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

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Introducing the Shepherd Parkway Call to Action

After three years and quiet and diligent work, it's time for the campaign to restore Shepherd Parkway to enter its next phase. It's time for the "big ask."

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.

Click here to read and sign the Call to Action:

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 

Friday, June 20, 2014

What's That Plant? Join the Shepherd Parkway Plant Walk and find out! Saturday, July 19, 10 to 11 AM

Join us for a leisurely walk through one of Ward 8’s stunning but rarely-visited forests. Mary Pat Rowan of the Maryland Native Plant Society will help us identify common, rare and invasive plants and trees.
  • Meet across from 249 Newcomb Street
  • Free and open to the public
  • Coffee and donuts provided
  • Questions? Call 301-758-5892 or
Sponsors:  Congress Heights Community Association, Washington Parks and People, National Capital Parks-East, Maryland Native Plant Society




Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Donate Online Today

Restore Shepherd Parkway has always been a grassroots, all-volunteer campaign with few financial resources.

The National Park Service provides us with gloves,  bags, and some other supplies. The Congress Heights Community Association, the  Anacostia Coordinating Council, and the Coast Guard help with refreshments for volunteers when they can.

In November 2013 we received a $1,000 grant from The Pollination Project, which has paid for  the printing of postcards and banners and the nourishment of volunteers. Individual committee members have spent hundred of dollars of their own money to fill in the gaps.

Now, for the first time, Restore Shepherd Parkway is able to accept online donations! Click the Donate button and top right to give now! Your generosity will help support the following:

-Lawn and street signs to increase awareness, pride and investment in the park by Ward 8 residents.

-The commissioning of a watercolor map of Shepherd Parkway by local artist Mary Belcher. Her gorgeous map of Marvin Gaye Park in Ward 7 help ignite the campaign that transformed "Needle Park" from DC's most polluted and dangerous into a treasured asset

-T-shirts for volunteers to help spread the word

-Gator aid, apples, coffee, donuts, lemonade and other seasonally approapriate drinks and snacks for our many volunteers

 -Printing of outreach materials

-Educational and recreational events in the park

 -Lobbying of the National Park Service and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton to bring the needed resources to Shepherd Parkway

If you share the dream of a healthy, vibrant natural oasis in Ward 8, please give as little or as much as you can afford.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Introducing the Alliance to Preserve the Civil War Defenses of Washington

As many of you know by now, Shepherd Parkway contains the earthwork remains of Fort Carroll (just north of where South Capitol Street crosses the parkway) and Ft. Grebel (just south of the rec center of the same name at the end of Elmira Street SW).

In the words of the Alliance to Preserve the Civil War Defenses of Washington:

"At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1860, Washington was a sleepy city of about 62,000 residents. Located south of the Mason-Dixon Line, entirely surrounded by the slave states of Maryland and Virginia, the Union capital was nearly unprotected with its only defensive fortification, Fort Washington,12 miles south. Washington was perilously vulnerable and realizing the potential danger the city faced, the Union army constructed additional fortifications for the city."

 "By 1865 the defenses of Washington included 68 forts, supported by 93 detached batteries for field guns, 20 miles of rifle pits, and covered ways, wooden blockhouses at three key points, 32 miles of military roads, several stockaded bridgeheads, and four picket stations. The defenseless city of 1860 had become one of the most heavily fortified cities of the world.

"Today, remnants of this complex system serve as windows into our nation's history. Not only did the Defenses serve their purpose well, deterring all but one Confederate attack on the capital which they repulsed, but they also impacted the city culturally, socially, and politically.  During the war, many enslaved people came to the fort system for safety and protection. They settled nearby, finding work at the forts and in Washington. Those settlements forever changed the cultural landscape of the city and became many of the neighborhoods that compose today's Washington."

Shepherd Parkway was purchased by the federal government and designated as parkland following the 1902 McMillan Commission plan for the District, which called for all of the land around the old fortifications to be linked in a grand "Fort Circle Park" surrounding the city. While DC the real estate boom of the 1920s and 30s made it difficult to acquire all of the necessary land to link the parks, the majority of the sites are protected park land.

