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Finding Common Ground in Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park stretches from Fort Bayard Park in Northwest to Barnard Hill in Northeast, with many other sites situated between them. Yet these official, administrative boundaries of the Park don’t reveal how extensive Rock Creek Park really is.

It extends and crisscrosses all boundaries – physical and imagined. Last Saturday, I was looking through knick-knacks at Eastern Market in Southeast, a place that I consider to be geographically removed from Rock Creek Park. Despite this, I discovered a postcard from 1921 with a picture of Rock Creek Park’s Peirce Mill on its front. I held onto it because I thought it was worth keeping, and it gradually dawned on me how incredible it is that almost 100 years later, the structure on the postcard - Peirce Mill - still stands.

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After I bought the postcard, I had a hankering to look through pictures of Rock Creek Park. I discovered all sorts of pictures on the Internet – photographs of bridges spanning Rock Creek, polaroids of park visitors strolling through the tree canopy’s shade and paintings of scenic views.

It was refreshing looking at some vintage photographs of the Park, and doing so offered a unique perspective. I felt a connection with the photos and the scenes they depicted. In a fashion similar to countless park users throughout the 1900s, I’ve walked across bridges over Rock Creek, wandered through the Park and snapped a few photos of beautiful trees on my iPhone.

Even though Rock Creek Park has changed and will inevitably continue to evolve, it’s more than a park. It’s a connection – a connection between people who are separated by time and space; the Park has the capability to link together all who visit it. When I find myself in Rock Creek Park, I am connected to all of its users – past, present, future, and I imagine how other visitors - total strangers to me - will experience the Park and the significance it holds for them.

--Nicholas Wells

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