Thursday, December 14, 2017

Historic graffiti carved in beech bark


In the five years I've been frequenting Shepherd Parkway, I've always admired its thousands of beech trees.

All over the United States, the smooth, light grey bark of beech trees have often been an irresistible target for those wishing to immortalize their walk in the woods by carving their names for visitors in future generations of hikers see. As the tree grows, the carving expands and stretches out like the words on a balloon.

Growing up in Boy Scouts and going to Quaker church camp, I was always taught to "leave no trace" in nature; carving into the bark of a tree was a total no-no, a desecration on par with leaving trash or cutting trees down.   

But humans have always interacted with and altered nature, and the human history of a place like Shepherd Parkway is at least as important as the forest that is there now. The remains of the Fort Carroll and Fort Grebel earthworks are not considered a scar on the landscape; they are part of Washington's rich Civil War legacy.

On a recent walk through the wilds of Shepherd Parkway to scout out areas that still been to be cleaned of trash, I stopped to closely examine some the carvings, and realized for the first time their historical value.

To begin with, some of the carving are in places where it is surprising to find any sign of human presence. After walking for several minutes away from the nearest street, up and down steep ravines, and through brambles, the city seems far away. There is no trail leading here, and I've been seen another soul out there. 

But in decades past, I've heard, Congress Heights kids treated the park as their own Hundred Acre Wood.
They are the likely authors creators of these carvings, which look old.

Most are just names or initials, and some are not legible. To the left is the oldest dated carving I've found so far, in a beautiful area between Malcolm X Avenue and Brothers Place.  It reads "A.R. Hudson 1920." That's 97 years ago, before any of us were born, and older than most houses in Congress Heights. The tree has grown a lot in that time, so the size of the words has probably more than doubled over that time.

Nearby are several carvings from the 1950s, including "Hardy 1953" and "Pack 61 1953. Cub scout pack, that it.

Hearts are a common motif, but this one (see left) is unusual. Instead of the lovers' names inside the heart, it appear to says "As it was right before God I'm C." What's your interpretation? 

In a sad but unsurprising reminder the long history of racism in our city, I also encountered a carving of a swastika and the word "Hitler." It looks at least 40 year old, and could have been carved anytime since 1920, when the Nazis adopted the swastika (originally a Hindu sign of good luck ) as their symbol.





Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Community clean-ups to continue every second Saturday in 2018

The last official volunteer opportunity of 2017 is Saturday, December 11 from 10:30 am to 1 pm.                                        Winter is a great time to clear our urban woodlands of trash and invasive species. They are easier to find when dense foliage is not covering everything, and there is little danger from ticks, bees, mosquitoes, or heat exhaustion.

We will celebrate and coming winter solstice and Christmas with hot chocolate.

While supplies last, all volunteers will receive a free Nalgene water bottle courtesy of REI! 


We meet at the benches across Malcolm X Avenue from 555 Newcomb Street SE, Washington, DC 20032.

We work in rugged, wooded terrain, so volunteers should wear boots and clothes they will not mind getting dirty.  Gloves, bags, and water refills are provided. 

Documentation of community service hours gladly provided upon request. 

 For more information contact Nathan Harrington at nbharrington@yahoo.com or 301-758-5892.





















Community Clean-Ups will continue to be held at the same time and place every second Saturday of the month throughout 2018. The dates are:



January 13
February 10
March 10
April 14
May 12
June 9
July 14
August 11
September 8
October 13
November 10
December 8

Monday, October 30, 2017

Real Solutions for “Marion Barry Park”

The petition to fence off the heavily used portion of Shepherd Parkway along Martin Luther King Avenue (see my October 16 post) may be an expression of scapegoating and despair, but it is having a positive effect:  those already working to build hope and pride in the park are coming together, their passion and resolve renewed.  




For years, local clergy and church volunteers have provided ministry, food, clothing, and other services to needy park users. The Park Service, Congress Heights Community Association, and others have held family-friendly events in the park, and conscientious park users make it their business to pick up the litter.  

