Environmentalists prevail in court battle over trail

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Photo - Rock Creek Park (Examiner file photo)
Rock Creek Park (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Transportation,Liz Essley

A new trail is on its way to Rock Creek Park after a judge ruled against residents seeking to rebuild a road there instead.

Klingle Road, a roughly half-mile stretch that runs between Beach Drive and the National Cathedral, washed out in 1991 and has been the center of a two-decade dispute that may now have reached its final chapter.

Seven local residents lost their case in court earlier this month when the judge ruled they didn't have standing to sue. The residents argued that the road was a vital shortcut between neighborhoods necessary for senior citizens and others dependent on cars, as well as emergency vehicles.

"The right of way was given to all of D.C. in the 1880s to be used as a road. D.C. doesn't have the right to turn it into a trail," said plaintiff and Cleveland Park resident Patty Hahn.

Gale Black, another plaintiff, said the road was a civil rights issue.

"You're supposed to keep the city connected. All this talk of 'One City,' and what they said was, 'You guys east of Rock Creek, we don't want you over here,' " she said. "We should have been able to rely on using that public resource."

But trail advocates say not many cars ever took the road, and that a trail would be better for the environment.

"This is a uniquely valuable segment of park here," said Jim Dougherty, a lawyer for the Sierra Club. "There was no transportation function to be served. The ambulances couldn't use it because it didn't really take you anywhere."

Black said her group didn't know if they would proceed with further legal action.

The D.C. Department of Transportation is planning to start construction on the trail in the spring of 2014, six years after it was authorized by the D.C. Council. The work will take between 12 and 18 months and cost $8 million to $11 million, depending on how much the department works on restoring the stream, agency spokeswoman Monica Hernandez said.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner