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National Park Service Considering Improvements to Roosevelt Island

The National Park Service is studying several improvements to Roosevelt Island, including a proposal to combat the invasive emerald ash borer that killed trees at the site earlier this year.

Among a number of issues being examined by NPS for the island, located off the George Washington Memorial Parkway near Rosslyn, is a plan for the future of the hundreds of ash trees.

NPS closed the island in June to remove diseased trees after the ash borer came through, and is now considering if the trees should be replaced with more ash trees or another species.

“As a result of [the ash borer], one of the things we’re going to be looking at is what do we do after the borer has come through, and those ash trees have either died off or been removed,” said Simone Monteleone, chief of resource management at the GW Parkway, in a talk on Facebook Live Monday morning. “Do we replant? What type of species do we go back with?”

To help the Park Service decide how to make improvements while preserving the history of the island, which has been occupied in some form since the 17th century, it is in the early stages of producing a Cultural Landscape Report and Environmental Assessment.

Monteleone said both documents will help NPS balance the need to respect the island’s history with any improvements that are made. She added that rehabilitating what is already there will help do that.

“Rehabilitation gives us both the flexibility to preserve those historic features and make compatible uses possible for enhancement of visitor experiences,” she said.

Other improvements proposed by NPS include:

  • Rehabilitating the bridge to the island
  • Improving bridge safety to reduce conflicts between pedestrians and bicyclists
  • Restarting water access to the island for kayaks, paddleboards and other water transport without an engine
  • Making the island’s comfort stations usable year-round
  • Building another comfort station off the island by the trail

NPS will host another Facebook Live presentation on the project at 1 p.m. today (August 14), and the talk will then be archived on its page for viewing afterwards.

The Park Service is taking public comment on the plans until September 8. The project is expected to be completed in February 2018.

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