Tales and Trails: Trail History of Anacostia Park

Why was Anacostia Park home to thousands of people when the Bonus Army was in town? Who participated in the Pearl escape attempt in 1848? Learn more about Anacostia Park with National Park Service and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association on three FREE guided history rides this summer:

May 26th – The Parks of Capitol Hill

10 AM – 1 PM
Lincoln Park at the Emancipation Statue
ASL interpreted

More details and required registration here.

June 30 – The Bonus Army

10 AM – 1 PM
Anacostia Dr and Good Hope Rd SE
ASL interpreted

More details and required registration here.

August 31st – The History of Anacostia Park

10 AM – 1 pm
Anacostia Dr and Good Hope Rd SE

More details and required registration here.

The Beach Drive rebuild moves north

(read our last Rock Creek update here.)

We’re nearly a year into the reconstruction of Beach Drive and the Rock Creek Park Trail. In total, this will be a 3.7 mile trail rebuild, but it’s broken into four segments.

Let’s take a look at the status of the project, and what’s on the horizon for the months ahead.

Segment 1 (Shoreham Drive to Tilden Street/Park Road) was completed on August 28, 2017.

This segment includes a repaved and widened trail alongside Beach Drive and the (slight) widening of the sidewalk within the Zoo tunnel.

Rock Creek Conservancy and National Park Service threw a block party on the newly completed segment. It was great to experience the fresh pavement (on both the trail and road) without cars! The event was a great reminder of how important (and fun!) Open Streets events are, and we’re pleased to see National Park Service gave people a chance to enjoy this new space before letting the cars back onto it.

Take note—the trail that goes through the Zoo property (that allows trail users to bypass the tunnel) will be reconstructed by the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) in a subsequent phase. It’s still in bad shape right now, but there are plans in motion to reconstruct that segment.

Segments 2 and 3 are now closed to all traffic.

Beach Drive is now closed from Park Road/Tilden Street NW to Joyce Road NW (immediately south of Military Road NW). Originally planned to be addressed as two separate phases, both segments 2 and 3 will close at the same time so that work can begin concurrently on both.

The bicycle and pedestrian detour for these segments are Ross Drive and Ridge Road, which will be completely closed to cars until Fall 2018. And just like Segment 1, it’s important that people biking and walking stay out of the active construction zone on Beach Drive!

These segments of construction will impact the portion of the road that is usually closed to cars on weekends. That means that on the weekend, bicyclists will only be able to ride on Beach Drive from Joyce Road north to the Maryland line, but Ross and Ridge will be alternatives to Beach Drive to connect further south.

WABA has been advocating for this project for decades. More than 2500 WABA supporters demanded the rehabilitation get back on track in 2014, and many have fought for years prior to prioritize this project with NPS and other relevant agencies.

DDOT will tackle the trail sections through Rose Park, northwest of Rock Creek (the trail on the Zoo property), a new bridge across Rock Creek near the Zoo, and a trail extension on Piney Branch Parkway. DDOT’s anticipated construction start is Summer 2018 and the approximate cost of construction is about 11 million.

You can find more information about DDOT’s plans here: https://ddot.dc.gov/page/rock-creek-park-multi-use-trail-rehabilitation-project

If you want more info, visit the project website: go.nps.gov/beachdrive

Speak up for Anacostia Park!

National Park Service (NPS) has a management plan for Anacostia Park, 1100+ acres along the banks of the Anacostia River. Do you want to have a bike campus in Anacostia Park, or do you believe there should be better neighborhood access to the park? It’s time to chime in! Share your thoughts with NPS.

Map of Anacostia Park, Alternative 3. Find more maps and details about each alternative here.

NPS is looking for feedback and are accepting comments until March 31. The park includes Poplar Point, Anacostia Park, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, Langston Golf Course, and James Creek Marina.

