Housing Complex

Klingle Krazies Go Another Round

It's a little, little pathway. (www.klingletrail.com)

It's a little, little pathway. (www.klingletrail.com)

At the beginning of a public meeting last night on a new environmental assessment for the Klingle Valley trail, the moderator warned a small collection of audience members that applause and booing were not allowed, the meeting was not a debate, and personal attacks would not be tolerated.

“You will be asked to leave,” he said.

It was surprising, but perhaps justified, for the next round in a 15-year struggle that has pitted environmentalists against car-lovers and generated more discussion in the City Council than any 1-mile stretch has a right to do. It’s gone on so long that many of the original advocates involved since the road washed out in 1991 have moved to different parts of the city, and the sociopolitical landscape has changed such that it’s hard to cast the debate as wealthy people living west of Rock Creek vs. less wealthy people east of it.

In 2008, the Council reversed its opinion from 2003, voting that the non-functional old road should be turned into a trail for hikers and bicyclists rather than rebuilt as a road for cars. Accordingly, the new environmental assessment outlines three options for a trail, with various widths, kinds of surfaces, and degrees of lighting. The Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth have fought for a narrow trail with no lighting, in order to have least impact on nocturnal wildlife, and advocated for more cross-town bus routes to help ease traffic through the park.

But while the trail idea is popular among cyclists and hikers around the city, several local organizations still want their road back. Last week, the local ANC voted against the conversion of the broken-down road into a trail. Laurie Collins testified on behalf of the Coalition to Repair and Reopen Klingle Road—calling the proposed trail a “three-block hike-bike path to nowhere”—and also came with the backing of the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Alliance, which she previously headed. Fay Armstrong added the weight of Historic Mount Pleasant to the anti-trail forces, invoking the road’s 125-year history as a public highway, and Lewis Baskerville represented the Crestwood Neighborhood League.

Primarily, they argue that it’s actually illegal, since the Council hasn’t officially performed a street closing, which the EA suggests is a necessary step. But considering the 2008 vote, it seems likely that the Council would let it through without much trouble.

The more threatening prospect is a lawsuit from the Tregaron Limited Partnership, which owns several lots on the defunct road. Since the road washed out, the city ruled that the once-contiguous estate could be subdivided, leaving room for five high-end houses that would need the road as a road in order to access their driveways.

“The plan to close Klingle Road and make it into trail makes it a landlocked site, and makes it impossible to access,” said the Partnership’s attorney, Cynthia Giordano. “We will be legally taking action on this matter.”

The District Department of Transportation is still recieving input from other agencies within the D.C. government, and taking comments until July 6th, so the final environmental assessment could look different. Barring a successful lawsuit, though, or another massive change of heart by the City Council, it seems Klingle Trail is headed towards some sort of reality in the coming year.

  • Northwesterner

    It is entirely inaccurate to state that the Klingle Road issue pits environmentalists against "car lovers." The take over of a public road by wealthy landowners to bloick "east of the park" residents in Mt Pleasant from driving west toward the Maret Private School is all about equal access to the city. No one seriously argues that Klingle Road was closed for environmental reasons. That is a joke. Did you just move to the city? You clearly do not know your city.

  • John

    Not surprising at all to see Laurie Collins take the stand... Somebody buy her a one way ticket to Cleveland already.
    I'm a MTP resident myself and would actually much rather have the trail. Most of the rock creek trails run directly parallel to cars, making jogging and biking in a national park way less peaceful than it should be. I will jog on the Klingle Trail daily if it gets built. The road was never really needed anyway. I grew up west of the park and walked over Klingle Road via the Conn Ave bridge all the time. Cars were a rare sight on the road when it was open and its closing has clearly had little impact. Time to repurpose the land.

  • Carol

    The hike trail is next to the Tregaron Conservancy 13 acre park, which is why it makes no sense. This was a road for 106 years and I want the road back to drive on. If a bike wants to ride there too, okay. The area being discussed is about three blocks long in the middle of an existing road that cars drive on every day. I look forward to having Laurie Collins in my passenger seat when we drive all of Klingle Road.

  • John

    Sorry Carol, but I think the next time you and Laurie are on that stretch of Klingle you are more likely to be on a tandem bicycle.

  • Bill

    @John, so you will jog on the path. How about the folks who don't drive, or the elderly and handicapped? How are they supposed to get up that 12% steep grade from Mt. Pleasant to Woodley?

    Over 3,000 cars a day used that road, which included the elderly, the handicapped, which is far from rare.

    It's a $7M dollar dog park.

  • Joe Keyerleber

    During previous hearings bicyclists were heard to say they would never ride on a Klingle Trail. The hill is too steep for many people. One bicyclist said she would be afraid of the isolation if there were no presence of vehicles. Mary Cheh somehow led the council into making a big mistake when they voted against repairing the road. It is time to fix this mistake, repair the road, and let people and their vehicles on it again--it has been a public road for over 100 years, and it still is. It is the only east-west route through the park that bypasses Connecticut Avenue. Restoring Klingle Road is environmentally correct. It will alleviate congestion, idling vehicles and air pollution on Porter and Tilden Streets.

