Friday, December 12, 2014

The Struggle Continues to Rescue the Trees

As 2014 draws to a close, we are proud to report that we have logged 808 volunteer hours for Shepherd Parkway this year. 

About 700 hours were spent removing an estimated 24,000 pounds (12 tons) of trash, construction materials, car parts, tires, furniture and other man-made debris from the park. 

The bulk of the remaining 108 hours were spent removing invasive species, canvassing, attending meetings, and maintaining his blog.

On Saturday, December 6, eight faithful volunteers logged twenty-four volunteer hours while cutting English ivy from more than 60 trees.

It was the first community clean-up since 2013 to focus on the urgent task of chopping down the fast-growing vines, which weaken and eventually kill trees by robbing their roots of water and nutrition, damaging their bark, weighing them down, and blocking sunlight to their leaves.

In 2011 and 2012 we were able to eliminate English ivy from the tree canopy in the 40 acres of parkland north of Malcolm X Avenue, and in 2013 we did the same with the area from Malcolm X Avenue south to South Capitol Street.  Major infestations effecting hundreds of trees remain in the southern half of Shepherd Parkway.

English ivy is a huge threat to forests throughout the eastern United States, and the efforts of volunteers, though valiant, and so far been insufficient to the scale of the problem.

Through sustained effort, we hope make Shepherd Parkway one of the only forests forests in the DC area to be free from English ivy.  

For more information, see the August 2013 post Saving Our Trees from the Alien Invaders.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Congresswoman Norton Issues Press Release on Shepherd Parkway

Norton’s East of the River Town Hall Produces Action on Crime at Shepherd Parkway and Kenilworth Parks

November 26, 2014


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today said that she was pleased with the initial progress that followed last month’s “Capital Parks East Town Hall,” the first to be held concerning National Park Service (NPS) parks east of the Anacostia River.  In the weeks since Norton’s town hall, the stakeholders have moved on two of the four action items of concern east of the river. 

U.S. Park Police (USPP) has cracked down on crime, including thirteen arrests in Shepherd Parkway, an urban park in Southeast with a wooded corridor of wildlife and the remains of two Civil War-era forts.  Making Shepherd Parkway accessible so residents can see the rare plants and natural resources has become possible now that USPP is patrolling the park and surrounding area and arresting criminals.  

NPS and USPP also agreed to make sure that Kenilworth Park, another NPS park east of the river, is kept safe.  There are lights in the park, but NPS is still trying to determine who has the jurisdiction to turn the lights on so Kenilworth Park is not dark and residents can see and report crime.  NPS and USPP have started locking the Kenilworth Park entrance gate at night, a good first step.

“Our thanks to NPS and USPP for cracking down on crime and ensuring the safety and usability of Shepherd Parkway and Kenilworth Park,” Norton said.  “Prior to our town hall, residents were afraid to go into these parks.  Park Police are opening the Shepherd Parkway reserve to people and closing it to crime.  There are still continuing concerns raised by the community about Kenilworth Park and Shepherd Parkway, but NPS and USPP deserve credit for starting strong.  We’ll keep following up until the parks east of the river give nothing but enjoyment to residents.”

Last month, Norton hosted a well-attended town hall meeting to discuss the federal parkland in the Ward 7 and 8 communities, which includes Shepherd Parkway.  In attendance were NPS Superintendent of National Capital Parks-East, Gopaul Noojibail; the chair of the Shepherd Parkway Committee, Nathan Harrington; and the executive director of Washington Parks & People, Steve Coleman. This was the first of Norton’s town halls to focus on the copious amount of NPS parkland east of the Anacostia River.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

And Now the Really Bad News: Park Service master plan calls for trails everywhere except Shepherd Parkway

By Nathan Harrington

Since 2011, we’ve shared the vision of a trail with site manager Julie Kutruff, who has expressed support for the idea while cautioning that it will take many years to come to fruition.  

