Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) requested the National Park Service keep a portion of Beach Drive N.W. closed to motor vehicle traffic in order for cyclists, walkers and runners to fully and safely enjoy Rock Creek Park. (Photo by Micha Green)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. and Digital Editor
mgreen@afro.com

D.C.’s elected Representative to Congress Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) is always fighting for her constituents even though she has no voting rights in the House, and one way is by creating more enjoyable and safe outside time for Washingtonians who take advantage of Rock Creek Park.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a portion of Beach Drive N.W. has been closed off to motor vehicles in order to encourage outdoor merriment and exercise, particularly as many indoor locations had limited access and capacity.  Despite gyms and businesses opening up as normal, Norton wrote the National Park Service (NPS) to request that a portion of Beach Drive N.W. remain closed to vehicular traffic.

In a May 26 letter addressed to NPS Acting Director Shawn Benge, Norton clearly stated her desire to keep the portion of Beach Drive N.W. closed.  

“I request that the National Park Service (NPS) permanently close to motor vehicles the portion of Beach Drive N.W. in the District of Columbia that has been closed to motor vehicles during the coronavirus pandemic. NPS closed this portion to motor vehicles during the pandemic to provide more space for pedestrians, bicyclists and recreation. Thousands of people have used Beach Drive over the last year to walk, run, bike and play,” the elected official wrote.

This reporter, in fact, regularly runs and hikes through Rock Creek Park, and has benefited firsthand from the closure, which allows for people to also properly social distance on crowded days in the park, as they can walk, run and bike in the streets to give others space and privacy.

“As we shift to post-pandemic life, there is much we have learned about our values as a community,” Norton wrote in her letter.  “One of those lessons is the benefit of spending time outdoors. We want to take advantage of the opportunity the temporary closure of Beach Drive provided to prioritize health, outdoor recreation and other forms of transportation by making the closure permanent.”

Many social users support Norton’s request.

“Permanently close motor vehicles to large swaths of Beach Drive N.W. is the way to go,” twitter user Zach Israel wrote.

“Thank you. Having access to the park to walk and cycle beyond the weekend has made such a difference this past year,” Carline Watson tweeted.

One user expressed concern that permanently closing Beach Drive N.W. would present issues in terms of through traffic.

“Thank you for showing no concern for the neighborhoods that will have MORE high speed commuter traffic on our streets that don’t have sidewalks or traffic calming measures,” one person tweeted.

However, other social media users liked the idea so much they felt like larger portions of the park should be closed to vehicular traffic and consider those in Maryland.  

“Thank you ! Limiting all of Beach Drive to biking and walking would really be transformative throughout D.C. and MoCo.  How about that,” Erwin Rose wrote, while also tagging Rep. Jamie Ruskin (D- Maryland) and Democratic Maryland Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen.

Norton asked Benge reply to her request on the permanent closure by June 11.

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Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor