by Paul Harrison
For a neighborhood so close to the urban gem that is Rock Creek Park, Forest Hills surprisingly lacks easy and accessible ways to walk to Beach Drive and the many forest trails that diverge from it.
The Trust for Public Land, among others, has well established the health and economic benefits of park access. So, improving walking access to Rock Creek Park is an important priority for both the immediate neighbors and everyone who can walk from either the surrounding communities or from the Van Ness Metro station.
Soapstone Trail is beautiful, but it is impassable during bad weather and inaccessible to anyone not comfortable with multiple “balance on a wet rock” stream crossings. Also, it is soon to be subject to the necessary but disruptive sewer reconstruction project.
For many residents, access from Brandywine and Davenport Streets is steeper and further away, and both roads unfortunately bring walkers and bikers close to car traffic. Reducing the distance and elevation walkers must experience along Broad Branch Road before reaching Beach Drive will make the walk easier and more attractive.
We need another route. Cleaning up and improving the land that connects the dead end of Albemarle Street to Broad Branch Road is the lowest hanging fruit for improving access for all.
Tucked between the Italian and Malaysian residences, the paved portion of Albemarle Street NW in Forest Hills dead ends a mere 300 feet from Broad Branch Road. The District owns the connecting land, but the right of way is abandoned, unimproved, and used as an occasional dumping ground for yard cleanup debris.
This is far from a new idea. Then-ANC 3F commissioner Bob Summersgill called for it in 2013. The ANC went as far as to pass a resolution on December 20th, 2016 urging DDOT to use the right of way for a combination staircase and bike ramp path. Plus, neighbors have told me that there have been efforts in the past to clean up and improve the area.
With Soapstone reconstruction scheduled to start as soon as this winter, and planning for Broad Branch Road reconstruction continuing, now is the ideal time to revisit the issue, perhaps starting with a neighborhood cleanup event to explore, discuss, and make a dent in the overgrown vegetation.
If this interests you, reach out to me via firstname.lastname@example.org about either helping to plan the cleanup day or reaching out to the relevant agencies to get improving Albemarle Street access into official maintenance and construction programs.
Paul Harrison is a resident of the 3000 block of Albemarle Street NW along with his school-aged son, partner Nez, and retired parents.