A Great Waterfront Parks System
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With 1,660 acres of parkland and open space, the Anacostia waterfront now features a large, varied network of parks and compelling recreation experiences that are expanding residents’ access to the water and nature and fostering local stewardship.
New Signature Parks and Enhanced Neighborhood Facilities
The Anacostia waterfront has joined the Potomac waterfront, the National Mall, and Rock Creek Park as one of the District’s premier recreational and open space networks, and continues to draw residents and visitors from around the region. Since the implementation of the AWI, public and private investment has activated both local and federal recreational lands along the Anacostia waterfront. Construction of new parks has brought the total area of public park land to nearly 1,700 acres in the AWI impact area, while 23 facilities have been newly developed or renovated in the study area, including two new recreational centers, 11 playgrounds, two new pools, and two boxing rings. District and federal agencies have worked diligently, together and with private and nonprofit organizations, to improve, program, and provide access to high-quality recreational space throughout the AWI impact area. As a result, the Anacostia waterfront has seen a significant increase in recreational activity both on land and water.
Park Access and Connections
New recreational and transportation facilities unlock access to recreational opportunities along the Anacostia River. The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail is now a nearly complete network that connects the river, existing parks, and other green amenities to each other and to waterfront neighborhoods. One of several new segments of the trail, the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail Pedestrian Bridge, is currently underway and will soon connect pedestrians and bikers between the National Arboretum and Kenilworth Gardens. Improved wayfinding, cohesive signage, and path and lighting improvements guide visitors to and through new and existing parks and trails, making these great amenities more navigable and accessible. As new green spaces such as Yards Park and Wharf Park are located in neighborhood centers, recreational spaces are more accessible by foot, transit, and even boat—the District Wharf features water taxis that carry visitors to and from East Potomac Park.
A Diversity of Experiences
Residents and visitors are fishing, boating, and kayaking on the Anacostia River, and as efforts to clean up the Anacostia River achieve better water quality, the District remains on target to make swimming possible by 2032. On land, the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail and recreational facilities are frequently used for transport and exercise, while Kingman Park has become a popular location for bird-watching and educational programs. Parks along the Anacostia River come alive year-round with festivals, like the annual Bluegrass and Folk Festival at Kingman Island Park and the Anacostia River Festival at Anacostia Park. Yards Park and Canal Park offer an urban park experience, and are regularly activated with seasonal activities and fitness classes.
Progressive Legislative Framework for Sustainability
Since 2003, a coalition of tireless civic and non-profit advocacy groups in cooperation with District government agencies and policymakers advanced legislative measures to significantly improve the Anacostia River’s environment. New legislation and agreements with adjoining jurisdictions that share the Anacostia Watershed have helped to reduce the number of plastic bags and polystyrene (foam) containers in the river, create sustainable funding for river cleanup and environmental education, provide guidance for wetlands creation, restoration, and conservation, and launch innovative funding mechanisms for green infrastructure projects that reduce stormwater runoff into Anacostia waterways. The adoption of exemplary site and building standards for green design and stormwater management have also helped stem the amount of organic and chemical pollution going into the river. Much of this work has been guided by the District’s bold sustainability vision encapsulated in the Sustainable DC Plan. More recently, the District developed the Climate Ready DC Plan to strengthen resilience to increased flooding and rising tides and other climate change impacts on the District.
Stewardship and Programming
Many hands are needed to ensure the safety, maintenance, and continued appreciation of the District’s waterfront parks. These partners include the District of Columbia, National Park Service (NPS), local business improvement districts (BIDs), numerous community associations, and nonprofit organizations. The Southwest BID and the Capital Riverfront BID employ 17 and 18 staff members, respectively, to ensure that parks within their boundaries are safe and clean. The Anacostia River Trail Rangers Program, a partnership between NPS and the Washington Area Bicyclists Association, provides youth an opportunity to interact with the Anacostia River Trail through educational programs and community service, while organizations such as the Anacostia Community Boathouse Association continue to educate the public about riverfront culture while providing affordable recreational opportunities.
Anacostia Park
At its 100th year anniversary in 2018, Anacostia Park is revived as a center for recreation with increased advocacy, planning, and investment. As part of this effort, NPS has ramped up park planning efforts through the Anacostia Park Management Plan and Environmental Assessment, a comprehensive framework document that will guide long-term park development and programming. NPS has identified capital improvements for Anacostia Park, especially in the Central Park segment, that will protect the park’s ecosystem and provide spaces for play and culture for the District and beyond. The Anacostia Park and Community Collective (APACC), which includes organizations like the Anacostia Waterfront Trust, DC Appleseed, and the Anacostia BID, has also catalyzed community support to improve Anacostia Park, the river corridor, and adjacent neighborhoods in Wards 7 and 8. Turning advocacy into action, the Building Bridges Across the River organization is leading the development of the 11th Street Bridge Park project and corresponding equitable development efforts. In addition to creating an exciting and iconic future park experience, the 11th Street Bridge Park will also reconnect neighborhoods on both sides of the river and provide improved access to Anacostia Park from Capitol Riverfront and Capitol Hill.
Canal and Yards Park
The award-winning Canal Park and Yards Park are a success story of how public and private investment in the construction and stewardship of parks can anchor and stimulate neighborhood development. Yards Park is an urban waterfront park and was part of the mixed-use redevelopment of the Southeast Federal Center, which was formerly a U.S. Navy facility. In response to a community desire for a more interactive play space, Yards Park includes several water features, including a splash pool, outdoor seating, and an iconic pedestrian bridge. The Canal Park site was once part of a canal system that connected the Anacostia and Potomac rivers, and, after decades of underuse, was developed by the District as green public space for the growing Capitol Riverfront neighborhood. Canal Park is a model of sustainable landscape design and includes a rain garden and a green roof. The park also features a dancing fountain in the summer and a skating rink in the winter. The Capitol Riverfront BID maintains and programs both parks. Year-round programming includes concerts, markets, activities such as fitness classes, and passive recreation, drawing visitors from all walks of life. As centers of activity, these parks have made the Capitol Riverfront a desirable place for families, regional visitors, and employers alike.
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Resurgence of the Anacostia Waterfront
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