The National Park Service (NPS) announced Wednesday that it will keep the upper portion of Beach Drive closed to vehicles year-round, a victory for cyclists and pedestrians who enjoy using the major corridor that snakes through northern Washington, D.C.
According to a news release, Beach Drive will remain closed to motorized vehicles in three sections:
- From Broad Branch Road to Joyce Road
- From Picnic Area 10 to Wise Road
- From West Beach Drive to the D.C./Maryland line.
Bingham Drive and Sherrill Drive also will remain closed to motorized vehicles.
The NPS made its decision after publishing an environmental impact statement for public review, and reviewing traffic impacts with the District’s Department of Transportation. Portions of Beach Drive have been permanently closed to motor vehicles since April 2020, in order to promote social distancing for pedestrians and cyclists during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The upper portion of Beach Drive is a minor road that carries a small amount of traffic relative to nearby roadways,” according to a news release. “The DDOT traffic studies concluded that a full closure to motorized vehicles would result in minimal impact to traffic during peak commute times.”
Residents who supported keeping motor vehicles off Beach Drive said that the closure would allow greater recreational opportunities and help the region work toward reducing greenhouse emissions and reaching climate change goals. Those against it said that the inability to use the road greatly lengthened their commute times and led to greater traffic issues.
The Rock Creek Conservancy lauded NPS’ decision.
“Permanently opening Upper Beach Drive for recreation reflects a deep commitment to equitable access to recreation and protection of natural resources,” Jeanne Braha, the organization’s executive director, said in a prepared statement. “The Conservancy is pleased to offer significant support to Rock Creek Park to ensure that Rock Creek Park continues to be the heart, lungs, and soul of our region, even with increased recreational use.”