Here’s how it works:

  • The management plan is a framework that provides guidance to NPS for the next 15-20 years.
  • Different parts of Anacostia Park are managed in certain ways. In some places, there is a skating rink, in other places there are historic lily ponds. So NPS manages those zones in different ways.
  • National Park Service wants your input on what portions of the park should be managed for certain activities. Does the community want to see more organized sports facilities? Do they want large sections of the park to be reserved for wild space and restoration?
  • NPS has developed four alternatives, plus a no-build option. Their preferred choice is Alternative #3, which provides a balance of conservation and recreation, and looks just fine to us.

WABA believes that bicycle access to and through Anacostia Park is an integral part of successful park management.

That’s why we’re encouraging NPS to do the following things:

  • We strongly support the use of bicycles being included in each of the six management zones. Biking should be considered an appropriate use throughout the park.
  • Capital Bikeshare should be included in the Organized Sports and Recreation Zone.
  • Bicycle facilities, like a Bike Campus, should be an appropriate use within the Organized Sports and Recreation Zone.
  • Bicycle facilities and use should be prioritized in the Natural Resource Recreation, Community Activities and Special Events, and Organized Sport and Recreation Zones.
  • Access to Anacostia Park from nearby neighborhoods is hugely important! Currently, there are major physical barriers to park, including Interstate 295. WABA supports the management plan’s attention on park access and connectivity with city neighborhoods.

And while this plan specifically focuses on the management zones, we encourage NPS to consider the following in all management discussions and park policies:

  • Keeping paved trails open for use at all times of day is incredibly important- for many residents in the region, trails are transportation infrastructure, and the hours of operation should be the same as a roadway.
  • Consistent access to bathrooms, trash cans, benches and shade should be a priority.

Do you share our opinion on what should be included in the plan? Share these recommendations, and any additional thoughts, with National Park Service here. The deadline for submitting comments is Friday, March 31.

WABA in the Wild was AWESOME!

A few weeks ago, we held our very first WABA in the Wild, a three and a half day bike tour and camping trip from Cumberland, Maryland at one end of the C&O Canal Trail to Georgetown, Washington, DC at the other end of the C&O Canal Trail.

Riders in Cumberland

A wet but happy start in Cumberland, MD

Simply put, WABA in the Wild was epic.

Take a look at the adventure below and read on to hear what a few ride participants had to say about their experience. Plus, this event was a peer-to-peer fundraiser ride that raised almost $14,000 for WABA! A huge thank you and props to all of our WABA in the Wild riders.

Here’s what people said about the trip:

Waba in the Wild was an incredible experience for more reasons than I even anticipated.The ride itself was an extraordinary immersion in nature and cycling all day; the WABA crew was amazingly hospitable and thought every detail through, allowing us to just ride, make friends and marvel at the scenery; and I got to try a short bike tour with all the logistics taken care of- and instead of paying a tour company, I got to raise money for an organization that directly makes me safer and happier on my bike.

I’m so happy WABA decided to organize this trip because I’ve wanted to bike the entire C&O canal for years but was having trouble with logistics. WABA arranged everything seamlessly and gave me the opportunity to do this not just for myself and my own achievement but also to raise money to support making biking safer. I learned so much about what I can do in my community, it was so inspiring!

Favorite parts of the event for me were the camaraderie and moments to ride and chat with both the riders and the WABA crew; Camping, campfire and camp meals; Learning more about the WABA mission and goals. Lastly, being completely consumed in the event from start to finish.

I am still basking in the WABA in the Wild afterglow! I’ll start by expressing my appreciation for the way you handled the logistics for this event. The guidance you provided in advance of the trip from fundraising through packing lists and daily schedules were thorough and immensely helpful. I felt a part of the WABA team in reaching the goals and from wheels up at Walter Pierce Park I also felt that friendships were formed among the WABA crew and all of the riders. I feel a connection to everyone who participated. There are many challenges presented in riding and camping the C&0 canal. Conditioning, hydration, nutrition, recovery are all a part of what each rider has to do. WABA injected massive amounts of fun into every aspect of this adventure. I truly felt like i was being taken care of throughout. WABA in the Wild was a memorable experience. Thank you!

Interested in WABA in the Wild 2017?!

