Norton Supports Fixing the Rock Creek Park Trail

Yesterday, Tues., March 5, our Advocacy Coordinator, Greg Billing, delivered to D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton’s a petition you and over 2,400 others signed, asking for improvements to the Rock Creek Park Trail. A lack of any attempt to improve the trail’s well-known egregious conditions drove WABA to demand immediate action from the National Park Service and District Department of Transportation last month. Del. Norton is now asking those agencies for a progress report.

We are grateful for Congresswomen Norton’s support of the campaign to fix the Rock Creek Park Trail. Read the full press release from her office below the jump.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                    Contact: Daniel van Hoogstraten

        March 6, 2014                                                                                        o: 202-225-8050

            c: 202-225-8143

Norton Asks NPS for a Progress Report on the Rock Creek Park Trail Project, as Residents Become Impatient

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today wrote to the National Park Service (NPS) for a written progress report in the next 30 days on the status of the Rock Creek Park trail project and its Environmental Assessment (EA), as well as a timeline for next steps in the process.  NPS released its draft EA in December 2011 with a 30-day public comment period, but there is still no final EA.  Norton warned that federal funding, which has been dedicated to this project, could be lost if it is not obligated by the end of 2015.

Norton, in her letter, wrote, “Rock Creek Park was established by Congress…‘for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of the United States,’ and is the oldest urban park and the third federal park ever created…However, hikers and bikers have long-encountered unkempt and unsafe conditions along the Rock Creek Park trail…Two years later there is still no final EA, and residents are fully justified in having lost patience… The public deserves an update directly from NPS.”

In the last few weeks, over 2,400 people, most of whom are D.C. residents, signed a Washington Area Bicyclist Association petition requesting that the Rock Creek Park trail be repaved and rehabilitated as soon as possible.

The full text of Norton’s letter follows.

March 6, 2014

Dear Superintendent Morrison:

Plans to rehabilitate the Rock Creek Park trail have been in the works for over 20 years.  District residents and visitors were excited for the proposed rehabilitation, but there has been little public progress on the rehabilitation.  The process has gone on for too long, and at the very least, District residents deserve an update on the current status of the Environmental Assessment (EA) and the next steps for the project.

Rock Creek Park was established by Congress in 1890 “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of the United States,” and is the oldest urban park and the third federal park ever created.  Today, it offers residents an escape from urban living and allows residents and visitors to partake in a number of activities, including hiking and biking.  However, hikers and bikers have long-encountered unkempt and unsafe conditions along the trail.  These unacceptable conditions will continue until the trail has been rehabilitated.

Federal funding that has been dedicated to rehabilitation of the Rock Creek Park trail could be lost unless progress is shown.  Although the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) will construct the trail through the use of funds provided by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), it cannot proceed until the EA is complete.  The process stalled for a number of years over a disagreement between the National Park Service (NPS) and DDOT over widening the trail, but a compromise was reached, and NPS released its draft EA in December 2011 with a 30-day public comment period.  Two years later there is still no final EA, and residents are fully justified in having lost patience.  DDOT, which is funding and constructing the project, must wait for NPS to issues its final EA before it can complete the design phase of the project.  Understandably, in the last few weeks, over 2,400 people signed a Washington Area Bicyclist Association petition requesting that the trail be repaved and rehabilitated as soon as possible.

Under the current proposals, there would be rehabilitation of a 3.7-mile segment of Rock Creek Park multi-use trail, 0.8-mile segment of the Piney Branch Parkway trail, a 0.5-mile segment of the Rose Park trail, and 0.2-mile Pierce Mill trail spur, all of which are located in the District of Columbia.  Rehabilitation of the trail includes paving of surfaces, trail widening in some locations, and other modifications to enhance visitor safety, improve pedestrian and bicycle access and enhance drainage and erosion control.

Unfortunately, further delay is built into the process.  It is my understanding that even after the final EA is released, NPS will need to issue a “Finding of No Significant Impact” in order for DDOT to complete the design of the project.  In addition, NPS will likely need to issue permits.  More seriously, it is possible that the federal funding could be lost if it is not obligated by the end of 2015.  NPS has indicated to local organizations that the final EA will come out by the end of 2014, but the last public meeting was held in December 2011.

The delay has been inexcusable.  The public deserves an update directly from NPS.  Please send a progress report on the status of the Rock Creek Park trail project and a timeline for the next steps to our office within the next 30 days.

 

Sincerely,

Eleanor Holmes Norton

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www.norton.house.gov