Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

The National Park Service and DDOT hope to make Rock Creek’s pedestrian and bicycle trails better by adding some connections, fixing some problem spots, and possibly widening the trail.

At an a public meeting, NPS and DDOT presented alternatives from their Environmental Assessment for three areas. On the Rock Creek Park Trail (RCPT), there are two options besides a no-build option.

Alternative 3 would widen the trail to 10 feet. Alternative 2 would widen it a little in places, but not much, leaving most of the trail less than 10’ wide, often far too narrow for users.

Both options would would repave the trail, create new connections to adjacent streets, and realign the trail at curves and approaches. They would improve the safety around several bridges, add drainage and erosion control and improve the grade in places.

These options would also add a new trail along the Piney Branch Parkway from the RCPT to Arkansas Avenue.

A related project involves the Rose Park Trail, which runs along the west side of Rock Creek Park from P Street to M Street, including through Rose Park at the northern end.

NPS plans to either resurface (Option B) or resurface and widen (Option C) this trail. Both of these options would create a better connection to M Street, where a Capital Bikeshare station might end up, and other connections as well.

There is also a proposal to move the RCPT closer to the river in the area between Pierce Mill and Blagden Avenue. The trail would replace what is now a “social trail” and the existing trail would be replaced with a gravel “interpretive trail.”

The biggest project is rebuilding 3.7 miles of the RCPT between P Street and Broad Branch Road. It would create new connections to P street, Arkansas Ave, Blagden Ave, Broad Branch Road and Porter Street; realign the trail around the various bridges over the Creek; and improve the grade below Calvert street;

Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

The project would also improve the crossings over Shoreham Drive, Jewett Street and the Zoo entrance, and create a better crossing of the Creek south of the Zoo tunnel, where the sidewalk is extremely narrow.

Obviously, I think the more ambitious options are better for both the RCPT and the Rose Park Trail. I have no opinion on the realignment.

Almost all of the public comments were in favor of the widening and repaving options, with two exceptions. One, a man from Friends of Rose Park (F.O.R.P.), opposed widening or realigning the trail, but did not voice any opposition to letting cyclists use the trail. Another wants Klingle Road reopened.

The man from F.O.R.P. was pretty angry about the trail widening. During the open house, he raised his voice at a few rangers and DDOT employees because NPS had promised F.O.R.P. that they would not widen the trail (which is apparently true, though I doubt it applied in perpetuity).

During the public comment section, many commenters noted that the trail is already a multi-use trail, not a pedestrian path as F.O.R.P. wishes to label it. One commenter noted that Rose Park has been the site of several recent crimes and that having more trail users (cyclists) might discourage crime.

The man from F.O.R.P. was also concerned about a very large elm in the park also mentioned in the Georgetown Current article. I’m confident the trail can be widened and rerouted to not only avoid harming the tree but in a way that helps it.

Those who favored the project still had other suggestions including:

  • Keeping the zoo loop open 24/7/365
  • Making sure that detours caused by construction were well signed and easy to use
  • Keeping the trail maintained (signage indicated that the trail is currently cleared of snow; is that true?)
  • Building a fence to separate the Rose Park trail from the playground and using brick pavers to slow down cyclists
  • Creating an elevated crossing of M street at the Rose park trailhead
  • Making mountain biking legal in RCP which would allow NPS to tap into some free labor
  • Creating a connection from Harvard Street to the trail
  • Looking at the section from M to P street
  • Improving drainage under Porter Street
  • Building bike parking at every NPS facility trail users might visit including bathrooms
  • Allowing CaBi into the park

The EA will be finished by late spring with another public hearing in the summer and a decision in the fall. If you’d like to comment on this project, you can do so here.

Cross-posted at The WashCycle.