On July 11, the National Park Service released its Environmental Assessment for the future management of Upper Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park. It calls for keeping Upper Beach Drive closed to cars and open to people during summer months. But starting in September, during fall, winter, and spring, NPS plans to welcome cars and commuting traffic back onto Upper Beach Drive – effectively (and by its own admission) closing Beach Drive and much of the park to people not traveling by car. Park officials call it a compromise.
For two blissful years, Upper Beach Drive has been closed to cars and open to people for safe, quiet, recreation, transportation, and access to natural spaces. It has been transformative for tens of thousands of people and families around the region. WABA and our partners appreciate that NPS has taken a big step forward in committing to permanently expand non-motorized access during the summer.
But we do not accept this outcome. Parks should be for people, for the preservation of and access to the natural environments they thrive in. And by choosing to hand the park back to cars and drivers for nine months of the year, NPS has left most people out of this decision. The People’s Alliance for Rock Creek (PARC), of which WABA is a member, issued this press release on Monday, July 18.
On July 18, park officials hosted a public meeting to present their plan, answer questions on the process, and take feedback. More than 200 people attended the virtual meeting, piling their questions and their disbelief into the text chat box. Park officials defended the plan, pointing to new, yet unreleased, 2045 traffic analysis and recommendations by the District Department of Transportation, and clarified how opening Beach Drive to commuter traffic will protect the natural environment. NPS encouraged anyone with feedback on the proposal to submit comments by August 11. The meeting’s presentation slides, recording, and transcript are available here.
NPS will accept written comments on this decision and document until August 11th here. WABA and our partners are assembling thorough comments challenging this decision. Expect an action alert with guidance in the coming weeks. This decision will not be final until NPS has reviewed all comments, likely in the fall.
Thanks to everyone for the ongoing support for Rock Creek Park Seven Days a Week. For full details on this campaign and to sign the petition in support, go to waba.org/PARC.
In the News
Beach Drive in Northwest DC to Reopen to Traffic Despite Popularity of Closure (Jackie Bensen NBC 4) – Jul 19, 2022
The future of Beach Drive and D.C. traffic (Paige Hopkins Axios) – Jul 19, 2022
People’s Alliance For Rock Creek Press Release – Jul 18, 2022
Opinion | Leave Rock Creek Park’s upper Beach Drive closed to cars (Seth Yeazel Washington Post) – Jul 15, 2022
The Politics Hour with Kojo Nnamdi – July 15, 2022 – Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh reiterated her support for closing upper Beach Drive to cars and opening it to people permanently and year-round.
Who Is a City Park For? (Henry Grarbar Slate) – Jul 14, 2022
NPS to hold hearing on plans to reopen upper portion of Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park (Tom Roussey ABC 7)- July 11, 2022
NPS weighs making Beach Drive car-free every summer (Luz Lazo Washington Post) – Jul 11, 2022