Friday, December 10, 2010

A Community FYI

When asked what river runs through the nation’s capitol, people often reply “the Potomac” and they would be correct; but there is another, the Anacostia. The Anacostia, frequently called the “forgotten river”, was once a key source for commercial trade from Bladensburg to the greater Chesapeake region but was neglected over the last 100 years resulting in it becoming one of the most polluted rivers in the nation. The river literally became a cesspool, with untreated sewage entering it with every rainfall of an inch or more. Deforestation upriver, due to development, led to forty feet of silt settling along its bottom not only making the river unnavigable but forming a trap for chemicals from run-off and illegal dumping thus creating a toxic soup. The river was no longer fishable or swimmable as it once was, becoming an eyesore and health hazard for all the communities that lie along its shores

In the last few years the District, federal and regional governments along with environmental organizations and citizens interested in restoring this great river have begun to make a difference. No longer is the Anacostia on the list of the top ten polluted rivers. The river has begun a turnaround. Laws have been passed against illegal dumping, enforcement of those laws has increased and plans are in development to prevent untreated sewage from entering the river. Hundreds of trees have been planted along with new wetlands to mitigate the effects of stormwater run-off. People have taken personal actions to clean up the waterway removing trash and debris and beautifying our neighborhoods; but more is needed.

Pope Branch Creek is one of the major tributaries of the Anacostia east of the river; others include Watts Branch and Nash Run in northern Ward 7. This little creek runs to the west, more or less parallel with M Place, from Ft. Davis Drive, under Fairlawn Avenue and I-295 eventually entering the river at its shores in Anacostia Park. Several years ago, Joseph Glover, Ward 7 community resident and activist began a simple initiative; he and his family walked along the creek picking up bottles, cans, plastic bags and other trash in an effort to reclaim this little gem of a park. He would eventually form an advocacy group, the Pope Branch Park Restoration Alliance (PBPRA) to speak on behalf of the creek and its surrounding park. Sadly, Mr. Glover passed away last year after suffering an illness, but we continue in his memory and spirit. One result of his efforts is a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the DC Water, the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) and the District’s Department of Parks and Recreation to realign sewer lines that crisscross the stream, install anti-erosion measures along its shores and create hiking trails further connecting the community to the overall park. Construction along the entire creek is tentatively scheduled for this spring. DDOE and DC Water will update the community in the near future about those activities and their impact upon the affected neighborhoods (Twining Dupont Park and Penn-Branch). Another initiative is an annual clean-up of the park on Martin Luther King Day of National Service, the 5th such event taking place this forthcoming January 17th,

At this event we hope to have over 150 volunteers from around the District and this neighborhood join us in removing invasive plants and shrubs that choke the creeks and picking up trash and debris from around the park. We will gather at M Place and Fairlawn Avenue SE at 9:00 am (on-site registration begins at 8:30 am) and we will complete at 1:00 pm. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate and other refreshments will be served.

This event is being organized by the Pope Branch Park Restoration Alliance and Groundwork Anacostia River DC in conjunction with the Earth Conservation Corps, Wholeness for Humanity, Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, Ward 8 Environmental Council, Clean Water Action, Greater DC Cares, DC Water, DC Office of the Clean City, DC Department of the Environment, DC Department of Transportation and the DC Department of Public Works.

For more information, contact Irv Sheffey at 202-299-6503 or

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