Like what you hear? Are you up for the challenge? Join us for WABA in the Wild in 2017!

If you’d like to be the first to know about when information and adventure dates are available for the 2017 event, and to find out when registration opens, sign up for the WABA in the Wild C&O Canal Tour interest email list here.

AT LAST: Rock Creek Park Trail reconstruction starts this fall

A new trail bridge is coming to the Rock Creek Park Trail at the zoo tunnel. Photo credit: M.V. Jantzen

Construction is coming to the Rock Creek Park Trail this fall. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will rebuild the trail along Beach Drive.  The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) will finish the trail work in late 2016/early 2017. For a community that has been waiting for over a decade, construction on the trail will be a welcomed sight.

The Environmental Assessment plans for 3.7 miles of trail rehabilitation from P St. NW to Broad Branch Road. FHWA will construct roughly two miles of trails from the Rock Creek Park Trail to Broad Branch Road. FHWA will also modify the road within the zoo tunnel to accommodate a narrow trail. Construction crews will build a new trail bridge over Rock Creek near the tunnel. Where possible, the trail will be widened. The trail surface will be completely repaved.

FHWA will issue bids this summer and plans to begin construction this fall. The trail will be reconstructed in conjunction with a complete rebuild of  Beach Drive from the Rock Creek Parkway to the Maryland border. The smooth pavement will be a great improvement to weekend rides.

Project managers combined the trail and road project. They seek to limit construction impacts and speed up implementation of both projects. The Beach Drive project will happen in five phases—the trail reconstruction will occur during first two phases. Trail construction in this section should be complete by summer 2016.

Construction will close the trail temporarily.

During construction, FHWA will close both Beach Drive and the Rock Creek Park Trail. This is not ideal, but keeping access open during construction is not feasible. Drivers and trail users will be detoured. We are working to ensure that the trail detour is a reasonable one that minimizes busy roads and the steep climbs out of the park. During construction, trail users should plan alternate routes. We hope the complete trail closure will speed up construction.

The full 3.7 mile trail rehabilitation will not be complete when FHWA finishes their work next summer. DDOT is responsible for all trail sections across the creek from Beach Drive and along Rock Creek Parkway (south from Beach Drive), along with the new spur trail along Piney Branch Parkway. DDOT intends to complete design phase for their trail sections by August 2016 and begin construction in the fall of 2016. The agency plans to finish the entire trail reconstruction in 2017.

Last year, WABA lead a petition effort to push the trail rehabilitation project forward. Over 2500 residents signed the petition asking the National Park Service and District Department of Transportation rebuild the trail. After a yearlong delay. DDOT finalized the EA last summer, allowing final design and construction to begin.

If everything goes according to plan, residents and visitors will be enjoying newly rebuilt trail sections next year and a fully rebuilt trail by 2017. Thank you to the National Park Service, DDOT, FHWA and everyone else involved in bring this project to completion.

Public Open House for Arlington Memorial Circle Redesign on March 3rd

memorial-circle
The National Park Service is hosting a public open house on March 3rd to present rough design ideas for Arlington Memorial Circle on the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The area has a long history of safety issues for Mount Vernon Trail users. NPS started the planning process back in September with an initial round of public open houses.

NPS is undertaking a Transportation Plan and an Environmental Assessment to evaluate possible reconfiguration of the road, traffic circle and trail. The goal is to improve safety and the park experience for bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers, while minimizing the impact on the cultural and historical resources of the area. The planning process will take almost two years to complete. We do not expect a final decision document until the summer of 2016.

More information about the public open house, the planning process and how to give your input are included the following NPS meeting announcement:

Public Open House
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
5:00 pm to 8:00 pm
National Park Service
National Capital Region
1100 Ohio Drive SW
Washington DC 20242

We will present rough sketches of design concepts that were developed at a workshop that evaluated previous studies of the area, existing and projected traffic conditions including accident, speed and road/trail volumes, and the memorial character of the area. These concepts will be the foundation for the development of alternatives to be presented later in the year.  Please take this opportunity to offer your thoughts about this process and the ideas that were generated before we develop alternatives.

