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Robert Emmet sculpture and the Deodar cedar

Rehabilitation of Landscaping at U.S. Reservation 302 (Emmet Sculpture Triangle)

Rock Creek Park » Rehabilitation of Landscaping at U.S. Reservation 302 (Emmet Sculpture Triangle) » Document List

This spring, the National Park Service (NPS) will complete restoration of U.S. Reservation 302, a triangle park in Northwest D.C. along Massachusetts Avenue NW between 24th and S streets that is part of Rock Creek Park. The NPS is improving the landscaping in the park and protecting the historic sculpture of Irish patriot Robert Emmet, created by internationally renowned artist Jerome Connor in 1916.

This park is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places: the official list of buildings, sites, structures and objects across the country that preserve and showcase our historic, archeological and cultural resources. Because of this, the NPS is treating the site like a historic landscape. The NPS completed the National Historic Preservation Act compliance process for the project by sharing the proposed plan with the public in fall 2015 online, presenting it at a meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2D, and accepting public comments.

The NPS received comments stating that the removal of the Deodar cedar tree would help prevent damage to the sculpture and protect the historic resource of the park, the sculpture, and the history it commemorates. Comments were also received expressing concern that the removal of the tree would reduce shade in the park and along Massachusetts Avenue, NW, change the character of the park, and reduce the environmental benefits provided by the cedar. Several commenters also asked if the sculpture could be moved to a new location, while others commented on the tree species selected to replace the cedar.

After receiving and reviewing comments and signing an agreement with the District of Columbia Historic Preservation Office in March 2016, the NPS committed to a series of actions to rehabilitate the landscape and mitigate any potential adverse effects. Among the tasks to be performed by park staff and contractors:
• Removing the invasive English ivy and replacing it with approximately 300 sweet woodruff plants (a groundcover).
• Pruning the existing laurel shrubs.
• Adding additional laurel shrubs to areas where laurel shrubs no longer exist and in areas where English ivy has been removed.
• Removing a diseased limb on one of the Japanese flowering cherry trees and pruning branches throughout the tree.
• Replacing splintering bench slats.
• Re-establishing turf areas by planting new grass (tall fescue).
• Reinstalling the landscape lighting around the Emmet sculpture based on the original lighting plan for the park, as funding allows.
• Removing a Deodar cedar tree, which is partially blocking the view of the sculpture. The Smithsonian Institution, which owns the sculpture, has also expressed concern that sap from the Deodar cedar is harming the sculpture.
• Replacing the cedar with three 8- to 10-foot tall columnar Irish yew trees to create a backdrop to the sculpture that allows light to reach into the park. Park staff will maintain each individual tree at a height of 12 feet and a diameter of 8 feet, and will place the trees in an open arrangement that will not block views into or out of the park.

Landscape architects designed the park's landscape for the Emmet sculpture in 1966. The plantings were arranged to form an amorphous, slightly undulating enclosure around the Emmet statue, with dark green foliage that was intended to contrast with white flowers, changing with the seasons.

The National Park Service believes the landscape rehabilitation plan will improve the condition of the park, help protect the historically significant Robert Emmet sculpture, and promote the spirit and character of the park's original 1966 planting design.

Contact Information
For additional information about the landscape rehabilitation plan and the park's history, please contact Chief of Resource Management Nick Bartolomeo at 202-895-6010, or by email at nick_bartolomeo@nps.gov