And of course, the Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway has removed hundreds of thousands of pounds of trash from the wooded areas of the park, including those adjacent to the picnic area. Park users have been friendly and appreciative towards our volunteers. Ellen Williams, our most loyal volunteer, got involved in 2015 after we invited her and others sitting in the park to join a clean-up.
In the photo above, more than 50 people gathered on October 17 for a financial empowerment workshop with real estate entrepreneur Jay Morrison. The park has also been the sight of Black Lives Matter protests and Art All Night.

None of these positive activities were even mentioned in the petition. 

On October 27, ANC 8C Commissioners Karen Lucas and Sharece Crawford convened a meeting at the RISE Center to bring together those working to attack the root causes the joblessness, addiction, and violence seen in the park. Many had never met and were unaware of the others’ efforts.

All were united in their embrace of those who some call “the people in the park” as our brothers and sisters, each with their own story, neighbors with as much claim to this space as us.

Commissioner Lucas drew applause then she broke it down: “The park will not close, because the park is not dangerous. Trees and grass are not dangerous. Tables and benches are not dangerous. Some dangerous things happen there, as they do throughout our community. Some people chose to fixate on the park, but it it’s really about our people.”

Those in attendance were also roused by the incisive, truth-telling words of Aiyi’nah Ford, Executive Director of the Future Foundation. Founded in 2012, the Foundation works to “empower and activate “future adults” (13-21 years of age) and their families with trauma-informed social justice advocacy, community organizing and resource development skills to improve their future.”

Ford spoke of GLBTQ youth seeking refuge in the park after being put out of their homes because of their sexual orientation or gender expression.  

The Rev. Dr. Nicole Johnson-Douglass of the Deliverance Temple A.M.E. Zion Church described how she leads Sunday worship services in the park every Sunday; afterwards they discuss the challenges residents are facing and help connect them with services. Contrary to the claims of some, those who enter the park with a humility and respect for those there, are welcomed, she said.    

Travis Dread-Hughes of the DC Department of Behavioral Health promoted the department’s Access HelpLine as a humane alternative to calling the police. One of the most comprehensive services of its kind in the United States, DC residents can call 888-793-4357, 24-hours a day, seven-day-a-week to speak with mental health professionals who can refer them to immediate help or ongoing care.

National Capital Parks-East Deputy Superintendent Ann Honious, a veteran of previous community discussions about Shepherd Parkway, spoke about the Rapid Ethnographic Assessment Program (REAP) being carried out by Howard University students in the park. “Instead of rushing in and doing something that looks nice but might turn out not to be what the community needs and wants, we are doing to take a long hard look at what this place means to people.”  

This comes as a disappointment for those impatient for long-overdue physical improvements, but it’s hard to argue with the need for changes to be sensitive to the uniqueness of Congress Heights.

Captain Green of the Park Police Anacostia Station, a Ward 8 native, spoke eloquently about his commitment to respecting the civil liberties and dignity of the citizens. He alluded to “broke windows policing,” in which people of color are stopped by police and often criminally charged for minor “quality of life offenses” and concluded “That’s not going to happen on my watch.”  Echoing Mr. Dread-Hughes, he argued that involving police should be a community’s last resort, not the first.  

He acknowledged the problem of understaffing- four officers on duty at any given time, covering 4,000 acres of federal parkland from the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to Piscataway Park. Still, he said his department is committed to maintaining a presence at Shepherd Parkway.  “Just because you don’t see our cruisers parked there all day, or our officers marking arrests in the park, doesn’t mean we aren’t working it make it safer.”

Other panelists included Ward 8 State Board of Education representative Markus Batchelor and Saleem Adolfo of the Black United Fund, which works to serve critical needs of special populations; and that promote community based problem solving.”   

The meeting could have continued all night, but when the building’s closing time arrived, all departed energized, promising to increase dialogue and coordination.

Perhaps the most important take-way was articulated by Aiyi’nah Ford, who referenced the Rev. Jesse Jackson: The tools to heal and build up our communities already exist within our communities. We need not, and cannot, wait for a government agency to rescue us.

  

P.S.

As noted in previous posts, the area under discussion comprises less than one percent Shepherd Parkway’s 197 acres and really needs a name of its own. The idea of naming it for Marion Barry -who toward the end of his life lived a few blocks away- seems be gaining momentum.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Regarding the petition to close Shepherd Parkway


Dear Friends,

On October 10, Nikki Peele, author of the Congress Heights on the Rise blog, launched a petition on change.org to “CLOSE Shepherd Park (corner of MLK Ave SE & Malcolm X Ave SE) in Ward 8, DC.”

