excerpt from ‘How the Civil War Changed Washington, D.C.’
“On May 19, 1864, the city decided to establish a paid Fire Department, which was organized on July 1, 1864. Only four companies were paid at first, with a chief engineer and five commissioners appointed for the new organization dubbed the Washington City Fire Department. This was effectively the beginning of professional fire fighting in Washington, D.C.”
Just over 150 years later, the District buried it’s 100th fire fighter who died while in the line of duty. Lieutenant Kevin Andre McRae was laid to rest after a large public ceremony honoring his service to District. He suffered a heart attack while fighting a two-alarm in an apartment building in NW DC on May 6th.
Lt. McRae joined the long line of fire fighters nearly 25 years ago. He left behind a wife, three sons and a daughter. He was 44 years old.
His public viewing was held at the Armory in Northeast, D.C. It was likely one of the few places that would hold the hundreds attendees would came to pay their respects to this man. Many were fire fighters from companies, not only from the District, but from all over the country. Congresswoman Norton, Mayor Bowser, Chairman Mendelson all spoke at his service. He was laid to rest at Lincoln Cemetery. Witnesses said the procession was the longest they had ever seen.
Today, President Barack Obama arrived to the Anacostia Library on Good Hope Road with little fanfare.
According to the Washington Post, President Obama’s trip to the library was to announce a digital donation to access to over 10,000 popular titles on behalf of nine major publishing houses.
The President went on to say,
“For a lot of people, if they live in a home where they don’t have a lot of books, books can be expensive. Your parents may not be able to afford to buy a whole lot of books,” said Obama, sitting on a stool surrounded by 40 wide-eyed middle school students. “But if we are able to set up . . . a way in which people can pull all of these books down through the Internet, suddenly that can even things out between poor kids and rich kids — everybody has got the ability to learn.”
His visit was kept quiet for the most part. Some people walking by wondered what all the commotion was about, and were genuinely shocked to find out that the President was in the neighborhood! Residents say security vehicles began showing up around 9:30am. I arrived around 11:15am and his motorcade had already gone by at 11:00am. Onlookers lining Good Hope Road told me he entered through the back of the library, so they hadn’t seen him go inside the building.
There were surprisingly few onlookers. Residents from the apartment buildings across the street from the library made up the majority of the crowd of 40-50 people. Many were snapping pictures of the heavy security detail with their cell phones. They told me officials had been by the evening before securing the area for the President’s visit. One man told me, that residents who lived behind the library, where the President entered, had been questioned by the President’s security staff in preparation for his visit. There were quite a few neighbors chatting with one another but other than that, the entire scene was calm and quiet.
For the most part, the perimeter, remained surprisingly small. As onlookers, we were all standing just on the other side of the street from the library. The streets were only blocked off one block in any direction. That’s much closer than when he’s in the White House. One could hardly tell that the leader of our country was sitting inside the building across the street!
When I left at 11:50am, the President had not left the library yet. I hope for those people who were waiting see him, they were able to catch a glimpse of him. It’s an exciting to be so close to the President of the United States, and it’s even more exciting when he comes your neighborhood.
In this article, activists Robert Bracamontes and Robert Garcia, collaborated to highlight the importance of engaging Native American populations in restoration efforts along the L.A. River in California. As the original caretakers of the watershed for hundreds of years, it is vitally important to include Native Americans in river renewal efforts. Having a seat at the table will ensure that native traditions will be honored as well as ensuring a healthy watershed for future generations to enjoy.
For a PDF of the full article, please click the below:
Last Friday, ACM hosted a Community Forum to talk about all of the fun and exciting ways the whole family can participate in activities along the Anacostia. Representatives from Common Good City Farm, Anacostia Watershed Society, Washington Parks & People and Groundwork Anacostia were invited to discuss summer youth programs that engage young people in the natural environment. Activities such as paddling, fishing, gardening, nature walks and clean-ups provide hands-on education about the natural world in this urban landscape.
