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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Anacostia Parks and Community Collaboration Throughout Anacostia

It is fascinating how people on both sides of the Anacostia River have resolved to work toward the restoration of the waters and adjacent lands using two very different approaches.  Even more interesting is how each approach fits so well with the landscape, the history, the land uses, and the assets of each side.

On the Capitol Hill side of the River, the traditional neighborhoods turned their backs on the pollution, the old industrial buildings and all else going on east of the freeways and the stadium, golf course and Arboretum.  But once the River’s recovery began, there was a renewed interest in what could be done to clean away the old industries, build new stadiums, develop the area south of the Navy Yard with expensive houses, condos, apartments, stores and restaurants along the water – even yacht clubs!  And now the effort is even moving across South Capitol Street and into Buzzard’s Point, a place ignored for many decades.

Coming Up with Ideas – July 2021. Photo:  Brenda Richardson

On the other side of the River, in Anacostia, the effort to support the recovered waters and parks has been more complex, but has resulted in a cooperative effort to bring the River into the lives and neighborhoods of all who live near it without creating costs and conditions that force folks to move out.

There are many challenges to bring the citizens of Anacostia into embracing the parks and the River as new and wonderful parts of their environment.   Some are structural; the Freeway separates many neighborhoods from the parklands and provides few places to cross under.  Some are historic; the River has acted as a barrier to cross to get to the main part of the city.  Some are social, such as fears of being alone without access to help.  But now there is an effort to overcome all these and other reasons that have kept the citizens of Anacostia from enjoying the open spaces and river activities and views.

This effort is being carried out by a coalition of 32 organizations, which have formed the Anacostia Park and Community Collaborative, or APACC.  Some are local, others city-wide, regional or even national.  Formed in the middle of the last decade by ex-Mayor Anthony Williams and his colleague Doug Siglin, APACC has grown to engage its members in a wide range of activities to work with the community and neighborhoods to create the conditions and programs that let folks be able to afford to stay in their homes and expand their use of the parks and River without fear of being displaced by increasing costs of living.  The following Table gives you a sense of who are the 32 organizations working together and what the names indicate each is focusing on.

Ward 7     (5) East River Family Strengthening Collaborative
Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
Groundwork Anacostia River DC
Ward 7 Business Partnership
Zion Baptist Church of Eastland Gardens


Ward 8     (7) Anacostia Business Improvement District
Anacostia Coordinating Council
Fairlawn Citizens’ Association
Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative
Historic Anacostia Block Association
Ward 8 Woods

Friends of Oxon Run Park


Wards 7 and 8      (3) Akiima Price Consulting
Community Preservation and Development Corporation
Progressive National Baptist Convention Comm,Dev.Corp.
DC Anacostia Watershed (2) Building Bridges Across the River (11th Street Bridge Project)
Living Classrooms – Kingman Island


Entire Watershed (2) Anacostia Riverkeeper
Anacostia Watershed Society


DC-Wide     (9) Alice Ferguson Foundation
The Conservation Fund
DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice
Institute for Public Health Innovation
Nature Bridge
Neighborhood Legal Services Program
Policy Innov. Lab McCourt Sch.of Public Policy, Georgetown
Sierra Club DC
Washington Parks and People


Region-wide     (3) Casey Trees
Urban Institute


National             (2) Audubon Naturalist Society
Clean Water Fund


The Collaborative holds monthly meetings to coordinate actions, activities and pressure on agencies and systems of all types to get these neighborhoods what they want and need for the coming years.  These are meetings of the Steering Committee, the Policy Committee, General Meetings to which all are invited, and public events. Check for the time and place of meetings and events on the Collaborative website, www.anacostiaparkcommunity.org.  The purpose of the meetings is to organize the power and rally the community on areas of concern.

At the moment, the focus of the group is on a number of ongoing efforts.  One is the design and progress for the 11th Street Bridge Project to add pedestrian activities over and alongside the River – a project of “Building Bridges Across the River”. Another is stewardship programs to engage students in school and train those graduating in possible work protecting natural systems along the river.  Then there are possible activities in stream restoration, water quality measurement, wetlands reconstruction and other areas for both education and jobs for youth.

Anacostia Park and its River are turning into a marvelous places that should be designed and provided with programs that will make the residents of Anacostia want to stay and take advantage of all the improvements that are coming their way.  And the organization to do just that is in place and working on it fulltime!

Bill Matuszeski is a member of the Mayor’s Leadership Council for a Cleaner Anacostia River, and the retired Director of the Chesapeake Bay Program.  He also serves on the board of Friends of the National Arboretum and on Citizen Advisory Committees for the Chesapeake and the Anacostia.

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