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

  1. (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).

  1. (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 access.

  2. 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 trails).

  3. Utilize bicycle-compatible "traffic calming" measures and increased enforcement of traffic laws throughout Rock Creek Park to discourage speeding and automobile commuting.

  4. 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.

  5. 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 Road.

    Recommended Trail Improvements

  6. 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.

  7. 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 purposes.

  8. Provide increased Park Police patrols on paved trail, particularly in secluded areas.

  9. Construct dedicated or cantilevered trail bridge at south end of Zoo Tunnel.

  10. Reconstruct trail bridges to widen them and/or eliminate right angle turns.

  11. Where trail parallels Parkway, increase separation between them and/or install barriers.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. Coordinate with National Zoo to improve trail access through Zoo.

  15. Move Zoo fencing to west side of Rock Creek.

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