway bicycle/pedestrian lanes on the short (1/10-mile)
section of Beach Drive between Wise Road and West Beach Drive. Narrow
existing traffic lanes and eliminate one of the two southbound lanes
(either the through lane or right turn lane). Note that existing
southbound through lane would serve no purpose should Beach Drive between
Wise Road and Sherrill Drive be permanently closed to automobile traffic.
This would provide a badly needed safe route for cyclists, pedestrians,
and skaters between two closed sections of Beach Drive.
- Consider permitting mountain biking on selected unpaved trails. Any
mountain biking opportunities should be structured to preserve the quality
of the recreational experience for hikers and equestrians. Environmental
impacts should be mitigated by careful trail selection and design as well
as closure for muddy conditions.
- Coordinate with National Zoo to improve trail access through
- Move Zoo fencing to west side of Rock Creek.