Comments will be accepted at the open house or may be provided online through the NPS Planning Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website.

On March 3rd the sketches will be posted to the project website and comments will be accepted from March 3, 2015 to March 10, 2015. You can access this site from the project website at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/mctpea Navigate from the left side of the page to Document List, then 2015 Design Concepts, and Comment on Document.

National Park Service Responds to Norton’s Request About Rock Creek Park Trail

Rock Creek Park Trail-6

As reported by DCist yesterday, the National Park Service responded to Eleanor Holmes Norton’s request for a progress report on the Rock Creek Park Trail.

Per DCist:

In a letter Norton released today, Tara Morrison, Superintendent of Rock Creek Park, says an Environmental Assessment (EA) is currently with the Federal Highway Administration for approval. A Finding of No Significant Impact (or, delightfully, FONSI) document is expected to be signed by FHWA in the “near future” and NPS is currently drafting their own, which will also be reviewed by the District Department of Transportation.

“Construction could begin on the project as early as Fiscal Year 2015,” the letter states.

While any movement is welcome news, Greg Billing from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association says the pace thus far has been frustrating.

Read NPS’ full response here and the press release from Norton’s office below the jump. Continue reading

Build an Arlington Memorial Bridge for All

President Hoover inspects the then-new Arlington Memorial Bridge in this newsreel footage from 1932. Video from British Pathe.

The Arlington Memorial Bridge, completed in 1932, represents a physical link between the U.S.’ acknowledged north and south—and connects the Lincoln Memorial and National Mall to Arlington National Cemetery. The video above is a newsreel from the bridge’s 1932 opening with President Herbert Hoover. Today, millions of visitors and commuters cross Arlington Memorial Bridge annually by foot, bike, and car. The National Park Service is currently planning a rehabilitation of the bridge.

The major focus of the rehabilitation are the bascule spans. “Bascule” is the technical term for the type of center drawbridge spans on the bridge, which are deteriorating rapidly and require a complete overhaul. Rehabilitating the bascules will maintain an important element in our nation’s history and in our modern transportation infrastructure. The National Park Service is seeking input from the public about the bridge rehab through an Environmental Assessment process. But the only alternatives presented are very technical and specific types of engineering solutions to replace or rehabilitate the span. Should NPS replace with bascule spans with “concrete box girders,” “steel plate girders,” or “concrete arches”? Or should they just rehab the current spans?

WABA is not an engineering firm. And we don’t expect the public to be able to tell NPS just which type of girder or span is the best to last another 70-plus years. Rather, we’d like to discuss if we can build a multi-modal bridge for the future.

The bridge is 90 feet wide with six car travel lanes and two 15-foot sidewalks. Pedestrians and bicyclists share the sidewalks. During busy tourist seasons, the sidewalks are full of visitors walking between the National Mall and Arlington National Cemetery. Sidewalk congestion is complicated by bicyclists and pedestrians sharing limited space.  The speed limit for vehicles on the bridge is 30 miles per hour, but drivers often significantly exceed the legal limit. Commercial vehicles are prohibited from the bridge because it falls within the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

arlington-memorial-bridge-existing-conditions-web

During construction, there will be either a full or partial closure of the bridge. Planning staff are considering the impacts on regional traffic of different traffic closure scenarios. With a complete closure, construction can be expedited and potentially less expensive. A partial closures requires phasing construction to allow some traffic to still use the bridge. After an initial study on regional traffic patterns, engineers determined a closure of one of the three lanes in each direction would only minimally impact traffic on other bridges that cross the Potomac River.

Bicycle and pedestrian travel is increasing regionally and we should plan for it. Locally, the National Mall is planning in the future to build a visitor center at the Vietnam War Memorial. There is expected to be an increase in travel between the Vietnam War Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. The distance between the two locations is a short walk or ride and proximate to Capital Bikeshare.