The petition includes the phrase “Congress Heights Residents To Restore Community Safe Spaces.”


I want to make clear that the Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway is not involved in this effort. We oppose the closure of the park and urge our supporter to NOT sign the petition.

The text of the petition identifies serious, longstanding issues in the heavily used picnic area, a small strip of Shepherd Parkway that juts into the center of Congress Heights. It lacks an official name but has been called many things by residents and is known within the Park Service “Parklands.” It's where we meet for our monthly clean-ups.

We share the author’s frustration with the littering, public intoxication, fights, and other illegal activities in park. The petition calls for meetings to “establish a plan of action that involves NPS, DC Government, local law enforcement, community groups, local businesses etc. to establish an action plan,” and we agree that this is long overdue. She calls for the opening of a day-time facility for residents of the 801 men’s homeless shelter, which is a great idea.

Unfortunately, Ms. Peele also makes sweeping generalizations and uses loaded language to dehumanize and justify the removal or our most marginalized neighbors.

The petition was launched without the input of ANC commissioners or leaders of the Congress Heights Community Association and without regard to discussions taking place between between National-Capital Parks-East and community leaders.

Her proposed solution- is to fence off the entire areas for at least 90 days- is a simple, answer to problems that have no simple answers.

The people she dismisses as “the criminal element” are Washingtonians, and human beings we complex stories. The problematic behaviors she describes are symptoms of poverty, addiction, mental illness, and homelessness, with roots going deep in the history of our country, the structure of our economy, and the polices or our national and local governments. 

Closing the park might temporarily move some people and their problems to another location, but would, but it would send a terrible message about the type of community we want to be.

Contrary to what Ms. Peele (and Mr. Trump) say, erecting fences will not heal our social ills  or create a safe, vibrant public space.

We hope that the attention generated by the petition will lead to constructive discussion of the future of the park that includes all users as partners in community.

In Peace and Unity,

Nathan Harrington
Chair, Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway

Friday, October 13, 2017

Energy- and impatience- at National Park Service Partnership Summit

On October 10, nearly a hundred people gathered at THEARC, in the Parklands section of Ward 8, for a "Partnership Summit" convened by Tara Morrison, the Superintendent of National Capital Parks-East (NACE), which is the NPS unit responsible for all federal parklands on the east side of DC and in Prince George's County.

The entire office staff of NACE- as skeleton crew of about a dozen- was in attendance, along with a dozen others from the National Capital Region and NPS central offices.

Among the many local groups represented were:

Anacostia Waterfront Trust/Federal City Council
Anacostia Coordinating Council
Earth Conservation Corps
Casey Trees
Groundwork DC
Student Conservation Association
Washington Parks and People
Anacostia Watershed Society
Washington Area Bicyclists Association
Alice Ferguson Foundation
Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
Georgetown University
DC agencies, include Department of Parks and Recreational and Department of Energy and the Environment, and the Mayor's office

It was the most significant public outreach undertaken by NACE in many years, and perhaps the largest gathering to date of people concerned with East of the River parks. The sense of energy and common purpose was palpable.

But so too were some harsh realities: the scandalous lack of funding provided the Park Service by Congress, and  the dire conditions in many of the parks, a legacy of  and the chronic neglect of low-income communities of color.  This was clearly NACE's attempt to improve its relations with "the community."

NACE staff led all the breakout groups, and they did most of the talking. Their presentations were long on abstract topics of policy and structure, delivered by means of the inevitable PowerPoint slides. The focus was explicitly on how to partner with NACE, so there was limited discussion of specific issues facing the parks or concrete action to make them better.

Their most common refrains involved "limited capacity" "competing priorities," "doesn't happen overnight," lines which seasoned activists have come to understand as polite ways of saying Sorry, we can’t do any of what you’re proposing.

At times it was just plain boring. A guy from the C&O Canal and a woman from President's Park spoke at length about the structures they use to manage volunteers. During an exercise intended to map out which groups are engaged in similar activities or serving the geographic areas, half the time was spent explaining the procedure to be followed.