Ward 3 has Battery Kimball, Fort Bayard and Fort Reno; Ward 4 has Ft. DeRussy (within Rock Creek Park) and the partially-restored Fort Stevens, the only fort in immediate DC area to see combat. Ward 5 has Forts Totten, Slocum, and Bunker Hill, among with extensive connectors.  Six forts east of the Anacostia River are linked by a seven mile hiker-biker trail that starts at Fort Stanton across from the Anacostia Community Museum and continues north to Fort Mahan, near the Minnesota Avenue Metro Station.

Shepherd Parkway, separated from Fort Stanton by  Suitland Parkway and the St. Elizabeths campus is a southern extension of this mighty greenway. Further south, in Prince George's County, Forts Washington and Foote parks tower over the Potomac. More forts abound in Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia.    

In 2007, a group of of Civil War buffs, environmentalists, and neighborhood activists formed the Alliance to Preserve the Civil War Defenses of Washington to "stabilize, maintain, preserve, and interpret the Civil War Defenses of Washington for the benefit of Washingtonians and visitors to the District of Columbia – present and future."

Be sure to check out their website and upcoming events, including a July 12 reenactment of the Battle of Fort Stevens on its 150th anniversary.

Monday, May 19, 2014

20 Volunteers, 1,800 Pounds of Junk

Saturday, May 17 was perhaps the best day of 2014 thus far for Shepherd Parkway.

More than twenty volunteers put in over 60 hours of work. Ten were participating for the first time, and 13 were Congress Heights residents, including DC Council Candidate Eugene Puryear, Matt Murray, Michael Sharp, Ron Stevens, Larry Williams, Michael Brockridge, Pax Johnson, George Oakley, John Gloster, Tristan Dewar, and Erick Whitaker.  

After a year of focusing on the area just south of Malcolm X Avenue and west of Brother Place, we returned to the woods along 2nd Street north of Malcolm X Avenue, where we removed tens of thousands of pounds of trash in 2011 and 2012.  

While littering along the street and the edge of the woods continues to be a problem, we were pleased to find very little new dumping in the year since we last cleaned that area.  Most of what we collected was simply missed before, including about 30 tires surrounded by intense brambles. Nathan sacrificed his body to get them out and emerged bloodied but satisfied with his accomplishment.

In total, we removed 57 tires, 50 large bags full of trash with an average weight of 20 pounds each, and another pile of assorted debris. The estimated one-day total weight of junk removed from the park: 1,800 pounds.

Sam Collins, a reporter for the Washington Informer attended the clean-up, took pictures and interviewed Nathan. His article should appear in print and online any day.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Coast Guard Makes Earth Day Landfall

Shepherd Parkway has a new neighbor. In 2013, the United States Coast Guard became the first tenant to move into the historic West Campus of the former St. Elisabeths hospital. The campus will eventually house over 14,000 workers from all divisions of the Department of Homeland Security, including the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The northern end of Shepherd Parkway can be seen at top right of this artist's rendering of the coast Guard headquarters.

Less than a month after joining the Shepherd Parkway Committee, Lt. Comm. Jonathan Shafler, a veteran of the National Park Service and Fish and Willdlife Service, made good on his promise to get Coast Guard personnel involved in the restoration of Shepherd Parkway.  His crew of six made up in enthusiasm what they lacked in  numbers, netting over a thousand pounds of trash from behind Brothers Place.

Five days later, on April 26, 15 volunteers converged on the same area for the Community Clean-Up. In addition to bagging over a ton of junk, we pulled up several thousand blades of invasive mustard grass in full bloom, thereby preventing them from reproducing. Mustard grass out-competes natives species and forms dense colonies of foot-high ground cover. It' is a scourge on DC's forest, rivaled only to trash and English ivy.