This past July, we launched the Shepherd Parkway Call to Action, which says, in part, “We support for the construction of a network of hiking trails to make the natural beauty of Shepherd Parkway safely accessible residents and visitors.”

Every time someone signs onto the Call, it generates an email to National Capital Parks-East (NCPE) Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, among others.  Eighty emails were plenty to get their attention.

In late August, members of the Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway met with the Congresswoman’s staff and shared our vision for Shepherd Parkway, and a week later we met for the first time with the Superintendent and many of his deputies. They were open to the idea of a trail, but reiterated that a long and complex bureaucratic process would have to play out first.   

When we asked whether any master plan existed for Shepherd Parkway, we were given a copy the Fort Circle Parks Management Plan that was completed in 2004. The plan includes a wealth of information about the Fort Circle Parks generally, but were little specific to Shepherd Parkway. 
The “Management Actions” section of the plan states that

"A new trail will be developed to link most of the fort sites and to connect the green corridor of the Fort Circle Parks system… In the Shepherd Parkway area, the trail will go primarily along city sidewalks to avert the impacts of a new trail in narrow wooded corridors and to avoid important wildlife habitat."

Say what? First off, a “hiking trail” that follows a city sidewalk it not a hiking trail; it’s a sidewalk. We have enough of those already.

Interestingly, the map on the following page shows a dotted line going through the center of the Parkway, with a legend that reads “Self-guided walking tour (Rehabilitate trail where necessary- route shown is conceptual).”

Shepherd Parkway is the only area singled out for exclusion from the trail system, and no evidence is offered to support the claims made.

Shepherd Parkway is wider than several other “narrow wooded corridors” that currently have hiking trails.  Of course it has “important wildlife habitat,” but so do many of the other parks with trails. Even designated wilderness areas within major national parks have trails through them, but Shepherd Parkway is too fragile?  

The notion that public must be kept out of the park in order to protect the natural ecosystem is antithetical to the mission of the Park Service, which is to “preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.” What enjoyment, education, and inspiration can this generation get from Shepherd Parkway if it is closed off and inaccessible?

Without signage, programing, or access to wooded areas, residents have had no reason to see the park anything other than a dumping ground. As a result of this abandonment, trash and invasive species have already degraded the ecosystem there.

It is ironic:  now that a group of citizens is working tirelessly to restore the park, the same agency that has neglected the park for decades stands in the way of our vision of reconnecting Ward 8 residents with the land.  

Many questions remain: Who is behind that decision ten years ago to build trails everywhere except Shepherd Parkway? What institutional biases are at work? What will it take to overcome this opposition and blaze a trail forward?

Stay tuned for more as the plot thickens...

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Case for a Hiking Trail Through Shepherd Parkway

 
From the beginning, the Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway has been clear about why we are restoring Shepherd Parkway: so that it can become amenity and resource for residents of and visitors to Ward 8.
Plants and animals are valuable and worthy of protection in their own right, but urban parks like Shepherd Parkway are most vital when they are part of the daily lives of residents.
Our work has been inspired by our partner organization Washington Parks and People, whose name says it all: parks exist for the benefit of people. A revitalized Shepherd Parkway has the potential to improve physical and mental health, increase environmental awareness and education, and promote economic development in a Ward that has lagged behind the rest of the city in these areas for too long. 
Shepherd Parkway is among the only wooded units of the National Park Service in the District of Columbia to have no trail access. Rock Creek Park and its associated lands (Glover-Archibald, Battery Kimble, Soapstone, Melvin Hazen, Dumbarton Oaks Park, Pinehurst, etc.) run in bands across the affluent, predominantly white western part of DC. All have hiking trails that were built many years ago and are faithfully maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.  
East of the Anacostia River, the Fort Circle Parks (including Forts Mahan, Chaplin, Dupont, Davis, Stanton and Rickets) are connected in 7.5 mile Hiker-Biker Trail spanning much of Ward 7. (The far southern end is in Ward 8.)
Similar trails are severely lacking in Ward 8. The only way to see the Civil War remains, massive trees, and dramatic topography of Shepherd Parkway is to “bushwhack;” that is, go into the woods without benefit of a trail, fighting one’s way over steep terrain, though brambles and fallen trees. This is an option only for the truly adventurous. For everyone else, the park remains closed and impenetrable.
Since 2011, the Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway has promoted the long-term goal of constructing a network of hiking trails running the full length Shepherd Parkway. The main trail would run for roughly three miles, from LeBaum Street in the North to Bald Eagle Hill in the south, where it would connect with trails inside Oxon Run and Oxon Cove Parks.  In addition to street crossings at Malcolm X Avenue, South Capitol Street, Chesapeake Street, and Blue Plains Drive, side trails would provide access to the other streets along the way.  
 
