by Nic Wells

After his first wife died in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson secretly courted Edith Bolling Galt on regular strolls with her in Rock Creek Park. In 2008, police discovered a man from Chevy Chase growing marijuana in the Park, and in March 2013, someone sacrificed a goat and chickens in a part of the Park near Piney Branch Parkway.

These three dissimilar events share one common feature:  Rock Creek Park.

While such anecdotes may or may not be good conversation starters, stories that impress, they are indicative of what geographers call a sense of place, a combination of experiences and certain attributes that makes a place distinctive. Without a doubt, Washingtonians have that sense of place with Rock Creek Park.

Because Rock Creek Park includes the main stem and many diverse units scattered throughout neighborhoods in Northwest and Northeast,  Rock Creek Conservancy’s community engagement meetings this summer and fall seek to explore and understand locals’ senses of place of the Park.

We’ve held two meetings so far – one in Mt. Pleasant, the other in Chevy Chase. The turnouts at both were fantastic, with people asking questions and chatting about the Park over coffee, tea and delicious treats provided by local businesses. If you happened to miss these, there will be more community meetings in September and October, so stay tuned! Until then, explore the Park and develop your sense of place of place in Rock Creek Park like the charmer, the stoner and the butcher did, but unlike them, please keep it PG.

You also might want to check out a recent issue the Washington Post Magazine, which featured a great cover story about Rock Creek Park. Give it a read, and then get yourself to the Park!

Nic Wells, a McLean native, interns for Rock Creek Conservancy, part of the Bethesda Green Business Incubator, and studies Geography and Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

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