The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) has endorsed once-controversial security plans for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo, clearing the way for zoo officials to start implementing perimeter changes this year. At its March 7 meeting, the commission approved fewer pedestrian entrances and more fencing at the zoo, after twice postponing votes in 2018.
While the zoo’s three main pedestrian entrances—on Connecticut Avenue NW, on Harvard Street NW, and at the bus parking lot—will remain the same, seven other pedestrian access points will be closed. This will reduce the total number of pedestrian entrances from 13 to six, planning documents show. The zoo will also add more than 4,000 feet of linear fencing to fill in current gaps. Some stretches will be designed to keep out people—others, vehicles.
“The primary difference between the scope of this project and previously implemented [zoo] fencing work is the focus on pedestrian safety and access,” the zoo wrote to NCPC in its plan narrative. “This submission has also incorporated vehicular-rated fencing to deter a vehicle from driving into pedestrians gathered near entrances.” The commission found the plans would “consolidat[e] redundant points of entry throughout the zoo in an effort to enhance safety and security, improve wayfinding for visitors, and better protect the [zoo’s] animal[s].”
Last year, the Smithsonian held public meetings on its plans, which sparked controversy at the time in part because they originally included new security checkpoints and even fewer pedestrian entrances than do the approved plans. The zoo says it has dropped the security checkpoints but will continue to screen visitors during busy times, including spring break.