By Alice Carlson
Greenbelt Park reopened hiking trails and picnic areas on March 10, after several years of being largely closed, first due to extensive road work and then in the aftermath of the severe storm that hit the area in July 2022. The storm left the park in shambles, with hundreds of trees toppled in winds that reached as high as 80 mph. Greenbelt Park, which was established by Congress in 1950, is one of 424 national parks in the country.
Vince Vaise, director of visitor services at the park, wrote in an email that the paving project, which started in July 2019, took more than two years to complete. A key bridge in the middle of the park was also replaced during this time. The park reopened in May 2022 but closed again two months later, after the storm ripped through. One picnic area and the park’s campground opened last September, but the trails remained closed, as fallen trees left them impassable.
According to a National Park Service (NPS) press release about the park’s reopening, downed trees in the park were removed largely under the guidance of the NPS Arborist Incident Response team, a group of tree-care professionals specialized in dealing with emergencies. After the cleanup, NPS reassessed safety issues in the park and then moved forward to open to the public in March.
“We’re excited to reopen major areas of the park just in time for spring and look forward to seeing visitors and neighbors there,” Tara Morrison said. Morrison, who served as superintendent of Rock Creek Park, now oversees the group of parks known as National Capital Parks-East.
Greenbelt Park is home to a 172-site campground and over 9 miles of hiking trails. The park, which straddles the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, is just two miles from College Park and an easy 10-mile drive from the District.
“It is an ideal location for first-time campers. It is also ideal for campers who want to explore Washington, DC. The hiking trails are beloved by the local community,” Vaise noted.
Vaise added that the park’s staff will survey visitors this summer to evaluate use of the park and determine areas that may call for improvement. The park will also host campfire programs in April and May during which rangers will explore many aspects of the park, including its history, park stewardship and wildlife and habitats found in the park.
For more information about Greenbelt Park and activities at the park, including the campfire program, go to nps.gov/gree/index.htm. To reserve a campsite at the park, go to recreation.gov.