If there is a minimal impact of closing a single lane of car traffic in each direction on the bridge during reconstruction, it should be repurposed entirely as a single travel lane for bicycle traffic. Below are images of the current street configuration of the bridge and a proposed new allocation of space. This road diet does not change the historic design of the sidewalk, curbs, or roadway space. The protected bike lanes could be achieved by painting a buffer between the bike lanes and car lanes, or with decorative brick pavers or colored concrete.

arlington-memorial-bridge-multi-modal-web

Access for pedestrians and bicyclists to the Mount Vernon Trail from the bridge requires crossing the GW Parkway’s high-speed traffic at grade. This has been the scene of many crashes over the past few years. The Park Service has made some improvements to the circle by modifying sightlines, moving crosswalks, piloting rapid flashing beacons at crosswalks, and installing better signage, among other changes. NPS staffers are pursuing safe and separated trail crossings across the GW Parkway to improve access to the bridge. They will begin an environmental assessment of the Memorial Circle in 2014.

The bridge will continue to connect many historically and culturally significant parks, places, and memorials. The inclusion of protected bicycle lanes in the Arlington Memorial Bridge EA could dovetail nicely into the Memorial Circle EA, resulting in a significantly improved connection between the District of Columbia and Virginia for residents and visitors to our Nation’s Capital.

The comment period ends next Monday, Dec. 2. Please take a moment and as the National Park Service to rebuild the Arlington Memorial Bridge with dedicated space for bicycles, pedestrians and cars.

How Will the Shutdown Affect Regional Trails?

NPS' Capital Crescent Trail Improvements

This may or may not be open now or later today. Photo by Greg Billing.

Last night, we sent an action alert email to our members and supporters warning them that regional trails may be closed as a result of the shutdown, which you can read here:

WABA has learned that if the federal government shuts down tomorrow, the National Park Service intends to close many of its properties, including regional trails, to the public.  We have been provided very little detail, but we have seen preparations for closure on the Capital Crescent Trail.  All or part of the heavily-commuted Rock Creek Trail, Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, and George Washington Memorial Trail are on NPS property.  While we cannot provide additional information on the impacts to these trails because NPS has not been in contact with us, please be prepared for the possibility of closures in the event of a federal government shutdown.

We will continue to seek additional information and provide updates as available at www.waba.org/blog and through social media.

As of this morning, we have received no official update from the National Park Service about closures.

We’ll continue to update this post with information about trail closures as we receive them from our staffers and from the NPS. On Twitter, we’re retweeting reports of trail closures from users. If you use Twitter and notice a closure, let us know. If you don’t, you can still follow along.

UPDATE 8:54 p.m.: Bike ambassador Pete reports, “Hains Point bathrooms are closed and locked and the water is shut off.  The golf course parking lot has been turned into a parking lot for all the furloughed park vehicles” and “Meridian Park at 16th and Euclid is closed entirely.  All the entrances are blocked.”

UPDATE 4:26 p.m.: Washington City Paper has a list of roads closed by the National Park Service around Rock Creek Park, including Beach, Sherrill, Bingham, Ross, Morrow, and Glover drives.

UPDATE 2:40 p.m.: East Bank DC has photos of a closed Anacostia Park.

UPDATE: 2:27 p.m.: The C&O Canal Trust sends this email, which you can see on its website here:

As you may be aware, our Federal Government has shut down for an indeterminate amount of time. What you may not have realized, however, is that the closure of the Federal Government means the closure of the C&O Canal National Historical Park and all other National Parks. For the C&O Canal, this means:
THE TOWPATH IS CLOSED
  • Visitor traffic, whether on foot, bike, or horse, is strictly prohibited.
  • Bicyclists planning rides from Pittsburgh to DC on the GAP and C&O Canal should plan to turn back at Cumberland.
  • All Visitors Centers are CLOSED.
  • Hiker/Bikers and campgrounds are CLOSED.
  • The Canal Quarters lockhouses are CLOSED.
  • All restroom facilities, both permanent and portable, are CLOSED.
  • Handles have been removed from all well pumps.
  • The only Park staff that will be on duty will be law enforcement rangers.
  • The portion of the Capital Crescent Trail that runs parallel to the towpath in DC is managed by the C&O Canal NHP and is CLOSED.
  • All access roads to the Park are CLOSED. This means you will not be able to trailer boats to boat ramps along the towpath.
  • Interpretive and educational programming in the Park will be temporarily suspended. School field trips to the Park will need to be rescheduled once Park staff has returned.
  • Volunteer events and events requiring special use permits will not be able to take place.
  • All volunteers working in an official capacity should cease volunteer activities immediately and not enter the Park’s premises.

