On June 29, 2021, Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) hosted a public meeting to hear from District residents on the proposal to continue closing Upper Beach Drive NW in Rock Creek Park (RCP) after the COVID-19 state of emergency ends. The Beach closure prevents access for motorists commuting, not vehicle access to more than a dozen parking areas.
The National Park Service (NPS), which makes the final decision on the future condition of Beach, has a public meeting next month and is accepting public comments for the record 7/8 through 8/22. The NPS determination for Upper Beach Drive is very much in doubt. Please participate in the public meeting and send in official comments via the project website below.
Dueling public petitions have 5,400 supporting permanent closure to car commuting and 1,200 signatures asking for commuting access to return for this park road (as of 6.30.21)
Overall, Upper Beach Drive’s closure attracts a much less-privileged, lower-income, and demographically diverse park visitor than its neighbors. along with NPS Anacostia Park and Fort Dupont in Ward 7, RCP is an amenity for non-car travel and outdoor recreation for all DC residents and neighbors from Maryland and Virginia. Concerns about the negative effects of Beach Drive closure must be considered in the context of equity and past actions by those residents.
Those residents of Upper Wards 4 and 3 live in mostly single-family homes valued higher than $1 million. They are higher-income and higher-percentage homeowning than DC as a whole. Many of these neighbors who want car commuters back on Beach Drive complain of traffic safety harms during its closure, but they frequently oppose safety improvements like sidewalks and protected bike lanes.
Rep. Norton asked NPS to continue the Upper Beach Drive closure, but that letter received pushback from RCP-adjacent residents. The Montgomery County Council supports the permanent closure of Upper Beach Drive NW to commuting drivers, as does the Rock Creek Conservancy – the official “Friends Of” nonprofit for RCP. DC Council supported commuting closure to Upper Beach, but only narrowly.
RAISE YOUR VOICE
Thursday, 7/8 | 6 PM: Public Meeting about Beach Drive Closure, by National Park Service; “NPS will host a virtual public meeting and begin a public engagement process to inform the future management of the section of Beach Drive that runs from Broad Branch Road NW to the Maryland border.” [Meeting Details | Link to Join Meeting on MSFT Teams | Dial-In: 202-640-1187 + enter passcode 815310000# | Recording Posted Here Afterward]
July 8 through August 22: Public Comment Period to NPS Regarding Upper Beach Drive Closure; “You are invited to review the proposal and provide comments and ideas from July 8 through August 22. To provide comments online starting on July 8, 2021, visit https://parkplanning.nps.gov/beachdrive. If you prefer to mail your comments, make sure they are postmarked by August 22, 2021, to receive consideration. Mail comments to the address below. SuperintendentATTN: Beach Drive Rock Creek Park 3545 Williamsburg Lane, NW Washington, DC 20008”
Upper Beach Drive NW is a two-lane, 25-mph road that runs through Rock Creek Park (RCP). The “Upper” portion refers to the section from Broad Branch Road NW to the border with Montgomery County, MD. RCP, a giant north/south park that follows Rock Creek in a stream valley down from Maryland, beside the National Zoo, and out into the Potomac River. It’s perhaps Washington, DC’s most popular park beside the National Mall.
For several decades, NPS has closed Upper Beach Drive to car commuting on weekend days and federal holidays. The Parks Service closed Upper Beach, and other park roads within DC, during weekdays for outdoor recreation and non-car commuting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
SIGN THE PETITION