Fall 2014 Clean-Up Dates Announced

Our next Community Clean-Up dates are Saturday, May 17 and Saturday, June 14 from 10 am to 1 pm.

We'll be taking July and August out of respect for the heat and humidity.  Mark your calendars now for our fall dates:
Saturday, September 13
Saturday, October 18
Saturday, November 8  

Through the end of 2014 we will continue to meet in the picnic area near the corner of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X Avenues SE. After sign-in and introductions, we’ll be walking down to the alley behind Brothers Place. 

All Community Clean-Ups run from 10 am to 1 pm.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Harsh Winter Finally Yields to Spring

After a winter of near-record snow and cold, seasonable early spring whether has finally arrived in Washington. The Saturday, March 22 Community Clean-up drew more than 20 volunteers, most of them first-timers.

We worked once again in the woods behind Brothers Place SE, removing thousands of glass and plastic bottles, dozens of tires, and many large pieces of scrap metal.

The Shepherd Parkway Committee has an enthusiastic new member in Faheemah Davillier, who live on Oakwood Street, two blocks from the park. She explained her decision to get involved like this:

"I am an avid outdoors person and it saddens me that there is so much potential in Ward 8's backward that the community can enjoy, but has been misused and abused. I have been living in Congress Heights  for three years and to enjoy the outdoors I usually travel to VA, MD or other parts of DC. If I could enjoy the outdoors in my own backyard would be life changing," 

Also joining the clean-up and the committee is Lt. Comm. Jonathan Schafler, head of community outreach for the new U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters at the West Campus of St. Elizabeths, which borders Shepherd Parkway to the north. A veteran of the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Schafler brings valuable expertise and connections in park management. He has pledged to bring Coast Guard personnel to the park in the coming months.

 Mark your calendar for the upcoming Community Clean-Ups from 10 am to 1 pm on

Saturday, April 26
Saturday, May 17
Saturday, June 14

Our meeting location is still at the picnic tables near the corner of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X Avenues SE. Gloves, bags and refreshments will be provided. Be sure to wear boots and clothes that can get dirty. High school students should bring the appropriate forms to earn community service hours.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Shepherd Parkway Featured in East of the River Magazine

This month's issue of East of the River, published by Capital Community News, features an article about our campaign by Charnice Milton, who interviewed Nathan Harrington and John Gloster and attended our January 18 Clean-Up.

Although slightly misquoted as always, we appreciate pick well-earned media attention. Pick up a copy at one of many locations in Ward 7 and 8, or read it online here.

In another positive development, Shepherd Parkway recently took a place of honor alongside Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park, Marvin Gaye Park, Walter Pierce Park and the North Columbia Heights Green. That's right, we've got our very own section of the Washington Parks and People website! See for yourself:

Monday, February 3, 2014

Messiah College Students Are the Park's Latest Savior

On Saturday, February 1, 16 students from Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania took yet another bite out of the mountains of trash that despoil Shepherd Parkway. Despite lingering snow on the ground, they enjoyed the warmest day in weeks, with highs near 50.

The group, like so many others teams of motivated volunteers, found their way to Shepherd Parkway through the Steinbruck Center for Urban Studies at Luther Place Memorial Church in downtown Washington.

With park committee-chair and usual clean-up leader Nathan Harrington taking a break to visit family and friends in New York City, RonDell Pooler of Washington Parks and People stepped up to supervise the group as they removed dozens of tires and assorted junk from a gully and adjoining flat area near the quiet corner of Brothers Place and the aptly-named Highview Place SE.

Before skipping town, Harrington took advantage of gorgeous snow-days on February 21 and 22 to wield a pair of sharpened pruners against the English ivy which remained alive on about 20 trees in the area north of Malcolm X Avenue and another 25 in the area just south of said avenue. By spring, the vines will be dead from lack of water and unable to the produce the seed that allow them to colonize new areas. The majestic native oaks, beeches and poplars will be grow free and unencumbered once again, and the surrounding woods will be protected from Ivy League invasion.