Staff Editorial: Agencies must promptly address Glover Archbold trail closure

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The bridge's deteriorating condition prompted the National Park Service to close the trail passing below it. (Mark Lieberman/The Current/June 2017)

The District benefits from its ample acreage of public parkland, and trails through that space are an invaluable amenity for residents and visitors. They are a source of recreation away from the bustle of city life, and they can also provide a pleasant route for pedestrians or bicyclists.

Unfortunately, one lovely and convenient spot between Foxhall and Georgetown has faced an extended closure. For nearly a year, Glover Archbold Park’s north-south trail has been closed between Canal Road and P Street NW due to the advanced deterioration of the abandoned Foundry Branch Bridge that passes overhead.

The bridge carried trolleys from Georgetown to Glen Echo, Md., until service ended in 1960. More recently, residents have pushed for the bridge to be restored as a pedestrian connection to the Georgetown University campus. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority owns the bridge, and simply wants to demolish it.

We’d be disappointed if Metro were to tear down the old bridge, which has potential value both for transportation and for preservation, given its status as “contributing” to the Glover Archbold Park Historic District. But the status quo really isn’t acceptable. Prospective users of the trail have been turned away from the fenced-off area for months, rerouted out of the park to nearby streets. Others ignore the closure and put themselves at risk from the bridge’s falling debris.

Accordingly, whatever is done with the bridge — demolition or repair — needs to be done promptly. The involvement of a diverse mix of stakeholders — in this case Metro, the National Park Service and the D.C. Historic Preservation Office — is rarely conducive to fast action. But we urge the parties to adopt a greater sense of urgency, rather than allowing the closure to continue indefinitely.