The tenor of the day was constructive and civil, with none of the lively theatrics one sometimes sees at civic meetings in Ward 8. One of the few explicit criticisms of NACE came during the opening introductions, Representatives from Malcolm X Day Committee and East River Jazz voiced their frustration with the slow and unresponsive NACE bureaucracy.

The most productive part of the day for me was the networking, made easy by the participant list provided by conference organizers, complete with affiliations and email addresses.

At the conclusion of one workshop, the representative of an influential advocacy group turned to me and asked, in earshot of the NACE officials "What's is going to take to make them do their job?” or something to that effect.

Surprised by his candor, I told him with equal candor that the only way to impose one's agency upon the Park Service- or any public institution, for that matter- is to have a great deal of money and political connections. I went on to cite several local examples of extraordinary things done by the Park Service at the behest of the well-healed.

He shook his head in sadness then said earnestly, hopefully, “We should talk.”

I am indeed hopeful that the countless contacts like this one made at the summit will spawn new collaborations to bring more resources- and engaged residents- to the parks.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dog days are over

According to legend, Washington shuts down in the summer when the big shots and professional classes head for the mountains and beaches. Notwithstanding the obvious advantages of a "working vacation" in the backwoods of Ward 8, summer has never been  an easy time to recruit volunteers to Shepherd Parkway. This year five people showed up on June 10, three on July 8, and two on August 12. If you've been wondering whether or not this campaign needs you help, well...

But not all was apathy and stagnation: plenty of work got done by a trio of die-hards. Garret White, a University of Vermont graduate who recently moved to DC to do environmental work, found the Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway on volunteermatch.org, and joined forces with committee chair Nathan Harrington and Ellen Williams, a long-time Congress Heights resident and community volunteer. Over the course of five days this summer, the three defied the stifling heat and humidity to remove over a ton (that's 2,000  lbs) of junk from along Lebaum and 4th Streets, proving once again that the skill and dedication of volunteers sometimes matter more than their sheer numbers.

And in any case, the hordes are coming back. On September 9, nine students from  Georgetown University brought visual appeal back to Parkland Place, a one-way street separated from Malcolm X Avenue by a dramatic wooded hillside. It has been cleaned by volunteers repeatedly over the past five years but continues to be the target of new dumping. Undeterred by television sets, sofas, bags upon bags of clothing and a hornets nest, they bagged an estimated half ton.

Sunday, September 17 Shepherd Parkway will once again play host to Catholic University's Mother Theresa Day of Service. 80 students will attack a major dumping site just beyond the southern tip of Shepherd Parkway alongside beautiful Oxon Run. All are welcome to join us from 10am to 1pm. Meet at  4721 1st Street SW.

Clean-up dates for the remainder of 2017 are October 14, November 11, and December 9, always from 10:30 am to 1 pm. We meet at the benches opposite 555 Newcomb Street SE in the lively "town green" of Congress Heights.

Want to make sure we're for real?  Call Nathan at 301-758-5892 or email nbharrington@yahoo.com.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Celebrate Summer in the Woods of Ward 8



For the first time in recent memory, Shepherd Parkway has its very own sign identifying it as a unit of National Park Service (NPS). 


The sign pictured here was erected in February at the corner of 2nd and Chesapeake Streets SW. More of these are expected at several locations by the end of the year, along with new informational panels known as "waysides."

For the past year, Ranger Vince Vaise has worked with the NPS's Northeast Region headquarters in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia to create the new signs.

The Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway has been arguing for five years that high quality, well-placed signage is key to helping residents and visitors see the park as a valuable resource rather than a foreboding, and inaccessible dead zone.

The Park Service has been slow to make the improvements we seek, but our persistent advocacy has finally born fruit.  The new signage is an important step along the way to reengaging the public with their public land. 



But what's that awful mess?

It's just some of the junk that's still laying in the woods, fouling the soil and water and visually scaring a lush and otherwise beautiful landscape. We need your help to clean it all up.
 

