National Zoo wants to reduce entrances from 13 to 3, add security gates. What do you think?

Artist’s rendering of the proposed entrance to the zoo off Connecticut Avenue. (Courtesy of the National Capital Planning Commission and WAMU)

Update: the National Capital Planning Commission has put the plans on hold, according to Greater Greater Washington. "At the NCPC meeting, both zoo officials and NCPC planners referred to the high volume of public comments... Several members of the commission were hesitant to approve this security step without having a fuller understanding of the big picture."

The Smithsonian Institute is proposing to put up vehicle fencing and to reduce the number of entrances at the National Zoo from 13 down to three, and adding security gates up as well.

What do you think?

If you're not a fan, Greater Greater Washington has a petition going to ask the Zoo not to close off the entrances. You can sign the petition here -> 

From a WAMU article:

The Smithsonian Institution has submitted a plan to the National Capital Planning Commission to add more perimeter fencing around the zoo, and to reduce the number of pedestrian entrances from 13 to three. The NCPC will review the proposal next Thursday.

In a future phase of the project, the Smithsonian plans to build security checkpoints at entrances, according to NCPC documents that summarize the plan. It will also start construction soon on a multistory garage with over 1,000 spaces for cars that eventually will add an additional entrance.

The National Zoo is the only public Smithsonian without permanent security screening. The proposal states that the entrance will “maintain its welcoming feel while providing a clear threshold between the public sidewalk and the Zoo’s Olmstead Walk.”

Under the proposed plan, visitors on foot would be able to access the zoo only through three pedestrian entrances: the Connecticut Avenue entry, a bus lot off North Road and the Lower Zoo Entry on the zoo’s eastern edge. The security-screening checkpoint at Connecticut Avenue will include four screening stations with magnetometers.

Current and proposed gates at the zoo.

Greater Greater Washington calls the changes "security theater":

Today the National Zoo is an open public space and an integrated, walkable part of Rock Creek Park and the Woodley Park and Adams Morgan neighborhoods with 13 entrances. The proposal would fence off ten of these and gate the remaining three, which will make what is now an accessible public attraction and thoroughfare into a less inviting, less vibrant place. Making the zoo harder to reach on foot or by bicycle by local visitors will substantially alter the special role the zoo has played in the lives of generations of DC families. There are better ways to use our tax dollars to keep the zoo safe. 

This is not a done deal. The Smithsonian Institute sent this plan to the National Capital Planning Commission which will discuss the fences at their meeting on July 12th. The agency is still taking comments. Send a message that we will not sacrifice inclusive urbanism for a show of security.

If you are cool with the changes, feel free to leave a comment below. If you think more community input is required, sign the petition.

Drew Schneider

Local DC blogger in Petworth, Washington DC.

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