The new trail in action. Image by Caesar Hatami licensed under Creative Commons.

A new trail across Rock Creek Park opened on Saturday, restoring public access to a part of the park that has been closed for a generation. The car-free walking and biking path connects to the Rock Creek multi-use trail and links the neighborhoods of Cleveland Park, Woodley Park, and Mount Pleasant.

This trail was 25 years in the making

The new Klingle Valley Trail is a 0.7 mile multi-use path across Rock Creek Park connecting Cortland Place NW to Porter Street NW, passing under Connecticut Avenue just north of the National Zoo. The path bisects the Klingle Valley, running parallel with Klingle Creek. It follows the alignment of a section of Klingle Road NW that was severely damaged by floods in 1991 and has been barricaded off to prohibit access ever since.

Project area map, with the new trail location in red. Image by DDOT.

Putting up barricades resolved the immediate public safety issue, but left open questions about the ultimate fate of the damaged roadway. Vociferous community advocates arose on all sides of the issue: some argued Klingle Road should be fully reopened to all traffic, others wanted a permanent closure, others a conversion to a trail, and various positions in-between.

After numerous twists and turns, the road's fate was finally resolved in 2008 with DC Council legislation that required this section of Klingle Road to remain closed to cars and reopen as a multi-use trail. With that clarity, DDOT was able to advance project development through the design and engineering phases, and construction started in July 2015.

For the past 25 years, this has been the view of Klingle Road at Cortland Place, NW. Image by DDOT.

The trail project repairs years of neglect for the Klingle Valley

The site’s degraded conditions mean that this trail is about much more than installing and a path and putting in benches, lighting, and signage.

The additional features include a restoration of Klingle Creek to resize and realign its channel and stabilize its eroded banks. Without this restoration, the new trail would quickly be undermined by water runoff from the creek just like the previous roadway. The restoration features elements designed to mimic natural stream characteristics, using rocks, boulders and logs to stabilize its banks, and carefully engineered “step-pools” to control the stream gradient and water flow.

Other elements include cleanup and removal of the old road surface, repair of sanitary sewers, rehabilitation and installation of drainage and stormwater management infrastructure, and new retention walls to stabilize the valley’s steep slopes. The trail surface also uses porous asphalt to minimize water runoff.

Old: eroded, broken-up concrete sections of Klingle Road. Image by DDOT.

New: the trail, with a bioswale trench to help manage stormwater. Image by Caesar Hatami licensed under Creative Commons.

Klingle Valley is open to the community again

With the trail’s reopening last Saturday, bicyclists and pedestrians alike have a new, car-free way to cross Rock Creek Park that also avoids the busy, and often stressful, crossing of Connecticut Avenue that other park access routes require.

Lighting and the link to the Rock Creek Trail will ensure the trail’s utility as a commuter route, as well.

Nature lovers will appreciate that the trail connects to the the Tregaron Conservancy paths and trail network.

The expanded access to Rock Creek, and reopening of the Klingle Valley, should provide years of future enjoyment for residents and visitors seeking calm from a bustling city in one of the city’s premier parks.