Please join our next

Community Clean-Up

Saturday, June 10

10:30 am - 1 pm

-Meet opposite 555 Newcomb Street SE, in the park in the corner of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X Avenues SE

-Wear boots, pants (not shorts) and clothes you don't mind getting dirty

-Gloves, bags, tools and water will be provided

-Documentation of community service hours provided upon request

-School, church, and workplace groups are welcome with RSVP

-For more info contact Nathan at nbharrington@yahoo.com or 301-758-5892 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Earth Day at the Parkway


Don't miss our biggest volunteer event of the year! Shepherd Parkway is one of 30 sites participating in the Anacostia Watershed Society's

2017 Earth Day Clean-Up & Celebration
Saturday, April 22
9 am to 12 noon

For the first time, we'll be focusing on the wide-open southern section of Shepherd Parkway, along 2nd Street SW in the community of Bellevue.
~Meet in the picnic area at the corner of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X Avenues SE
~Wear boots and clothes you won't mind getting dirty.  
~The first 100 volunteers will receive an Anacostia Watershed Society Earth Day t-shirt
~For more information contact Nathan Harrington at nathanbharrington@gmail.com



Shepherd Parkway is featured in the April Issue of the Hill Rag!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Why are there so many tires in the woods, and why should we care?

You've seen them: tires scattered incongruently in the woods amidst beech trees and ferns. In many parts of the United States, old tires are the most illegally dumped item. The photo at right was taken in Shepherd Parkway below 2nd Street SE in 2011, before our awesome volunteers removed all the tires. 

Of all the things people might want to get rid of, why are there so many tires in our public land park lands? 

Most tire sellers charge customers a disposal fee of a few dollars. The seller then contracts with hauler to pick up the tires. The hauler then has several options: they can pay to dispose of the tires at a landfill, which usually costs at least a dollar per tire, or transfer them to a recycler. Tires can be ground up used for as a porous paving surance for parking lots and playgrounds, or can be turned into fuel. The recycler may be located some distance away and might also charge a fee. 

If the hauler is unscrupulous or pressed for cash, they may risk a cheaper option: rolling the tires down a hill into the woods, usually on public land. It takes only minutes and is difficult to prosecute unless someone catches them in the act. Illegal dumping is rarely an enforcement priority for police- especially in low-income areas- state and local land managers and environmental crimes units are invariable under-staffed and spread out over a huge area.   

In many states, including Maryland (80 cents) and Virginia (5 cents) also require tire sellers to collect a state fee, with revenue going to offset landfill and recycling. 

None of the options for disposing of tires is ideal.  Tire are not biodegradable and are hard to compact, so they take up a lot of space in landfills. Recycling is also a bit of a trade-off: over a period of many years, sun, water, soil and ice cause them to slowly break down. As this happens, toxic oils and heavy metals such as lead are released into the soil, where they remain for centuries, slowly leaching into the groundwater and local streams and rivers. Recycling facilities can be very loud and smelly. 

When tires are scattered willy nilly in the woods, they contaminate the view as well as the soil and water. They are an eyesore and an insult to the great American idea of setting aside land for preservation of the natural landscape and ecosystems for future generations.   

The most serious threat posed by those tires laying around outside is one you won't notice until you try to pick one up. Anyone who's helped us remove tires from Shepherd Parkway knows that rain water accumulates inside the tires is very difficult to set out. The water is stagnant, and often warm- a perfect breeding ground for mosquitos. 

Given the coming of mosquito season and recent reports of Zika botched tests, the urgency of cleaning up these tires in our communities takes of greater urgency.  

Stay tuned as I do additional research into tire disposal in the DC area. 


Friday, November 25, 2016

Five Years and Still Rolling

As the darkness and cold around us grows, both climatically and politically, the Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway gives thanks for all we have been able to accomplish together over the past five years.

We have held nearly 100 clean-up events with over 1,500 volunteers.  We've removed  hundreds of thousands of pounds of trash from the park, leaving it the cleanest it's been in decades.

In 20017, we will continue to hold our signature Community Clean-Ups every second Saturday of the month. In the new year we are moving the start time up half an hour to 10:30 am, but the end time remains 1 pm.

We will continue to meet in the picnic area near the corner of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X Avenues SE.

Mark your calendar for 10:30 to 1 on:

Saturday, January 14
Saturday, February 11
Saturday, March 11
Saturday, April 8
Saturday, May 13
Saturday, June 10
Saturday, July 8
Saturday, August 12
Saturday, September 9
Saturday, October 14
Saturday, November 11
Saturday, December 9

We continue our open invitation to colleges, schools, churches, offices and other groups who wish to leave their mark on Shepherd Parkway. You pick the date and time. Contact Nathan at nathanbharrington@gmail.com to arrange your groups volunteer experience.






