Why Do We Have Heritage Trails if We Don’t Maintain Them?

The sign at 14th and Monroe streets has been missing for nearly a year.

The sign at 14th and Monroe streets has been missing for nearly a year.

An issue that has recently been brought to my attention is the inability of D.C. to maintain its heritage trails. These are the neighborhood trails that have large and small signs sprinkled throughout the neighborhoods that have been lucky enough to get them. I’m a big fan of them and would like to see more heritage trails added to the District. However, one question that needs to be answered is long term care and maintenance. Sure, graffiti removal is easy enough to take care of, but what about significant damage or, as in the case of the sign located at 14th Street and Monroe Street, when they go missing entirely?

The missing sign at 14th and Monroe streets was marker #4 in the Columbia Heights Heritage Trail and hasn’t been seen since the spring of 2014. As related to me, it was damaged by a storm, removed by DDOT, and has been represented by orange cones ever since.

The heritage trail program was one that the Historic Preservation Office provided some support to by serving in an advisory role, but it wasn’t a program that the preservation office ran or provided financial support to. The primary force behind creating them was Cultural Tourism DC, often with funding from DDOT. Today, neither Cultural Tourism nor DDOT seem to have the capacity or funding to maintain the trails. When I began reaching out to see how we could repair the marker at 14th and Monroe, I was encouraged to contact my councilmember and seek funds through that path — a suggestion I found odd.

Clearly, there is a problem here and I’ll bet the missing sign is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Rather than let this go, I’m going to dig in deeper and do an inventory of the state of our heritage trail signs. I’ll report those findings back when the survey is complete.

Google Oct 2011 CH Heritage Trail(The missing heritage trail sign, from Google taken October 2011)

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3 Comments on “Why Do We Have Heritage Trails if We Don’t Maintain Them?”

  1. imgoph Says:

    Thank you, Kent! Make sure you check on the sign that was missing from the H Street trail at 5th and Florida NE last year when I left. I’ll bet it’s still missing.

  2. Angry Parakeet Says:

    As a member of various organizations, I say continuity is the key. Even if a person is no longer a mover and shaker, they must keep an eye on past initiatives.

  3. […] Since 2015, I’ve continued to ask why we have Heritage Trails and Markers in our neighborhoods if DDOT has no funds or staff to keep them in good repair. In order to bring attention to this issue, in March 2018 I introduced a resolution that was unanimously passed by ANC1A urging the Mayor and DDOT to address this growing issue. At that time I listed four known heritage trail signs that were missing. […]

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