Heads Up, New Hours at the Zoo starting Jan. 1st

Photo by PoPville flickr user Ian Livingston

Thanks to a reader for sharing a letter from the Director of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park:

“Beginning January 1, 2016, the Zoo’s hours of operation will be modified so that our gates will open later and close a little earlier.

You’ve heard me state that the safety of the National Zoo’s guests, staff, and animals is my number one priority. We constantly think about safety as well as improvements that will allow our team and vendors to move freely around the park during early morning hours. From animal food deliveries and vet appointments to supply drops and grounds maintenance, this critical early morning work ensures that your Zoo runs smoothly and is prepared for visitors. The new closing hours enable us to protect and safeguard our visitors and animals, especially when it gets dark earlier in fall and winter.

We’ve evaluated the impact of these changes on our neighbors and community. We’re aware that joggers and walkers use the park for recreation, and that commuters use the North Road as a shortcut— although it is not a public road. Knowing that we will frustrate some of our neighbors, changing the Zoo’s open hours was a very difficult decision.I hope that you will appreciate and support my decision knowing that I cannot, and will not, compromise on safety issues. Moreover, this adjustment will enable the Zoo to use our time and resources in the most efficient manner possible.

The change will allow us to open our animal houses one hour earlier, giving our visitors more access to see animals, which is the primary reason people come to your great National Zoo.”

zoo hours

22 Comment

  • I guess that means no morning run through the zoo for me…

  • Aw man, jogging through the zoo in the early mornings is one of my favorite things!

  • Boooo…this neighbor is not happy with this news. The early morning walks through the Zoo are the best. Well, I guess I should say were the best. Sigh.

  • Does this mean the Harvard Street bridge will be closing at the new hours too? If so, they have to find some way to make crossing onto the Rock Creek trails safer. So many people cross the highway right by the zoo when the bridge is closed, and it’s only a matter of time before someone slips and is seriously hurt or killed crossing.

    • Agreed! The Zoo now also has an inside gate/fence that they didn’t always have and so I’m wondering if they will open the gate at Harvard at the earlier time so runners/walkers can safely get to the trial and cars can access Beach Drive

    • +1. It’s an awful setup even when the bridge is open. There needs to be simpler and safer way to get to the trail from Harvard or Adams Mill that’s independent of the Zoo gates.

  • I too like to run and walk in the Zoo. An 8 am opening time is ridiculous. Does anyone know why (did something happen)? I always felt safe inside even when it was dark. Why not have a security guard walking around 6 am to 8 am in the winter? This really stinks.

    • It’s probably more to do with all the early morning contractors, deliveries, etc than safety. Although, the last few times I’ve run through, I’ve had to call up there to let them know their lights were out on the bridge over RCP and at the entrance. It was pitch black.

  • Another slightly disgruntled runner who likes to get on the path in the mornings from Harvard. Guess it is what it is. I hate running through the tunnel though so I hope those gates can be opened before 8am.

  • Gorgeous photo for this thread.

  • Yet another runner here. This saddens me greatly.

    • This is terrible news. I moved to this neighborhood in order to run in the zoo before work, and now will not be able to. And it is insulting to say this is about safety — there are solutions, and compromise is essential to good relations with the neighbors. Very sad.

      • Blithe

        How is this “insulting”? Do you have information that suggestions that this is not about safety? I’m sure that there are, indeed, solutions, although I would be interested in reading your suggestions about what they should be. As to a “compromise”, and “good relations with the neighbors”, I’m kind of stumped. I think it’s wonderful that the Smithsonian has had extended hours that allow the community to use the space in a variety of ways. I’m guessing that having extended hours requires additional staff hours, including security. Would you view it as a “compromise” if neighbors and other people who want to use the property — which the letter points out is not public — were able to finance the security services that it would take to open the property before 8am — if that’s one of the critical issues? I’m not familiar with the FONZ program, but if this is one of those problems that money could solve, perhaps financial support through special memberships or dedicated donations could be explored.
        -Gorgeous picture!

        • The Zoo creates a number of safety problems for park users with its policies. Not mentioned in the note, or in the comments yet, is an additional issue bike commuters face. Already, the Zoo shuts and locks gates along the multi-use path that runs along the parkway and Beach Drive around opening and closing time each day. This requires cyclists commuting during normal working hours to use the tunnel, which is dangerous, or undertake an extensive diversion around the Zoo whenever the gates are closed.

          If I understand the likely affect of the changes in the note, morning cyclists will face a locked gate until 8:00 a.m. when trying to use a public path on public land in full daylight. The hours are slightly better in the evenings now, but cyclists attempting to use a safe bike path to commute to and from work still face an arbitrary policy of gate closures along what is otherwise an open public pathway.

        • Accountering

          We do finance the operations of the zoo – through taxes. This is the result the republicans running the show, and not wanting to spend money on anything good, ever. The flyover states and the south voting for Republicans is why we can’t have nice things.

      • Ashy Oldlady

        Your coworkers may thank you.

  • I’m not in the neighborhood anymore, but on the rare occasions I drove, gutting through the zoo at 7:00 was a great shortcut, avoiding the mess in Woodley Park to get onto RCP. This is going to snarl up a lot of commutes.

  • Boo at the Zoo!

  • Does anyone know if there is anything that could be done? A petition? Or discussion? As a runner who has been running in the Zoo in the mornings for many years I am heartbroken. But that aside I am really worried about alternate running/commuter/transportation routes in that area. If they do not open the fence and people are forced through the tunnel I shudder to think of the injuries that could occur. I wonder if there could possibly be a compromise of 7am so that commuters could still safely get to work? This 2 hour change seems quite extreme. To have those safe routes blocked until 8am is really frustrating.

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