by Jeanne Braha
With COVID-19 limiting our indoor activities, Rock Creek Park has been a popular escape as many of us are enjoying and rediscovering the health benefits of time in nature. However, that increased visitation is taking its toll on Rock Creek’s nearly 3,000 acres of green space. We need your help to take better care of this treasured national park.
This spring and even through the muggy summer, more visitors than ever are taking time out to enjoy Rock Creek Park. We are seeing high levels of water pollution including from dog waste and sewage overflows. Heavy trail use, including of unplanned “social” trails, invites the entry of invasive plants and increases erosion. Sadly, this is exacerbating ongoing problems with invasive plants and water pollution recently reported on by The Washington Post, WAMU and WUSA9.
While time in the park is wonderful for all of us, it is taxing the park’s resources. Rock Creek Conservancy, as an official philanthropic and stewardship partner to Rock Creek Park, is working to support the park and ensure it is here for all to enjoy for generations to come.
More than 40,000 Conservancy volunteers have helped to restore Rock Creek Park and its watershed over the years.
Even if you can’t make it to a volunteer service event or participate in socially-distant stewardship activities, you can be help us take better care of our urban oasis. Follow the #RecreateResponsibly tips to enjoy Rock Creek and be a steward at the same time:
Stay on official, designated trails. It can be tempting to use unofficial “social” trails to get away. Unofficial trails fragment the forest, making them vulnerable to invasion by non-native plants. This can lead to the loss of trees, which support our health and provide critical habitat for wildlife.
Keep dogs leashed while in the park, and always pick up after your pooch. Off-leash animals can stress wildlife and cause damage to native plants, and pet waste washes into the creek and contributes to high bacteria levels.
Explore a new hike by checking out this map of Rock Creek Park trails if your regular hikes tend to be crowded, or visit at a different time of day
“Stay Dry, Stay Safe.” Rock Creek has high levels of bacteria and other infectious pathogens that make swimming, wading, and other contact with the water a hazard to human (and pet) health. Protect yourself and your pooches by staying on trails and out of the creek.
Make sure you “Know Before You Go.” Check out the Rock Creek Park alerts and conditions for information on what’s open, what’s closed, and what’s happening in the park.
If your visits need to be virtual, there are also lots of ways to enjoy Rock Creek online including following #LoveRockCreek on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Check out the Rock Creek calendar for upcoming events, including weekly service opportunities.
Jeanne Braha is the executive director of Rock Creek Conservancy.