One group of DC residents wishes to see the 2600 block of Klingle Road restored as a convenient east-west motorway linking Reno Road and Beach Drive. Then there are those who would rather see it developed along the lines of its more recent de facto function, as a rustic pedestrian pathway through Klingle Valley into Rock Creek Park. Until this dispute is resolved, Klingle Road has received little to no attention from municipal work crews and stands as a case study in urban neglect.
Fallen trees crisscross the former roadway, breaching the surface at odd intervals with all the power of the world’s slowest-motion jackhammer. Manhole covers have literally rusted to pieces, and underground drainage pipes have opened up, burping their contents onto the roadway. Successive rainfalls have resulted in jagged crags in the pavement that easily reach depths of a foot or more. I visited on a dry day at the end of a dry week, and the roadway was still a veritable tributary of nearby Klingle Creek.
Near the bottom of the valley, where the roadway has indeed tumbled away completely, creek and roadway finally merge the way that nature clearly wants them to do.
Like urban explorers, graffiti artists revel in the inattention of authorities. Given long periods of uninterrupted time in which to work, they have turned the underside of Klingle Valley Bridge into an impressive canvas. It is a colorful and discourteous pastiche of popular culture – Spider-Man, Ninja Turtles, and characters of artists’ own invention, crudely rendered between elaborate tags.
The decimated roadway also offers a rare vantage point on single-arch steel Klingle Valley Bridge overhead. This Art Deco bridge dates from 1930-1932. On the day I visited, some hapless worker left one of the usually locked doors to its internal superstructure standing wide open.
Since this was an unexpected opportunity, I was not prepared with a flashlight, but the cool light of a single sodium-vapor lamp provided minimal guidance within the bridge’s abutment. The heavy sounds of traffic doppler through the tall, narrow space inside, providing a bewildering sense of movement all around. This, coupled with signs that somebody had slept here the night before and hoped to return – a shirt left to dry on a rail, an unopened can of tuna – suggest an eerie sense of life in this usually uninhabited space.
After two decades of disputation, the road will be replaced with a trail for hikers and bicyclists. A permit to begin restoration of the creek bed, retaining walls, and water permeable trail was granted in Oct. 2014. “Klingle Trail Completion” is a $3 million line item in the FY2013-2018 District Capital Improvements budget. Programming $1.5 million in FY2014, and $1.5 million in FY2015, the recreational trail may finally be completed in 2016, 25 years after the closing of Klingle Road due to stormwater damage.
Rock Creek Park
DCinruins Volume 2: Local Witness published by Insignificant Press.