Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Leave the Park Open

Norton's plan to keep Rock Creek Park open during the week (the Beach Drive section) and build a bike path instead is definitely the right way to go about this issue. I don't think there is a great deal of desire among people to use Beach drive during the day (while many people do rely on it). Building a bike path has far more benefits than just closing Beach drive. For one you would encourage more commuting by bike - while many brave people do it now, it is not very safe, and tends to piss off a lot of people in their cars who don't like getting slowed down because of bikers on the road. But many other people don't want to deal with cars driving right behind them (and honking), then speeding past as they try to get to and from work by bike.

I also disagree with the idea that closing beach Drive would improve air quality. The Sierra Club would like the NPS to have it closed at all times (the NPS preferred is just closed 9:30-3:30), stating in part that it would "reduc[e] localized air pollution." But considering that closing off the Park would just move people onto other streets (which the Club recognizes), and at best have a only few people decide to take metro, I don't see how there would be improved air quality. I think it would actually lead to worse air pollution because Beach Drive, unlike Connecticut, Wisconsin and 16th St., has few stop signs. And as the Sierra Club people should know, cars emit more pollution when accelerating and idling, than when they are moving. Also there is the issue of ground level ozone (smog), which I think would be higher because of the shady conditions within the Park - instead of the direct sunlight and its heat, which causes the smog, at least some of the exhaust would be absorbed by the vegetation of the Park's trees. While I can't say exactly how much more or less air pollution would result from moving cars off of Beach drive, one thing is for certain that moving them onto Connecticut Ave., Wisconsin Ave., and 16th St., would obviously increase the air pollution specifically along those routes, where people live, as opposed to pollution being within the Park (where deer live).

Lastly, building a trail would allow people to use the Park more during the week. As it is frustrating to try to commute on Beach Drive on bike, it is not much fun to try to exercise there either. While building a trail would require the removal of trees, and the possible temporary disruption of the creek flow, the overall impact would be minimal. Besides, we are in the middle of a city, it is not a pristine wild lands area, or crucial habitat for any endangered species. As populations increase, the greatest environmental challenges are going to be resolved by getting man to co-exist and work with natural systems, not trying to separate man from them. Norton to seek funding for trail

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