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.  

Monday, March 14, 2016

March Madnesss

Steve Coleman, founder and director of Washington Parks and People once told me, "Backsliding is the kiss of death."

He was talking out illegal dumping and his experience leading the epic restoration of Watts Branch (AKA Marvin Gaye) Park in Ward 7. As important as it is to tackle trash that's been there for many years, he said, it's even more important to make sure that the areas that have already been cleaned stay clean. Undoing new dumping as soon as possible sends a message to the community that times have changed and the dumpers will not win.

With that in mind, the Saturday, March 12 clean-up focused in the vicinity of  249 Newcomb Street SE, where it seems an entire apartment- rugs, furniture, mattresses, clothes, shoes, food- was dumped in December.  

Fifteen Cub Scouts from Pack 1657 at First Baptist Church of Glenarden were there, as were stalwarts Ellen Williams, Jonathan Taylor, Erick Whitaker and John Leach.

We removed an estimated 2,000 pounds (one ton) of man-made crap from the woods.

April is going to be a huge month at Shepherd Parkway. Join us on Saturday, April 2 from 11 am to 2 pm for a special work day with students Georgetown University.  Meet at the grassy area opposite 439 Lebaum Street SE.

The following Saturday, April 9, is our regular Community Clean-Up from 11 to 1 at our usual meeting place at the corner of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X Avenues SE.

On Friday, April 22 U.S. Coast Guard personnel will be working from 8 am to noon at a sight to be

The grant finale will be the Anacostia Watershed Society Earth Day Clean-Up on Saturday, April 23 from 9am to noon, meeting at the corner of 2nd Street and Malcolm X Avenue SE.

For more information on any of these events, contact Nathan at

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Shepherd Parkway needs your help this Spring

Here are three things you can do:
1Sign the Shepherd Parkway Call to Action

We've accomplished a great deal through the labors of our incredible volunteers, but Shepherd Parkway cannot realize its potential as a community asset without major investments by National Capital Parks-East (NACE), and it's up to us to create the political will.

The Call to Action, started in July 2014, lays out our vision for the park and calls on NACE and other decision makers to do their part. Please sign if you have not already. 

2. Donate to our Go Fund Me Campaign

This is a labor of love for a us, but we also need money to sustain and build on our efforts.

Your gift will help us provide small perks like coffee and donuts to our volunteers, tools and equipment to keep them working, and handbills and lawn signs to spread the word.

We are a grassroots, shoestring operation. Making a little bit go a long way is what we do.

Give $5, $10, or whatever you can afford.

The residents, volunteers, plants, animals, and river will thank you. 

3. Attend a Community Clean-Up

There is still far too much trash and invasive species in the park.

Join us from 11 am to 1 pm on 

          Saturday, March 12
          Saturday, April 9
          Saturday, May 14
We meet in the picnic area near the corner of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X Avenues SE.

Wear boots, long sleeves, and clothes you don't mind getting dirty.

Gloves, bags, and refreshments will be provided.

Questions? Contact Nathan Harrington