  • John

    Bill- I guess you mean the people who don't jog? I guess they would get to Woodley the same way they have been for the last 15 years that the road has been closed. A minor detour. As for 3000 cars a day. I'm pretty sure that study was deemed flawed. Can you link to it though. I've never seen it.

  • Bill

    @John, Nope afraid that study was not deemed flawed. In fact, it's documented in numerous studies, reports, and newspaper articles.

    Also check out page D-1 here:

  • Eleanor

    Klingle Road was closed due to a storm-drain back-up that was not repaired in a timely manner. This created a dead end of sorts for a few very influential residents who lived at one end of the road. They liked that. It did wonders for their property values. They convinced a lot of well-meaning environmentalists to support their plan by shouting out "Klingle Valley Trail" and "Klingle Valley Park". The environmentalists flocked to their cause. These residents eventually sold their houses at a generous bonus and are all gone now.
    Those of us who are left have been spinning our wheels and wasting the tax payers' money ever since trying to get the road repaired. The 3200+ cars that used this road daily are burning more carbon fuels by driving around this bottle neck and those of us who live in the surrounding residential side streets have all those extra carbons dusted over our houses, streets, children and gardens.

  • John

    Eleanor- What bottleneck? There is none. Thats just it. The road has been closed for 15 years and the effects of that were never felt. You fools are arguing that there is this great need for a road that we have done just fine with out for 15 years.

  • DC Guy

    Interesting choice of words by Laurie Collins. If the trails is a trail to "nowhere", how does that speak to the idea of a road?

    With respect to the Tregaron Partnership, these dolts have tried for 30 years to cram hundreds, then scores, and now a handful of houses onto the property. They have failed at every turn, and even when they were granted permission, they haven't even executed on the lots available on Macomb Street. I would have a lot more sympathy for them if those 2-4 houses had been built. They have the option of building their own road within the property to access the lots fronting on Klingle. Indeed, I do not recall ever seeing additional curb-cuts on Klingle as an option. This is a red-herring argument.

  • Paula Product

    Eleanor, the "3200+ cars that used" Klingle Road are not "burning more carbon fuels by driving around this bottle neck". (As others point out, it's not a "bottleneck." It's not an area where traffic gets squeezed from a wide space to a narrow space. Neither has the absence of the road proved to be a significant obstacle to car traffic.) In fact, 95% of those cars aren't the road anymore. Because the last time they could drive on it was 20 years ago. And whatever your parochial interest in having a road through a streambed to connect MTP more directly Mass. Ave., you've managed pretty well for 20 years without it. (And children of the Maryland commuters who wanted a quicker route f to Maret and St. Albans have long since graduated.). I'm sure the homeowners near it, no longer on a busy, narrow roadway, have many personal motives for not wanting a road there. So what? (It seems to me that if there is the great car mobility benefit that Klingle Road car-lovers claims, these same homeowners would enjoy many of the supposed benefits.) Who cares if some participants have ulterior motives for preferring trail to road? Just because a handful of people support a trail for selfish reasons doesn't make a trail any worse an option, and it certainly doesn't add to the very weak arguments for building a road there. (And yes, turning this into a roadway for cars would require "building" a road, not "repairing" it. That's a prospect that would cost many times the cost of a trail. But Klingle car-lovers never mention that their proposal would cost the rest of us millions more.)

  • Columbia Heights resident

    Make it a trail. I live in Columbia Heights and grew up in Tenleytown. All my life, the only time I drove on that road was when I was going to or from Maret and/or when I was driving drunk with my friends. We knew there would be no cars on that stretch of Klingle Road and no cops. It was a dangerous road "to nowhere."

    Now that I'm slightly more mature at age 42, I find the outcry over turning it into a trail is nothing short of a farce.

    The creek there is in pathetic shape and I've heard over and over again from Park officials, including at public hearings, how it's having a major detrimental impact on Rock Creek.

    I've heard the arguments from the roadies and just don't buy them. I've been a resident of northwest for 42 years and that road ain't worth reopening. Now can we move on?

  • Bill

    Quite honestly, who in their right minds will approve a $7MILLION DOLLAR DOG PARK when you can spend the same money for a road that would benefit everyone?

    @DC Guy: Klingle "Road" is still classified as a collector road and it carried 3,200 cars a day, east and west of Rock Creek Park.


  • John

    Bill- we are now up to 3200 cars a day? I'm beginning to think you carried out this study yourself while Laurie Collins drove back and forth on the road 3000 times. Nobody who witnessed the road when it was open would ever believe 3200 cars a day. 3200 cars a day rerouted would have had a tangible effect on surrounding traffic. That effect was never experienced. Which is why there was never a scramble to repair the road. You car folk are always saying the trail people have their own selfish motives. Are yours any less selfish? You wish to shave precious few minutes off your cross town trips. A noble cause indeed.

