Friday, June 14, 2024

Opinion | Rock Creek Park’s Beach Drive was closed for covid. Should it reopen?

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Amid all of the devastating impacts of the pandemic, there have been some uncommon, sudden vibrant spots: The flexibleness afforded by telework; the comfort of ordering groceries on-line; some great benefits of telehealth medical visits. To that checklist, Washingtonians can add the improved leisure alternatives created when a bit of Seashore Drive operating via Rock Creek Park was closed to site visitors. And simply because it appears on-line work, physician visits and grocery purchasing will proceed to be part of the post-pandemic world, so, too, there should be a approach for this car-free park oasis to proceed. However the actual contours of that standing are topic of a fierce debate.

The Nationwide Park Service closed the roughly four-mile higher stretch of Seashore Drive in Northwest Washington to the Maryland line in April 2020 because the covid-19 pandemic tightened its grip on day by day life. Washington space residents had been in determined want of open area and with few folks going to work, the highway, utilized by commuters headed downtown, sat idle. The park service deliberate to reopen the highway to site visitors in June 2021, however stress from residents and officers made it rethink.

The closure of the highway seven days every week — earlier than the pandemic, it was closed to automobiles solely on weekends and holidays — has passionate followers. The Individuals’s Alliance for Rock Creek and the Washington Space Bicyclist Affiliation have collected greater than 6,000 signatures to maintain the highway closed. Each the D.C. Council and the Montgomery County Council, together with D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), have urged the park service to make the seven-day closure everlasting. Pushing again, The Submit’s Luz Lazo reported, have been some park neighbors and commuters who say the extended shutdown has resulted in additional automobiles reducing — and rushing — via their neighborhoods and has worsened site visitors congestion on parallel routes. Critics of a everlasting shutdown marvel why the federal authorities accomplished in 2019 a $35.3 million rehabilitation of Seashore Drive — together with $11 million for this higher part — if it wasn’t going for use.

The park service got here up with a compromise — preserve the highway car-free in summer season when there may be much less site visitors and open it to automobiles the remainder of the yr, aside from weekends and holidays — however that made few folks comfortable. Little doubt that was because of the park service’s convoluted reasoning that extra automobiles would really enhance forest well being and assist threatened species thrive by deterring guests from reducing via the park on unofficial trails. “Simply to ensure I perceive, you need much less folks utilizing the park, so that you’re attempting to make the park worse so much less folks will come,” mentioned one resident who participated in a spirited digital assembly final month. Certainly, there are higher methods to safeguard the well being of the park than whizzing automobiles that discourage park customers.

That mentioned, there could also be some benefit to a compromise that tries to steadiness the will for a protected recreation space with the pursuits of park neighbors. Extra info is required, notably on site visitors impacts that take note of what the workweek will appear to be with many firms choosing telework. The general public can nonetheless weigh in with the park service accepting feedback via Thursday.

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