 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The forest still needs us, and we still need the forest


By Nathan Harrington

Like most Washingtonians, I am still reeling from the news that an openly racist, nativist misogynistic and Islamophobic con-man - a vacuous demagogue and crass narcissist - will be our next President. 

Cherished illusions about what kind a country we are, how far we've come, and who we entrust with power have been painfully stripped away. The possibility that a sage, cool-headed black president might be followed by a feisty woman president was enough to provoke a fierce reactionary backlash.  

More people voted for Clinton, but thanks to the arcane - and insane - Electoral College, we have our second undemocratically elected president in 16 years. 

The electoral outcome is an unmitigated disaster for "the environment" - that is, the prospects for the planet remaining habitable. While future administrations will ultimately reverse the policy outrages of the next four years, the science of climate change is not negotiable or reversible. If the President-Elect follows through on his pledges of withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords, extract and burn more coal, oil and gas, and roll-back Obama's emissions and fuel economy standards - and if Congress goes along - the survival of our children may come to depend on the pipe-dreams of Elon Musk.      

Let's hope that this dark moment in our history will break through our complacency. As the great historian Howard Zinn said "If you want change, it matters less who is sitting in the White House than who is sitting in, and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change.”

All of our work for human rights, social and economic justice, peace, and a sustainable world must continue, but with a new consciousness of what's a stake. 

Restoring and protecting Shepherd Parkway as a life-giving resource for the under-served Ward 8 community is one very small contribution to a better world.  The forest still needs us. 

In times like these, we all need the healing power of nature. We still need the forest.  

Monday, October 17, 2016

New Superintendent Named for National Capital Parks-East

BIG NEWS, Courtesy of the Anacostia Trust:
"Tara Morrison will take over as Superintendent of National Capital Parks–East on December 7. She will be responsible for Anacostia Park, historic homes (Frederick Douglass, Mary McLeod Bethune and Carter G. Woodson), the Fort Circle parks, and several other parks in DC and Maryland.
According to the release announcing her appointment, New Superintendent Named for Anacostia Park, Historic Homes and Capitol Hill Parks, Morrison will be joined by two new staff focused on Anacostia Park, a Project Executive for the Anacostia and a Senior Project Manager. The former will move forward Anacostia Park projects, partnerships, and initiatives. The latter will focus on cleaning five contaminated sites along the Anacostia River and will work closely with DC's Department of Energy and the Environment.
Superintendent Morrison brings to National Capital Parks East a reputation of working effectively with park partners noted Anacostia Waterfront Trust Executive Director Doug Siglin. “We look forward to working closely with her for many years to make the Anacostia Park truly a special place for all DC, but particularly for people who live east of the Anacostia River.”
Morrison joined the National Park Service in 1998. She is not new to DC. Since 2011, Morrison has been Superintendent of Rock Creek Park. Throughout her NPS career, Morrison has engaged with community in a variety of ways.  She has, for example, worked closely with the public during the creation of the African Burial Ground Visitor Center's first general management plan to ensure that the community was actively engaged in the process.
Morrison attended Northeastern University and received a B.S. in African American studies. She pursued graduate studies in anthropology at the University of South Carolina.
Morrison is taking the place of Gopaul Noojibail; Noojibail has moved to Wyoming to serve as Deputy Superintendent at Grand Teton National Park."

Saturday, October 8, 2016

October at Shepherd Parkway

Dear Friends,

Please join our next community Clean-Up on Saturday, October 15 from 11 am to 1 pm. 

We meet at the picnic tables near the corner or Martin Luther King and Malcolm X Avenues SE.

Gloves, bags, and water are provided. Volunteers should wear boots and clothes you won't mind getting dirty. Bring a water bottle.
 
October is my favorite month at Shepherd Parkway. The air is fresh; the mosquitoes are gone. It is cool but not cold. The trees are a riot greens, yellows, oranges and reds. 
 
