Many people see Rock Creek Park as just simply a park where children play, people picnic, run, bike, or hike, and people come together to have a good time and relax. While this is true, Rock Creek Park also has an elaborate and fascinating history that adds a uniqueness to the area that can be found nowhere else in the world. While many other national parks, such as Yellowstone National Park or the Grand Canyon, stand out due to their natural beauty, Rock Creek’s establishment, additions, and historical background are what individualize the park. Whether it be the complications with the legislation needed to establish the park, the multiple archaeological sites that can be found throughout the park, or the many other notable historical events within the park, Rock Creek truly differentiates itself from other national parks in the United States. Unfortunately, most people are not aware of the historical eccentricity that Rock Creek carries. Many authors discuss the tranquility, simplistic beauty, or the multitude of events that are currently held within Rock Creek Park. This essay, however, highlights the National Park Service’s use of multiple articles and reports to explain that the history of Rock Creek Park is what makes the park a place unlike any other.
The two main articles that are going to be focused on in the National Park Service’s website are, “Human History” and Rock Creek Park: An Administrative History. Both articles explain different aspects of Rock Creek Park’s past that are used to add uniqueness and character to Rock Creek Park. In “Human History,” a brief article written about the history of Rock Creek, the author touches upon the multiple archeological sites that can be found in Rock Creek, and explains that anything from weapons, to ancient stone tools, to evidence of Native American settlements and other campsites can be found within the park. Some of these sites have aided historians in understanding exactly when humans first appeared in America, using the artifacts left over to determine the time period in which humans first showed up. Rock Creek was also inhabited by Europeans starting in the early 1700s. Trading posts and mills were built within the park area and were used up until shortly after Rock Creek was officially established as a national park, which occurred in the late 1800s (“Human History”).
When Rock Creek became an official national park, popularity boomed once again, with the park even catching the eye of some former presidents of the United States. President Teddy Roosevelt would often visit the park for a variety of different activities including, taking long and difficult hikes along park trails, and going horseback riding through the area. He was even known to skinny dip in the stream from time to time. President Roosevelt would often bring the French ambassador Jules Jusserand along with him on his park trips because the ambassador also enjoyed spending some free time within the park. In addition to President Roosevelt, President Woodrow Wilson would also frequent the park while he was in office, usually accompanied by his second wife. The two would picnic, play tennis, or take leisurely drives along the parkway to wind down from their busy presidential schedule. While some presidents have visited other national parks as well, few parks have been so frequented and so well loved by presidents as Rock Creek Park has (“Human History”).
In the second article, Rock Creek Park: An Administrative History, author Barry Mackintosh explains that the interest in creating the park first came about because of the lack of space and privacy in the White House for the president and his family. The park was initially wanted as a space to build an executive mansion as well as a place for people to go and appreciate the beauty and tranquility of the park. However, the bill asking for the money to fix Rock Creek into a park was not initially passed in the house due to the financial situation of the United States at the time. The Senate agreed to the bill, but people in the House of Representatives didn’t believe that the formation of the park was going to be as inexpensive as everyone claimed so the House did not allow the bill to pass. This veto stopped the creation of the park for a short while. A few other bills were brought to Congress regarding the formation of the park, but were once again vetoed by the House of Representatives until one day the bill gained enough public and congressional support to be passed(Mackintosh, ch.1).
The article goes on to explain that despite the many positive aspects, Rock Creek Park’s history is not all pleasant. The area has not been without its fair share of challenges over the years, especially with regards to the formation of Rock Creek (the waterway) and the Potomac Parkway. There were many issues that first arose with the formation of Rock Creek. Some persons in the Senate wished to turn one of the segments of Rock Creek into a closed sewer. There was already sewage leaking into that area of the creek, and the Senate believed that it would be best just to close off that section of the creek and allow the area to become a closed sewage landfill. Numerous individuals in charge of preserving and maintaining the park severely opposed this idea due to the environmental impact it would have on the park. A closed sewer would also add in an unwanted eyesore to the national park that may discourage people from wanting to go into that area of the park. The formation of the Potomac Parkway, the roadway that was built in and around some areas of Rock Creek Park, was also a major concern for some individuals in regards to the environmental impact that the roadway, and the cars used on the roadway, would have on the park. A special cabinet of individuals was formed to choose land for the road in and around the park that would minimize the amount of pollution going into the park(Mackintosh, ch.3).
By discussing all of the details behind the creation of the park and the specific legislature that went along with the park’s establishment, the National Park Service uses ethos to show the reader that it is a credible source. The National Park Service knows that if they use developed language and the correct vocabulary, the readers will be more open to accepting their ideas and thoughts because the Park Service will seem more reliable. In doing this, the National Park Service is able to more easily convey that the history of Rock Creek Park is what makes the park so unique.
The National Parks Service website used these articles to try to appeal to the individuals that were visiting their site. In this case, the articles cater to an audience who is willing to do a significant amount of reading to learn about the history of Rock Creek Park. The two articles that are highlighted are both lengthy documents with a plethora of information within each of the works. People who are looking to just learn a small amount about activities within the park would need to go to a different website or a blog post in order to find the information that they are looking for. However, for someone who is looking to do research into Rock Creek Park and write an essay such as this one about the topic, these sources are very beneficial.
The National Park Service, in order to explain the unique history of Rock Creek Park, uses an array of articles and reports that can be found on their website. Rock Creek has a rich and mostly unknown history that makes the area extremely unique. The legislation surrounding the establishment of the park is complicated and the additions in and around the park tested the integrity of the area, yet the park held through it all. From presidential visits to legislative issues, Rock Creek Park has had its ups and downs, but it is still beloved by all who use it. The historical background of Rock Creek Park is truly unlike any other national park in the country. In the heart of D.C., the park has seen it all. Although many people are not aware of the park’s past, knowing the details of the history enhance the experience of visiting the park. Being able to look around the area and see the history all around makes individuals really and truly appreciate everything that Rock Creek Park has to offer.