A proposal to restore the 18-hole golf course in Rock Creek Park has caused angst from some residents environmental groups.
The reason: The National Parks Service wants to clear-cut about eight acres, and cut down more than 1,000 trees.
.“I always knew that there were going to have to be a couple of trees taken out here and there to reroute the golf course holes and fairways, but I really did not expect there to be 1,262 trees cut down,” Ward 4 Vanessa Bertelli was quoted as saying by DCist. Bertelli lives near the golf course and volunteers in the park, removing invasive plants.
“If we need to remove a couple to make the golf more exciting, sure, we can talk about that. But 1,262 has to raise concerns,” Bertelli says.
The parks service released an environmental assessment of the proposed golf course rehabilitation on Sept. 25, detailing the number of trees that would need to be removed under the plan.
However, the assessment was not widely publicized, and went unnoticed by most residents and environmental groups. The public comment period was set to close on Oct. 24, but this morning NPS agreed to extend the deadline by 11 days, until Nov. 4, after public pushback, including from D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
“Many of my constituents had not had an opportunity or indeed weren’t even aware of the comment period,” Norton says.
While she has not taken a position herself on the golf course project, Norton says she welcomes the extension, so residents have time to read the lengthy environmental assessment and weigh in, DCist reported.
The course was designed in 1927 by golf course architect William Flynn. Flynn designed the course in a “parklands style,” incorporating stands of trees amidst the fairways, on gently sloping terrain. Flynn’s plan included more open, grassy space for golfing than what exists today. Over the decades, some of the golf course was overtaken by encroaching vegetation, and a large section on the south end was lopped off to build Military Road, the website reports.
“In 2020, a newly formed nonprofit called the National Links Trust won a 50-year lease to operate the golf course. The group proposed the rehabilitation project as a way to “address deferred maintenance, increase playability, broaden course appeal to the local community, and achieve financial stability” for the golf course. Under the plan, the old 18-hole course would be split into two 9-hole courses, with a new driving range. The project would also include a new clubhouse, golf cart building, picnic pavilion, and maintenance building.”
Currently, there are 2,571 trees on the property, and the proposed restoration would result in the removal of about 49 per cent of the trees, with 200 new trees planted after construction is complete. There will also be about 13 new acres of pollinator meadows, native grass meadows, and other naturalized areas.
“We understand the importance of public recreation in Rock Creek Park,” says Kelly Collins Choi, director of policy and land conservation Casey Trees. “But there’s got to be a way to minimize the impacts regarding tree removal.”
Jeanne Braha, executive director of the nonprofit Rock Creek Conservancy, says her organization is still reviewing the environmental assessment. “I will say it’s concerning to see that many trees cut down. We know that Rock Creek’s forests are in poor condition and they need a lot of restoration work,” Braha told DCist..