THE PARK AND ITS HISTORY
Rock Creek National Park is a long narrow strip of parkland running the entire length of Washington DC along the Rock Creek valley. It starts at the Potomac River and runs north to the Maryland border where it joins Rock Creek Regional Park , under the management of Montgomery County Parks.
The National Park in DC is surrounded by densely populated neighborhoods and commercial areas. A heavily used commuter road runs down its full length and many other roads cross it. In addition to wooded areas, it contains picnic areas, tennis courts, a golf course, an amphitheater and various historic buildings, offices and stables.
Rock Creek National Park was established by law in 1890 to be "perpetually dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasure ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of the United States". It was motivated in part by the 19th Century urban park movement which also led to the creation of Central Park in NY: to provide a respite from the noise, crowding and congestion of the city to peaceful and quiet areas to ride or walk and a chance to observe nature. This was seen as an antidote to unhealthy urban life. Congress also included preservation of the Park's natural resources with this language "regulation shall provide for the preservation from injury or spoilage of all timber, animals, and curiosities within said park and their retention in their natural condition as nearly as possible"
The location of the park arose from its qualities at the time an area for such a park was sought. By the time of the Civil War, the Rock Creek valley contained developed land, including several working mills along the Creek, and a large stretch of forest was cut down to form Military Road and several forts during the Civil War. But there remained a scenic natural area in the Rock Creek Valley which was well known as a beauty and recreation area for residents of the growing nearby suburbs by the 1880's. Historic Resource Study
Move to NPS
In 1933 the park was turned over to the National Park Service, though it did not become a separate entity until1975. During the early and mid-years of the NPS management, the pollution of Rock Creek and the battle over expanding Beach drive were major preoccupations. (Administrative history)
In the 1990's destruction by rampant growth of exotic plants, first mentioned decades earlier, became the Park’s acknowledged greatest problem. In 1996, the Park Service identified invasive non-native plants as “the most serious threat to this natural area and the top management priority.” The report states that “more than one third (36%) of the 656 documented plant species are exotic”, “of these, 41 are aggressive invaders,” “and the numerous landscaped private properties” that surround the park “are sources of 40 out of 41 invasive non-native plants.”
The 2000 Resource Management Report on the “Invasive Non-Native Plant Mitigation Program” for the Park reiterated that “invasive non-native plants seriously threaten the forest by aggressively displacing and killing native plants, reducing native habitats, and stifling forest regeneration.” In 2004, another Park Service report repeated these dire conclusions and added that “exotic (plant) infestations” had reached “critical levels.” (Appeal brief pages 12-14)I
Next Deer in the Park
The period between the establishment of the park and its transfer to the National Park Service included the development of Beach Drive and other roads, the building of a golf course, and the renovation of some historic buildings A Report by the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead was published in 1918 recommending the division of the park into landscape units and the building of unobtrusive roads and structures to enhance the public’s experience of the park. Later the Park was extended by the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway and other additions. This period also saw an early criticism of Park Management for intrusion of rampant weeds destroying some of the park’s landscape areas. In 1933 the park was turned over to the National Park Service, though it did not become a separate entity until1975. During the early and mid-years of the NPS management, the pollution of Rock Creek and the battle over expanding Beach drive were major preoccupations. (Administrative history)