The trail could be used to get from home to work or school (there are three schools and two recreation centers with two blocks of the park), but its primary function would be recreational.  It would be a safe and beautiful place to exercise and experience both nature and history. 
What will it take to make this vision a reality? Stay tuned for my next blog post, which will explain where we are in the process. 




Monday, October 6, 2014

WPGC Radio Personality Pitches In

For anyone who doesn't know, Sunni is a radio host at D.C’s leading Hip Hop and R&B station, WPGC 95.5. Her show, Sunny and the City, can be heard live Monday though Saturday 10:00 am until 2:00 pm. She previously graced the airwaves on Power 96 in Miami and  95.5 in Detroit.

Natives of Bosnia, Sunni and her family lived in three refugee camps in Croatia before being transported to the United States in 1997. She began her career in radio at the age of 18 and became the youngest radio personality in the Detroit market. She’s also the first woman from Bosnia to host a radio show in the U.S.

Interviewing celebrities and hosting parties is just another day in the life of a radio host, but Sunni is also known for her charity work, including the Special Olympics, Covenant House, Komen Race For The Cure, the National Kidney Foundation, and UNICEF.

On September 16, the Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway joined the list as Sunny and an entourage of staff from WPGC and Ciroc Vodka got down and dirty amid the piles of trash buried in the woods behind Brother Place.    

The event came about thanks to Committee member Albert Arevalo of the Alice Ferguson Foundation

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton to Host on National Park Service Town Hall for Wards 7 and 8.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton 

invites you to a 

National Capital Parks-East Town Hall Meeting 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 

 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

THEARC, 1901 Mississippi Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20032

 

Discuss the Future of Federal Parkland in Wards 7 & 8 with the National Park Service 

Learn about Future Developments and Plans. 

Address the Outlined Needs of the Federal Parks East of the 

 River. 

Bring your Suggestions for Improving Your Parkland in Wards 7 & 8 


 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Join the Discussion with:

  • Gopaul Noojibail, Superintendent, National Capital Parks East 

  • Nathan Harrington, Chair, Committee  to Restore Shepherd Parkway

  • Steve Coleman, Director, Washington Parks & People 

  •  Scott Kratz, Director, 11th Street Bridge Park Project

 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 For more information, please contact our District Office at (202) 408 -9041 or at NortonEvents@Mail.House.Gov 

 www.norton.house.gov

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Name, Same Vision




The Shepherd Parkway Committee, thusly named since 2011, is a thing of the past. At our September 3 meeting, the five members in attendance voted unanimously to rename ourselves “the Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway.” 

We feel the new name implies action and movement while pointing towards our ultimate goal: to restore the park -ecologically, aesthetically, as socially -into a dynamic part of the life of Ward 8.  

The Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway will continue to be an arm of the Congress Heights Community Association and to report to its monthly meetings at the UPO Petey Greene Center.

Membership is the committee to open to anyone who cares about the park, with a special welcome for Ward 8 residents. We always welcome new ideas and energy. We meet about four or five times a year at the homes of Committee members in Ward 8.  To join, contact Nathan Harrington at nbharrington (at) yahoo (dot) com.   

