12.08.2004

Rock Creek Park and the National Park Service

This morning I had the pleasure of taking a long hike with the dogs at my side and with Grant in the backpack, we did an extended hike along the creek on the Melvin Hazen trail. It was a great hike in the unseasonablly warm weather. Must have been at least 60 degrees out this morning. ( Global Warming? I am not sure. that is a rant for another time) As I hiked the Melvin Hazen trail I thought about the state of the trails, the decline of the trails, and the creation of a bridge that makes little sense to me. So when I got to work I made a few phone calls to various offices at the NPS Rock Creek. Ended up speaking to a few people only to be redirected then redirected again, only to be redirected again then finally leaving some messages, don't expect anything to come of it. But, I still feel that my voice should be heard. I also went ahead and send some electronic messages on two topics to the same offices.

Here are those electronic messages that I sent to the NPS ROCK CREEK DEPARMENT.
here is a link to the NPS RC CONTACT page
maybe other Rock Creek users may have similar issues to raise

Map of Rock Creek

rant one:

The Foot Bridge from Beach Drive to the Valley Trail
I was curious why the NPS has decided to spend money to rebuild this bride that goes to no where.
The bridge is a foot bridge near Pulpit Rock on the Valley Trail. It would go over the creek from Beach Drive to the horse free Valley Trail. Ironically, which ever direction the bridge user comes from they would have to pass a trailhead to access the bridge.

There is a TRAILHEAD for the Valley trail not even 100 yards in either direction. One trail access for the Valley trail is at the junction of Beach Drive and Bladgden Road while the other trail access point is on Beach Drive just on the other side of the old stone bridge which the road travels over. (pardon me if my naming of these roads or trails is innaccurate, I am writing this from a map in my head)

This bridge will be an expense that is not needed and will only act to confuse the situation. There are only two parking spaces there. It would lure more people to walk on Beach Drive along with the bicycle and roller blade traffic, when they could have already been in the woods and safely removed from the faster moving traffic. In my experience there is already a natural segregation of the three main trails at that section of Rock Creek Park. On weekends when the road is closed to car traffic there are three basic areas for travel. The horse trails, the paved road (Beach Drive,) and the more remote lesser known Valley Trail. The separation of these three trails works well. Dogs and dog walkers do not do well with horses (on the horse trails) or fast moving bikes (on paved Beach Drive), so many dog walkers use the more isolated Valley Trail. Beach Drive is multi-use, but tends to make more sense for pedestrians looking for a flat surface, most often with wheeled vehicles (ie. bikes, roller blades, or strollers) And the horse trails are also less conveluted, which make them good for hiking, but not so great to have the dogs encountering the horses.

My feeling....
Money would be better spent repairing the trails. Bringing in fertile soil, thinning out the trail in spots where it has grown too wide, removing short cut paths, planting some indigenous plans to aid in holding onto the soil from future erosion, and perhaps either putting in switchbacks or terracing the areas that have grown to be steep and slick.

Just some thoughts from a trail user who not only users Rock Creek Park, but LOVES ROCK CREEK PARK.

thank you

Rant 2: Car Traffic on Beach Drive
Two Issues: Commuter Speed and Car Speed on the Closed Roads during Weekends and Holidays

As a resident of Washington DC I use Rock Creek Parkway to travel in and out of my neighborhood of Mount Pleasant whether I am traveling by my usual mode of transport, bicycle, or when I make that occassional drive in the car. In my many years in the district I have found that the speed on these roads have been consistently out of control. The daily commuter car traffic rushed through the park ignoring the 25 MPH speed limit, frequently doubling the set speed limit on the more straight sections of road. Cyclist are at risk by tailgating drivers, cars passing too close/too fast, and cars passing other cyclist but failing to pay attention to the cyclist coming the other direction. The fact that there are not more frequent car on car accidents in Rock Creek Park astonishes me. Cars are frequently taking the winding curves so fast that they can not maintain their lanes and are dipping into the lane of on coming traffic.

I am not asking for the Parkway to be closed to commuter traffic.

All I am asking for is that there be some rational limits set on the speeds on these roads. Enforcing the speed limit. No, I am not asking for officer friendly to hang out with his radar gun and issue tickets. It seems obivous that tickets do not change behavior, tickets generate revenue and piss people off. What needs to be done is something that will change the behavior of the car drivers on Rock Creek Park.

What needs to be done to slow commuter traffic?
I am not sure.

But I am sure that we need to put some limits on the speed of the drivers who are using the sections of Beach Drive to access the various picnic groves on weekends.
I think that the SPEED LIMIT SIGNS should have a hinge on them.

On weekdays when there is regular traffic the Speed Limit would post the normal 25 MPH, while on weekends the sign would be flipped and changed. The sign would have a hinge where it would flip and there weekend or holiday speed of 15 MPH would be posted. It is dangerous for cars to be speeding through at the usual 35-50 MPH speed when there are joggers, roller bladers, cyclists young and old not anticipating a speeding car to come flying by them. People drive through the closed section of Beach Drive on weekends with complete disreguard for the fact that the road is in fact closed and that they are permited to drive on that road to gain access to the picnic groves. This too is a danger that has been going on long enough. Behavior needs to be changed to make the use of the park more safe and more pleasant.

Car drivers often fail to realize that the cyclist is a person and that person is not causing traffic, but rather, that cyclist is part of traffic just like the car is part of traffic. It is dangerous when the car driver fails to see the human element of the cyclist and only sees them as an obstacle.
just a few thoughts from a friend of Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park is a wonderful resourse
just making a few comments to try and make it an even more wonderful place for everyone
joel


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