National Zoo blocks pedestrian access from the east
Tourists often reach the National Zoo by Metro to the Connecticut Avenue entrance. But many local residents walk or bike to the east side gate off Harvard Street from Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, or nearby neighborhoods. Begninning this spring, they have been turned away, as the Zoo closed all east side entrances due to construction.
At the Harvard Street bridge, a sign directs visitors to the Connecticut Avenue entrance. While this detour may inconvenience someone in a car, it forces a nearly 1.5-mile walk for pedestrians. Rather than walking back through Adams Morgan, people began walking down the dirt shoulder of an off-ramp and crossing Beach Drive to enter the Zoo.
Rather than finding a way to accommodate pedestrians, the National Park Service put up a temporary fence to prevent people from walking on the shoulder. This resulted in people simply walking on the actual onramp, resulting in an even more dangerous situation. ABC 7 News reported on this matter earlier in the month.
Eventually the Zoo established a shuttle bus to take visitors from the Harvard Street gate around to Connecticut Avenue. The bus service, however, is infrequent and not a solution for pedestrians. On at least one recent weekend, the Park Serivce stationed police to keep pedestrians off the ramp. This past weekend, a reader reports that a jogger was struck by a car while crossing Beach Drive at this spot.
While the inconvenience is only temporary, it calls into question the Zoo's interest in being a good neighbor to those on the east side of the park. By closing the Harvard Street bridge, the Zoo not only cut off pedestrian access, but also to the jogging and bike trail.
The bike lane on Harvard Street directs cyclists to use the Zoo's bridge to connect to the trail in Rock Creek, but even under normal conditions that bridge is closed whenever the Zoo is closed. As a result, residents on the east side of the park must go all the way through Adams Morgan and cross Rock Creek via Calvert Street. The other option is going north to Klingle Road, and then going across via Porter Street.
Adding a connection somewhere in the middle, that is not dependent on Zoo hours, would solve this problem. Reader John C. suggests a bike and pedestrian bridge connecting Mount Pleasant to Jewett Road, a street that travels the perimeter of the Zoo. Jewett Road currently has no pedestrian access, and is only open during Zoo hours. A bike and jogging path alongside Jewett Road would let pedestrians and cyclists easily travel from Mount Pleasant to the Rock Creek Trail, or to the businesses on Connecticut Avenue in Cleveland Park. This would involve cooperation from the Zoo, but would prove a great benefit to the community.
A possible location for a pedestrian bridge connecting Jewett Road to Mount Pleasant (via Kenyon Street, for example).
The east side gate to the Zoo is only 0.7 miles from the Columbia Heights Metro, and is within walking distance of many growing neighborhoods. The Zoo should take more interest in encouraging people who live nearby to visit by foot.
Presently, the DC Circulator advertises that it goes to the zoo, via its stop in Woodley Park. Interestingly enough, the Circulator's westbound stop at 16th and Columbia is only 0.5 miles from the eastern gate, while the stop at Woodley Park is 0.4 miles from the main gate on Connecticut. There are plenty of options out there to make the Zoo more a part of neighborhoods both to the east and the west.
After hearing about the closure of the Harvard Street bridge, Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) asked Zoo officials about the construction project, and if the end result would be more pedestrian friendly. The Zoo responded noting the addition of the shuttle bus service, as well as the temporary signage at the closed bridge.
Debra Nauta-Rodriguez, the acting executive officer of the Zoo, has promised Graham a further response to these concerns.
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