Monday, May 28, 2018

Foam Ban Blues in Ward 8


Since January 1, 2016, it has been illegal in the District of Columbia to sell prepared food in a foam containers. The mayor and Council passed the ban at the urging of environmentalists because foam is bad news for the environment for many reasons.

Your coffee should always be served in a paper cup, and your chicken wings with mumbo sauce in a paper of plastic box. Paper and plastic are  recyclable, unlike Styrofoam. 

Two and a half years later, the DC Department of Energy an the Environment (DOEE) claims an 85% compliance, but what I've seen suggests that the rate in Ward 8 is much lower.

Foam  tends to be slightly cheaper and customers are used to it, so some business owners disregard the law. This foam ends up on our streets and in our streams, where is breaks down into millions of tiny pieces and poisons animals that eat them.

DOEE's enforcement strategy depends mostly on tips from citizens. Carryouts and food trucks are unlikely to be visited by inspectors unless a customer reports their use of foam to DOEE.

This is where you come in. Any time you are given a foam food container, or see someone else leaving a carryout food truck with one, report it to DOEE.  Reports can also be made over the phone or online using 311.

Only with active citizen engagement will the foam ban fulfill its intended goal of a   cleaner environment.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway Wins $20,000 DOEE Grant!

Huge news:

The Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway, with the Anacostia Coordinating Council as our fiscal sponsor, has been chosen by the DC Department of Energy and the Environment to receive a Community Stormwater Solutions Grant. We're calling our project Engaging Ward 8 Residents in Ward 8 Woodland Restoration, or "Ward 8 Woods"  for short. It will run from June 30, 2018 to June 30, 2019. 

Our goal is to drastically reduce the burden of trash and invasive specie not only in Shepherd Parkway, but in 
the other three large wooded areas in the Ward 8 as well: Oxon Run Parkway, Suitland Parkway, and Fort Stanton Park. We'll hold at least one clean-up each month at each of the four parks, with the goal of removing at least 50,000 pounds of trash and cutting invasives vines from 300 trees.

After dedicating thousands of hours of unpaid work to Shepherd Parkway over the past seven years, Committee Chair Nathan Harrington will manage the project and work an average of 15 hours a week. Art Slater, Director of Operations for the Anacostia Coordinating Council, will help manage the grant, and other members of the Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway will play an advisory role.  We'll be working closely with our colleagues at National-Capital Parks-East

Over the course of June, we’ll be interviewing for four Park Steward positions. Candidates must be Ward 8 residents who are unemployed or underemployed and face barriers to employment. Park Stewards will each be paid for 80 hours of work and training over the course of the year.  

We’ll be walking streets and knocking on doors to recruit volunteers, and gather information about how residents use the parks and what changes they’d like to see. With our partners at the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative we’ll be spreading the message to “Take Care of Your Trash” by not littering or dumping.

Our project is part of the Year of the Anacostia, a watershed-wide initiative to celebrate and restore the Anacostia River.

We invite all Ward 8 residents, nonprofits, businesses, churches and schools to join us as volunteers and collaborators for a healthier and more beautiful environment.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Come out and be heard as part of the Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit Agreement

In 2015, the National Park Service (NPS) lost a fight with the General Service Administration (GSA) and was forced to hand over eight acres of Shepherd Parkway to make way for an access road leading from 295 onto the new U.S. Homeland Security campus at St. Elizabeths.  Under federal environmental law, the GSA must pay NPS  "mitigation" funds to compensate for the lost of parkland. 
Throughout 2016, National Capital Parks-East (NACE) refused to tell us how much they were getting in mitigation or how they planned to use it. We filed a Freedom of Information Act request and learned that NACE had received around $500,000 and earmarked it for improvements to the heavily used area of Shepherd Parkway near the corner of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Avenues, which they refer to as Parkland.     
When we met with the new superintendent Tara Morrison in early 2017,  she told us that before using mitigation funds to spruce up the park, they would contracting with the Department of Sociology at Howard University to conduct a study of who uses the park, what it means to them, and what they would like to see there.   
Yesterday we received the following announcement of a public meeting to get input from residents. 
Although the notice is short, this is our chance to be heard. Please register and attend if you are able.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
TELL US ABOUT YOUR PARK
Through the Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit Agreement (CESU), the Howard University Department of Sociology and the National Park Service are seeking a better understanding of the resources and experiences of neighbors and visitors of Parkland, a unit of Shepherd Parkway.

Please join us for an intimate community conversation about Shepherd Park/Malcolm X, including activities that occur or that you would like to see at the park, facilities, safety, and the significance of the park to you, the community and the neighborhood.

Monday, March 26, 2018
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Bellevue/William O. Lockridge Library
115 Atlantic St SW
Washington, DC 20032

A4, A2, and W1 buses run near the library

*Food and refreshments provided*

To register, please visit http://bit.ly/2CiOTcQ.

**Must be 18 years of age or older
**Must be a DC resident or business owner in a zip code near the park. The park is located on the corner of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Avenues, SE.

For more information contact Naomi Adams at naomi.adams@bison.howard.edu or (708) 846-1943.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Mud season




Our region has been in a serious drought for several months, but Saturday, February 10 was a wet one. Ten brave volunteers braved the rain and mud to clean-up one of Shepherd Parkway's most egregious dumping sites. Across from 411 Lebaum Steet, at a spot where the drop off is especially precipitous and close to the curb, someone a few months ago dumped what looked to be the contents of an entire apartment: sofas, mattresses, lamps, vacuum cleaners, TVs, clothing, and much, much more.  

Moving all of this up to the street required repelling backward down the treacherous slope while holding on to a rope tied to a post at the top, wrestling the items while fighting to maintain one's footing, and passing them up from one person to the next.

As the noon hour progressed, the rain grew heavier, and portions of the hill turned to mudslides. If any of us had had any sense at all, we would have quit an hour earlier. Some did. But for others it was exhilarating,  like being a kids again playing in the mud.

When we finally quit, our clothes were soaked to the skin and caked in mud. Over 1,000 pounds of household items were sitting by the curb, ready to be picked up.

Whatever caused all those possessions (many of them usable) to be dumped in the woods, it wasn't good. Can we talk about the connections between economic justice and environmental justice?

Trash in the woods are, for the most park, a consequence of poverty. Evictions- in which the human right to housing is violated for monetary gain- are common in Ward 8. When folks are evicted, and have nowhere to put their belongings, they end up on our streets for all to see, a literal airing of dirty laundry. Perhaps throwing them down the hill into the woods is an attempted avoid at least that indignity. When people are in crisis, their basic needs unmet, consideration for others and the planet becomes impossible.

Healing our natural ecosystems requires that we simultaneously heal our social fabric.Only when we stop treating people as expendable will we stop treating the land as expendable.

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 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 need 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 creators of these carvings, which look old.

Most are just names or initials, and some are not legible. Above 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.

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 violent white supremacy in our city, I also encountered a carving of a swastika and the word "Hitler." It looks to be 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.

Most fascist vandalism is (thank God) removed immediately, but this one deep in the woods has remained, much like the hatred that it represents. 

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.