Eleanor Holmes Norton
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton wants to re-designate Rock Creek Park. (Courtesy photo)

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has never been shy about expressing her love for the District.

So it’s no surprise that the Democratic congresswoman has introduced a bill to rename the historic Rock Creek Park in Northwest.

She wants to call it Rock Creek National Park, a designation that Norton said would highlight the significance of the park for the nation, including visitors to the nation’s capital, in addition to District of Columbia residents.

Norton said adding “National” will help recognize Rock Creek as one of the nation’s great historic parks, along with Yosemite and Sequoia. As it is, Rock Creek is the nation’s oldest urban park and the third-oldest federal park.

“Rock Creek Park is one of the nation’s oldest and most historic parks and is a treasure not only to hundreds of thousands of D.C. residents, but to the millions who visit the nation’s capital each year,” Norton said. “Formally recognizing Rock Creek Park as one of our country’s great national parks also will help encourage the necessary funding to support the park’s inviting trails, waterways and other unique features.”

In 1975, Donald Byrd and the Blackbyrds released the hit single “Rock Creek Park,” a tribute to the landmark.

The song begins with a groove the band came up with when they opened for the Commodores at a concert in New Jersey, according to songfacts.com. When the Blackbyrds worked on the groove in the studio, drummer Keith Killgo came up with the “in Rock Creek Park” line, and the rest of the band joined in.

“That rhythm made you feel the park. The sound feels like the park,” Killgo said in a previously published interview.

When asked what they are doing in the park after dark, as the song suggests, Killgo said: “having a good time.”

The 1,754-acre city park was officially authorized in 1890, making it the third national park to be designated by the federal government. It offers visitors the opportunity to escape the bustle of the city and find a peaceful refuge, recreation, fresh air, majestic trees, wild animals, and thousands of years of human history, Park Service officials said.

“Renaming this park will highlight its significance to the nation, including visitors to the nation’s capital, and will help get much-needed funding for the park’s inviting trails, waterways and other unique features,” Norton said.

The park was originally designed to preserve animals, timber, forestry and other interests in the park, and to ensure that its natural state is maintained as much as possible for all American people, not just for D.C. residents, she said.

Over time, several structures have been established or donated to further preserve Rock Creek Park. In 1892, for example, the federal government acquired Peirce Mill in Rock Creek Park, one of the mills used by local farmers during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

In 1950, the Old Stone House, located at 3051 M Street in Northwest, with its great pre-Revolutionary War architectural merit, was acquired by the park.

The building was restored, and programs explain the house’s rich history from the colonial period to the present day.

The Fort Circle Parks were also acquired to interpret and preserve the Civil War Defenses of Washington, which created a ring of protection for the nation’s capital during the Civil War.

Today, Rock Creek Park offers residents of D.C., Maryland and northern Virginia, as well as thousands of visitors, an escape from our increasingly urban environment, Norton said.

Residents and tourists alike also enjoy many activities in the park’s 2,000 acres, including hiking and bike riding on the historical trails, horseback riding, picnicking, tennis and other recreational activities in some of the open fields, she said.

“Our residents have expressed their appreciation by volunteering to clean up and maintain the trails and waterways,” Norton said. “Re-designating Rock Creek Park as Rock Creek National Park will help recognize the national status of the park and protect and revitalize this remarkable resource in our nation’s capital and I strongly urge my colleagues to support this legislation.”

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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