National Park Service plans to reopen Beach Drive to cars in September

At a public hearing Monday, the National Park Service said that it plans to reopen an approximately 4-mile stretch of Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park to drivers by Sept. 5.

That section has been closed to motor vehicle traffic since April 2020 to allow parkgoers to visit the park safely.

Julia Washburn, superintendent of Rock Creek Park, said the decision was the Park Service’s preferred option because it was balanced.

“In this decision, we were really trying to strike a balance and create equity for many of the various people who need and want to use the road,” Washburn said. However, she added the agency is seriously considering accessibility issues too.

The presentation said closing that section during those times creates safer conditions in the summer by reducing conflicts between cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians while also providing routes for cyclists. It also said it allows for fewer disruptions on the local transportation network when traffic volumes are highest.

Another reason it’s the preferred option is that it “provides protection and preservation of wildlife and habitat for several park species.”

Despite that being the preferred option, the service could make changes.

“We are using an adaptive management approach where we will be monitoring how things are going and we will have the option to make changes,” Washburn said.

The service also wants to hear from the public on the decision. The public has until Aug. 11 to comment.

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