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Winter Clean-Up Dates Announced

Contrary to popular belief, the winter months are actually a great time to remove trash and invasive species from the park. You don't have to worry as much about poison ivy, mosquitos, ticks, and bees. Trash is easier to see in the absence of foliage, and invasive poison ivy stands out as one of the only green things in the winter forest. I'm sure I'm not the only person who would rather work in 45 degree chill than 85 degree humidity.

Join us from 10 AM to 1 PM on

Saturday, December 6
Saturday, January 10
Saturday, February 21

We will continue to meet at the picnic tables near the intersection of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X Avenue SE. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fall 2014 Community Clean-Ups are almost here!

After a two  month summer hiatus, Shepherd Parkway Community Clean-Ups are back!

We've come too far to let up now. The park is cleaner than it's been in decades, but there's still a shocking amount of trash covering the ground in some areas.

Please join us at on

Saturday, September 13, 10 am to 1 pm
Saturday, October 18, 10 am to 1 pm
Saturday, November 8,  10 am to 1 pm

We'll meet at the picnic tables near the corner of Martin Luther King Avenue and Malcolm X Avenue SE and work in the area north of Malcolm X Avenue.

You will be working on a hillside in the woods, so hear long pants and clothes that can get dirty. Gloves, bags, water, and lunch will be provided.

If you plan to bring a group of more than five, please RSVP to Nathan at nbharrington@yahoo.com or 301-758-5892.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Reclaiming Our Communities through Litter Education


Guest Blog By Albert Arevalo, Community Outreach Liaison with the Alice Ferguson Foundation


Litter is in our communities, parks, and waterways in large part because someone chooses to drop their trash on the ground instead of finding a trash can. Yes, some litter is there because people accidentally drop things, or because people forget to make sure the lids of their trash and recycling bins are covered, but by-in-large litter is a problem because of personal choices in how we dispose of trash.



In Congress Heights, the Alice Ferguson Foundation is seeking to educate the community and to change attitudes and behavior around the bad habit of littering through our Regional Litter Prevention Campaign. One of our strongest community allies is Nathan Harrington. He along with hundreds of volunteers has dedicated countless hours to restore the health of the Shepherd Parkway by removing trash and invasive species found throughout the park.

As our campaign grows and gains momentum, we invite you to make your own personal commitment to end litter. Some simple actions you can take include:



  • Pick up litter when you see it.    

  • Talk to your friends, family, and others about why it is important not to litter.     
                



Litter is a severe problem that affects our land, our water, and our health. By educating the public about the importance of taking control of their trash and disposing of it responsibly, we can begin to change littering behavior and ultimately reduce the amount of trash in our communities and waterways. Find out how you can take action at TrashFreePotomac.org

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Introducing the Shepherd Parkway Call to Action

After three years and quiet and diligent work, it's time for the campaig
We've mobilized over a thousand volunteers and removed hundred of thousands of pounds of trash from the woods. Now it's time to ask our leaders in government to do their part for the park.
n to restore Shepherd Parkway to enter its next phase. It's time for the "big ask."


Click here to read and sign the Call to Action:

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/shepherd-parkway-call?source=c.em.cp&r_by=123324

After you have signed, be sure to tweet it and post it to your Facebook wall.




Thursday, July 17, 2014

June 14: 150 Volunteers


Saturday, June 14 was our largest Community Clean-Up of 2014 thus far, with over 150 volunteers, including large a group from the Fund for American Studies, interns from the U.S. Department of Energy, teachers from the new Democracy Prep Public Charter School in Congress Heights, and of course a healthy compliment of Ward 8 residents. Together we  ridded the forest of: 

-129 Trash Bags
-41 Tires
-8 hypodermic needles
-1 DPW vehicle-boot
-13 paint buckets
-15 Plywood sheets
-1 Sofa