  • Bill

    @John, you're kidding right, or maybe you are a little slow with comprehension? I pointed you to the KR Feasibility Study link which, besides other numerous publications and traffic studies, confirms 3200 cars drove on that road every day.

    Second, this has nothing to do with Ms. Collins who you seem to have some personal grudge against and doesn't help your cause, whatever that might be.

    To address what you refer to as "tangible effect on surrounding traffic," do your research. Start here:

    Hard data like: "Closing of Klingle Road has impacted Porter Street and its intersection with Connecticut Avenue. Traffic turning northbound increased-by about 32 percent, whereas traffic oriented southbound on Connecticut Avenue increased more than 100 percent.

    It's no wonder the author of this article called it "Klingle Krazies".....

  • John

    Bill- It would only actually matter that traffic increased at Porter and Conn Ave IF that intersection couldn't handle that increase. IF that intersection became a bottleneck. (which it didn't) In fact it is perfectly capable of handling it. I drive it all the time. There are no traffic jams on Porter street. ever. Cars move at a brisk 50 miles an hour on Porter between Cleveland Park and Mount Pleasant. And while an increase of 100 percent in cars turning south on Conn sounds scary it really just means that instead of 1 or 2 cars turning left each light cycle you have 3 or 4. Big deal. Isn't this all a moot point anyway. I thought the Trail was a done deal and we are just picking finishing touches here. Why the debate all over again?

  • Bill

    No, not a done deal. And traffic isn't an issue right now--only the draft EA report, but I wanted to make sure you had facts about the traffic.

    First, and among other things.. the Draft EA stated that there are no federal funds for a hike/bike trail. The EA stated that the road has to be officially closed through the Streets and Alley Closing Act (a hearing before DC Council). It also showed that the hike trail will cost $7M.

    As to no traffic jams on Porter Street ever, if you attended the hearing the other night, even the trail supporters testified how backed up Porter St is--both sides agree to that.

    Hope this helps.

  • Motorist

    Keeping the road closed also helps continue the divide between the predominantly African-American part of the city to the east and the predominantly white part to the west. They used to call Rock Creek Park "The Chinese Wall," and for good reason.

    Jes' sayin'

  • http://dcjack.org Jack

    Times have changed since the 1990s. Mount Pleasant is no longer a wealthy-white enclave with its roots in Ward 3. Sure, we who have lived here for decades remember the convenience of that quick route to Woodley Park and points west, bypassing the notorious backups where Porter crosses Connecticut. Younger residents of Mount Pleasant are more in tune with life in Ward 1, which now offers a full set of resources and amenities, so it's no longer necessary to commute west of the Park for shopping, schools, or restaurants. Younger residents are also less automobile-centered that us older types. It's no accident that the Mount Pleasant voices calling for the return of the road are from the older generation.

    DC needs more bike-commuter routes, and the Klingle Trail will serve as a connector from the Woodley Park residential areas to the bike trail through Rock Creek Park. As for those of us who still have automobile dependence, such as my wife and me, we've gotten along fine without Klingle Road for 19 years, and can continue to do so. This is a small price for car drivers, and a major benefit to bicyclists, both bike commuters and weekend bicyclists.

  • oboe

    The take over of a public road by wealthy landowners to block “east of the park” residents in Mt Pleasant from driving west toward the Maret Private School...

    Exactly: this isn't about drivers vs. environmentalists: it's about the wealthy landowners against the impoverished yet struggling folks who only want to save five minutes while driving their kids to elite $40,000 / year private schools in the morning.

    Who will think of the poor wealthy soccer Moms!!!

    Sorry folks, Klingle's closed, and it ain't coming back anytime soon...

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  • Bill

    @oboe and @Jack Actually there are many people in Mount Pleasant, and outside Mount Pleasant in Ward 1 and Wards 4 and 5 who depended upon Klingle Road getting them across the park. It has nothing to do with education or wealth. You may have gotten along fine without Klingle, but you are a small voice in this debate. There's strong support to get it open.

    Times may have changed, but Klingle Road is not officially closed. It's still open, used by utility vehicles almost daily and it's great that the EA states there's no Federal money for any $7M 3-block hike/bike path to nowhere.

  • Laurie

    The lawyers for Tregaron Limited Partnership, an ownership vehicle for the foreign land speculators who once hoped to develop hundreds of condos at Tregaron, are threatening the city for not building a taxpayer funded road to their private lots? Not that's really rich. Indeed, at the HPRB hearing several years ago at which the HPRB gave conceptual approval to some building lots at Tregaron, Ms. Giordano's colleagues at the Arnold & Porter law firm acknowledged that whether Klingle Road would ever be rebuilt was a separate issue and one that their clients assumed the risk on. And, in fact, the Tregaron speculators have never developed the three lots that currently front public roads (along Woodley and Macomb streets). Moreover, nothing but greed stops the TRP from building a driveway to reach the four additional lots, rather than asking the taxpayers (Federal and local) to build them a a road. Red herring legal action? -- Bring it on, Ms. Giordano!

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