After working side-by-side with the wonderful staff of the C&O Canal NHP for many years, it’s heartbreaking for the Trust to see them closing the doors, given no choice but to turn away thousands upon thousands of visitors seeking to recreate and rejuvenate along the canal’s towpath.

While the Park staff has no choice but to stand idly by, we as civilians can take action:

  • Educate yourself and others on how the shutdown affects National Parks.
  • Be vocal on social media and use #KeepParksOpen.
  • Use any means of communication you can – letter, email, phone call, social media, or even a carrier pigeon – to appeal to Congress.Find your US Representatives and Senators on the National Park’s Conservation Association’s Legislative Lookup.
  • Send notes of encouragement to the Park staff through our FacebookTwitter, andemail. To say this is a rough time for them is an understatement. We’ll forward your notes on and post them on social media, letting our Park Rangers know how much we appreciate them and are anxiously awaiting their return.
  • Last but certainly not least, respect the closure. While we don’t like it one bit, we have to respect it. Disregarding the closure can create potentially unsafe and hazardous situations, damage Park resources, and create undue work and stress on the few staff left standing.

UPDATE 1:15 p.m.: Streetsblog notes that Beach Drive is closed to cars.

UPDATE 10 a.m.: WAMU reporter Martin Austermuhle tweets, “More government shutdown closures: Hains Point. So if you ride/run down there, you’re going to have to do so illegally” and that “According to NPS, Rock Creek Pkwy, Joyce Rd. and Wise Rd. will stay open. Beach Drive, though, will close to cars today.”

WABA still has not received an update from NPS.

UPDATE 9:32 a.m.: Commenter Bilsko writes, “At about 8:30AM,   I rode the stretch of the CCT trail from the Foundry Branch Park tunnel down into Georgetown with no sign of enforcement of closure – there were plenty of cyclists heading in both directions on the trail. There was also someone (NPP, perhaps) doing something with the lock mechanism on the gate, but I didn’t have a chance to stop and find out what.”

UPDATE 9:03 a.m.: Our bike ambassador Pete Beers writes: “The only trail closure on the west side of town is the C&O Towpath.  The tough part is that the Cap Crescent Trail connects to C&O at the edge of Montgomery County… so it is closed before getting to Georgetown. People are ignoring the barriers. My friend Ricky took that. I shared it on my Facebook wall. Other stuff seems to be open. I haven’t heard about stuff coming in from Tacoma Park or Rock Creek Park yet.”

NPS’ Capital Crescent Entrance Improvements Complete

Last month, the National Park Service announced that it would make safety improvements to the Capital Crescent Trail’s entrance:

“Plans to enhance visitor safety and improve the aesthetics of this historic area include filling in all ruts and depressions in the drive-through arch of the Alexandria Aqueduct to create a smooth and level surface. Installation of a bicycle-friendly gate at the Georgetown side of the aqueduct will prevent vehicles from driving upstream and replace the single bollard located 200 feet upstream that had previously served this purpose but that was knocked over frequently by errant cars. Signage and striping to warn visitors as they approach the gate and direct them towards the 5 ½ feet-wide opening will be installed. Additional signs will be posted that alert visitors to the fact that they are leaving a non-motorized trail and entering a public road.”

We’re pleased to see that those improvements have taken shape. See photos of the new gate below:

NPS' Capital Crescent Trail Improvements

NPS' Capital Crescent Trail Improvements

Photos by Greg Billing