Washington, DC


3001 Connecticut Ave., NW

“Dear PoPville,

The Zoo fencing plan is back at the National Capital Planning Commission.  The TSA-style security gate is gone from the front entrance (yay!), but the ridiculous fencing everywhere else remains.  Comments are due by noon on Wednesday!

Here’s what I got from NCPC:

At its Thursday, March 7 meeting NCPC will review revised preliminary and final site development plans for supplemental perimeter fencing at the National Zoo.

The project was original submitted for approval in July 2018, when the Commission postponed action due to outstanding questions from the public and Commission regarding the need for the enhanced security measures. The Smithsonian Institution indicated that this revised submission responds to feedback received from local leaders, civic groups, and the public. Major changes include the elimination of permanent security screening pavilions from further consideration.

The Executive Director’s Recommendation is available online, as is the final agenda. Both may also be accessed from https://www.ncpc.gov/. The meeting will begin at 1:00 pm and be streamed live at https://www.ncpc.gov/live/.

If you wish to provide comments on this revised submission, or register to speak on the submission, you may do so through noon on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. Further information is available here: https://www.ncpc.gov/participate/guidelines/.

NCPC Office of the Secretariat

And here’s a copy of what I just submitted:

Having attended several of the public meetings last year, it was clear that people’s objections were not limited to the security screening pavilions.  The community values the openness of the site, and opposes the worsening restrictions pursued by current leadership, whether through fencing, “staff-only” areas, or poorly-coordinated limits on opening hours.  The community also depends on the Commission to restrain the Zoo’s staff from decisions that will harm both the institution and the broader community.

Specifically, the proposed fences that restricts visitors from directly entering the exhibits from various parts of the Zoo grounds (Segments 2 through 4)  are *not* required for accreditation.  It will simply insert an off-putting and unnecessary impingement on visitor movement.  There are enough cages at the Zoo — why make people feel like they’re in one too, from the moment they arrive?  Our zoo has a sense of openness that is unique among major zoos — because every other comparable Zoo in the U.S. requires admission, and therefore must limit funnel all visitors through a ticket booth.  It is incompatible with the history and purpose of the National Zoo to impose such needless restrictions.  At a minimum, any such decisions should await the coming revisions to the Master Plan.

Second, the area and the entrance near Amazonia (Segment 8) has only been arbitrarily decreed as “staff only” relatively recently.  This pointless restriction interferes with a major opportunity to the Zoo to both be more welcoming to visitors, and to deal with transportation restrictions.  That entrance is the *perfect* point of intersection with the existing bicycle trail.  Given the limits on parking capacity and on neighborhood vehicular traffic, a major effort to increase the bicycle mode share for Zoo visitors should be a high priority — but instead the Zoo is proposing more restrictions, more fences, more exclusion.  The proposed approach moves in precisely the wrong direction, and should be soundly rejected by the Commission.  The Commission should instead strongly urge the Zoo to create a dedicated bicycle entrance at that location, with appropriate secure bicycle parking and related facilities, and, through coordination with DDOT and NPS, appropriate way-finding on connecting bicycle routes.”

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