Common Good CityFarm offers youth the opportunity to learn about gardening and urban agriculture on a 1 acre working farm located on Oakdale Pl NW. Children participate in plating, cultivating, harvesting and cooking healthy foods. For more information about Common Good City Farm and their programs, please visit their website http://commongoodcityfarm.org/
Anacostia Watershed Society’s mission is to get people engaged in Anacostia River. They host a variety of Activities that the people of all ages can participate in and along the river. They are currently hosting weekly free paddle nights where people can either canoe or kayak in the Anacostia. They also organize river multiple river clean-ups and invasive plant removal days throughout the year. In addition, they host fishing days and bird-watching tours. For information about events hosted by AWS, please check out their calendar of events on their webpage, http://www.anacostiaws.org/main
Washington Parks & People focuses on land reclamation, native reforestation, watershed restoration, public health and fitness programming, urban agriculture, and green job training. Through a variety of programs at their sites at Meridian Hill, Malcolm X Park and Marvin Gaye Park, they engage residents in the green spaces of the city. They host movie nights, nature walks and paddle nights. They also offer youth service learning opportunities. For more information, visit their website, http://www.washingtonparks.net/
Groundwork Anacostia seeks to reconnect residents to their neighborhoods’ environmental assets, including parks, open spaces, and the Anacostia River and its tributaries. They do this through a wide variety of programs. Through their programs such learning garden, Band-along litter trap, Outdoor Nation Campus Club they seek engage and educate communities along the river on the natural wonder of the river and it’s watershed. If you are interested in learning more about their programs, please visit their website, http://groundworkdc.org/
Anacostia Community Museum is hosting a Citizen Scientist program for students 4th grade and up. Students will be introduced to the watershed concept and travel to Anacostia Park for a visit to the District’s Department of the Environment (DDOE) Aquatic Resources Education Center. They will participate in water quality testing on the Anacostia River and learn how people impact the river and how the river impacts a person’s health. For more information, visit the program’s webpage, http://anacostia.si.edu/Education/StudentsTeachers
Hopefully everyone participates in some of the wonderful and exciting programs offered at these great organizations this summer. Have fun and stay safe!
In the Washington metropolitan area, we are blessed with many streams and rivers. Two prominent rivers surround and define Washington, DC, the nation’s capital: the Potomac on the west side of the city, well-known, highly regarded, often mentioned in tourist descriptions of Washington; and, on the east side of the city, the Anacostia (also known historically as the Eastern Branch of the Potomac), but for political and historical reasons, little-known, hardly mentioned as a city amenity, and often regarded as the city’s backdoor and sewer conduit. The Anacostia is also a key part of the city’s social and racial ecology.
In many ways the Anacostia River has been the poster child for urban waterways and their associated populations that have been neglected, forgotten, and environmentally mistreated. But now we are taking charge and taking better care of the Anacostia. The Washington metropolitan area encompasses nearly 5.6 million residents with more than 600,000 persons in the District of Columbia alone. We are becoming more and more aware of how important a healthy Anacostia River is to the well-being of this region.
Our cities and towns are situated along rivers and streams. Often these waterways mark the geographic boundaries and set the physical identity for the places where we live and work. We expect our rivers to be streams of fresh, flowing water. We look for natural beauty along the riversides, with birds wheeling overhead, fish swimming and jumping in the waters, and lovely flowers and trees along the riverbanks. We think our urban waterways will provide peace and solitude in the midst of our hectic daily lives in the already big—and in the still developing—cities that we call “home.”
It’s Our River.
We fish for perch and catfish and sometimes eat the fish, but most of the time we throw them back. We boat and paddle, in yachts, canoes, and kayaks, and we race in dragon boats and racing sculls. We go bird watching, and we seek out special flowers and orchids along the shore. We bike and hike and sit and meditate along the banks this river. The river calls us, and, guided by the river’s spirit, we commune with nature in the midst of urban hustle and bustle.
Festivals are wonderful ways to bring people together in celebration and recreation. While great strides had been made in cleaning up the Potomac River, then-Mayor Marion Barry saw the Anacostia River as the great social divide in Washington. In 1984 he inaugurated an annual river festival to get people from all walks of life to come down to the water and see the potential of the Washington riverfronts along the Potomac and the Anacostia.
Since that time, the river fest idea has evolved into the development of a park-like venue near the baseball stadium, “The Yards Park,” and a schedule that includes river clean-up celebrations, the Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival, and the Anacostia River Jazz Festival sponsored by the National Park Service. During the course of the year the Anacostia waterfront at the “Yards” plays host to numerous ethnic festivals such as the Global Nepal Fest and art shows and contests along the riverfront. All of these activities help the District celebrate in many ways the revitalization of the Anacostia River.
Boating on the river has become increasingly popular. This recreational use provides a marvelous opportunity to learn respect for nature and the river and to value the river as a celebrated place. On the Anacostia, the Seafarers Yacht Club and the Capital Rowing Club have been instrumental in helping to develop public awareness of the Anacostia River as a place for kayaking, rowing, and pleasure-boating.
On summer evenings the Anacostia Community Boathouse is awash with dozens of groups of rowers, young and old, who come to test their mettle on the river. Local interest in canoeing on the Anacostia River brings people out in the late spring and summer to the Anacostia Watershed Society’s “Paddle Nights.” As anyone who has ventured forth on the river in a canoe will tell you, the Anacostia is a waterway of exceptional beauty teaming with birdlife and other animals.
The canoe has been a major medium of transport and commerce throughout human history. In North America native peoples, then European explorers, settlers, fur traders, and missionaries, used the canoe to carry goods and people far and wide in all kinds of weather and conditions.