I know you have many choices and demands on your Saturdays, but consider: these two hours will yield concrete benefits for you and your community:
  • Each and every person who attends makes a measurable difference. Every can, bottle, and bag picked-up brings us closer to our goal of healthy, beautiful park.
  • Research demonstrates that physical and mental health benefits of  physical activity in nature.  
If you find the time to join us, you will not regret it.

Peace and Blessings,

Nathan Harrington
Chair, Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Volunteers continue to step up. When will the Park Service?

Despite the often rainy weather, April was a huge volunteer month at the Parkway.

On Friday, April 22, 20 staff from the U.S. Coast Guard's Personnel Service Center cleaned the beautiful but heavily polluted area behind Brother Place SE.

The next day, April 23, nearly 100 volunteers braved a cool rain at Shepherd Parkway as part of the Anacostia Watershed Society's annual Earth Day Clean-Up.  Work sites included the foot of Malcolm X Avenue, 2nd Street, the Lebaum Street.

Over the two days, we removed over 300 bags full of trash, 112 tires, and untold thousands of pounds of car parts, carpets, furniture, and other large items.

Areas of the park where you could not see the ground when we began are starting to look like healthy forests again. New dumping continues to occur but is less frequent than in the past, and we strive to undo it as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, our heroic volunteer efforts have yet to be matched by any serious action on the part of the parks "managers" at National Capital Parks-East. After five years of clean-ups and nearly two years of meetings, Shepherd Parkway still has

-No signage
-No public programming
-No trail access
-No anti-dumping enforcement
-No historical interpretation, save for one sign
-No serious plan for its future

NPS sites in the whiter, more affluent parts of DC have all of these. The neglect of Shepherd Parkway is a classic case of environmental racism, and it must end.

Please sign the Shepherd Parkway Call to Action to let NPS leaders know that Ward 8 deserves better.

Our next Community Clean-Up will be on Saturday, May 14 from 11 to 1. Meet at the picnic area near the corner of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X Avenues SE.

While supplies last, all volunteers will receive a bright yellow Anacostia Watershed Society Earth Day t-shirt.

Monday, March 28, 2016

An Interview with Jim Foster, President of the Anacostia Watershed Society

Nathan: What makes the Anacostia River unique?

Jim: It’s the river that flows through the nation’s capital. It is certainly an urban river and has been the recipient of much abuse, like other rivers. What really sets it apart is the federal government’s influence and impact on this river compared to other rivers in the county. That’s really unique.

Nathan: Of all the work you’ve done to restore the river and the watershed, what accomplishment are you most proud of?

Jim: I think we’re most proud of raising the awareness of this river after generations of telling people, “Don’t go there, that river’s dirty.” We’ve worked really hard to reconnect people to the river and weave the river back into the fabric of the communities. Is it done? Heck no. Is it better than it was? Heck yes. Mission accomplished? No.

Nathan: One of the things that I deal with a lot as a Ward 8 resident and leader Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway is illegal dumping. We spent a lot of time removing trash that other people have thrown, but I’ve yet to glean much insight into how we might change people’s mindset or behavior.

Jim: I have a very literal approach to that- no pun intended. The reality is that people take care of the space when they feel connected to it and they feel part of the community. The people who are doing the dumping are coming from somewhere else for the most part.The people that are doing the littering in their communities want their space to be clean, but they disassociate themselves from the particular place where they are littering.  

We are working hard to change some of that behavior: witness the bag fee and the polystyrene container ban in DC. We’ve been working this year on bottle deposit legislation in Maryland. It is really about behavior change: “Hey, I own this place, and I respect it.”

Home ownership is 27 percent east of the river and 75 percent west of the river. How do we change that dynamic so more people are invested in their communities and want to help take of them?



Nathan: I get the impression that Prince George’s County lags behind the District and Montgomery County when it comes to environment laws to benefit the watershed. Is that correct? If so, why do you think that is?

Jim: In many respects they do lag far behind. It was run a fiefdom for many years. There were ten families that kind of ran the place, and it was all about them and development.

Montgomery County has been a little bit more progressive in their approach to the environment, but they’ve also done a lot of damage upfront, so they have a long way to go.

What we are seeing in Prince George’s is a sea change in the leadership. County Executive Baker has really worked hard to change things. Can you do it in eight years after 400 years of abuse? No. But he has been able to bring some progressive leadership in: witness Adam Ortiz, director of the Department of the Environment.