WASHINGTON — It’s the oldest urban national park in the country. Rock Creek Park is also a local treasure.
This weekend marks the kickoff of events celebrating the 125th anniversary of the founding of the park, which runs through parts of northwest D.C., extending into suburban Maryland.
“There is a lot of love in this city for Rock Creek Park,” says park superintendent Tara Morrison. She says this year-long observance is “a great opportunity to highlight the richness of the history of Rock Creek Park,” as well as to educate the public about all it has to offer.
The park is lined with multiple use trails that are popular with cyclists, runners and hikers. There is also a junior park ranger program for kids, where they can learn about everything from astronomy to wildlife. Morrison also points to a nature center, planetarium, boathouses and stables as examples of park facilities available to the public.
The 125th anniversary events are a joint effort between the National Park Service and organizations in the community that support the park, such as the Rock Creek Conservancy.
Matthew Fleischer, the group’s executive director, says the goal is “just getting people out and about and in the park, and exploring what is so unique about this green space in the heart of our city.”
He says a new app will help visitors navigate the park and its many components. Fleischer says his organization has also pulled together a group of environmental and political leaders, “to help us look at and examine what Rock Creek Park really means to the city and how we can help revitalize it over the next 125 years.”
Among the members of the “Green Ribbon Panel,” as it is called, is Audrey Peterman — a strong advocate for the National Park Service in the African-American community.
She says there are many people who come to Rock Creek Park, and never connect it to the larger park system. Peterman says her role on the panel is to help get the word out that our parks “are places of incredible beauty — they are the places where our culture evolved.”
The Green Ribbon Panel will present its findings to the National Park Service in September, coinciding with the Sept. 27 anniversary of the founding of Rock Creek Park.