Kayaking is a popular recreational exercise and sport. Participants paddle in closed deck boats as they sit forward and move the boat with a paddle that has a blade on each end.
Organization for Anacostia Rowing and Sculling (OARS)
Robert “Coach” Day began the Organization for Anacostia Rowing and Sculling (OARS) in 1988 to bring crew (rowing as a sport and recreation) to underserved teens from local high schools and at-risk youth along the Anacostia River. On the original site of OARS, ten (10) member rowing clubs and four (4) high school crews now call the Anacostia Community Boathouse home base.
Anacostia Invitational Regatta
In May 1992 OARS initiated the Anacostia Invitational Regatta; community activist Carl Cole made the banner and named the first single rowing scull donated to OARS. The scull is the Dr. Frederick Douglass Patterson, Sr., named for a former Anacostia resident, who was the third president of Tuskegee Institute (now University) and the uncle of local historian Dianne Dale.
Seafarers Yacht Club
Since 1945 the Seafarers Yacht Club has been an African American presence on the river. In addition to encouraging boating on the Anacostia, the club, considered the oldest black yacht club on the East Coast (if not in America), has been a pioneer in cleaning up 150 tons of debris along the river’s shore line. Seafarers also participate in community projects like financial aid to distressed flood victims and baskets of food for the poor at Christmas time.
Dragon Boat Paddle
DC Dragons, the adult dragon boat team of the National Capital Area Women’s Paddling Association, practices out of the Anacostia Community Boathouse on the Anacostia River. Dragon boat racing is an increasingly popular international sport, with 20 paddlers in 10 rows facing front, a drummer to set the pace, and a steersperson to navigate.
Gabe Horchler, a law librarian at the Library of Congress, regularly commutes to work via the river: “Why not commute by boat, I thought . . . in less than one hour in my rowing shell? . . . March through November, my routine has been to bicycle from our home in Cheverly [Maryland] to the Bladensburg waterfront, row my boat to the Anacostia Community Boathouse adjacent to the Pennsylvania Avenue Bridge, and then ride my second bike the 1.5 miles to the Library of Congress.”
Jon boat (or johnboat)
A jon boat is a small, flat-bottomed boat with square ends, made of aluminum or wood and suitable for use on calm bodies of water, especially on urban waterways. Jon boats are favored by fishermen and hunters.
We are becoming more aware of how important a healthy Anacostia River is to the well-being of this region are taking charge and taking better care of the Anacostia. Locally, in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, ordinary residents—along with more than 50 advocacy groups, governmental agencies, and other stakeholders—are reaching out to neighborhoods and organizing to clean up urban rivers and streams. These communities strive to achieve the goals of swimmable, fishable, and sustainable waterways for their cities and citizens—goals common to urban situations everywhere. To achieve a cleaner and more useful river we have to expect that District and Maryland governments will enact new laws to address stormwater pollution from private properties currently under real estate development.
Restoration efforts on the Anacostia River have been piecemeal so far without a coordinating authority with resources and legal strength to prioritize actions across political boundaries. Many of the river’s toxics (chemicals, poisons, and other pollutants) are “fixed” in the streambed of the Anacostia River as part of the river soil and cannot be easily removed from the river and its waters. The Environmental Protection Agency alone cannot compel cities and companies to clean up “legacy toxics.” Successful cleanup of legacy toxics will require broad-based community efforts and continuing scientific research.
Our exhibition, Reclaiming the Edge- Urban Waterways and Civic Engagement, dealt with issues affecting waterways throughout the world, as well as in our own backyard. The primary themes covered in the exhibition were as follows:\
Issues of densely populated watersheds: The Anacostia River is one of the most densely populated watersheds in the country with major problems arising from upriver communities in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland. The exhibition addressed issues and impacts that have turned rivers from pristine waterways of fresh water into rank sewers creating challenges for public health.
Urban waterways and diverse populations: In our research, we found, rivers often become belts or barriers of racial and ethnic segregation. Pollution and industrial development of riverfronts has historically had a disproportionate negative impact on poor and ethnically diverse populations. The exhibition explored the impacts urban wastershed neglect has had on minority and low income populations.
National rivers and urban development: The exhibition showcased new experiences in city planning and building, specifically in waterfront development along rivers in Pittsburg, Louisville, Los Angeles, London and Shanghai. These cities have all worked to restore their waterfronts as places of congregation and recreation. By using these waterfronts as models, the vision of a rehabilitated Anacostia River then can become a reality.
Development and river ecology: This theme explored human attempts to tame or engineer urban rivers through the mechanisms of state power and planning, risk assessment, and zoning. It also assessed the role the river plays in wildness and an environmental “place” within the urban experience.