To give you a heads up, I have an ulterior motive in writing this piece. I’m a trained biologist, although I’m taking a break from science at the moment I still care deeply about environmental and ecological issues. I want you and your family to care about the environment too, because it’s only when we all work together that we keep our human ecosystem healthy and livable. With that in mind I took an interest in the Anacostia Riverkeeper when I first met Trey at a festival last year. Writing about this nonprofit, the work they do and the services they provide has been on my blog bucket list ever since. So I really hope you enjoy this article and please share it with your friends.
You’re gonna swim where?
I would never think to swim in the Anacostia River, but next year you can, so says Trey Sherard the Outreach Coordinator and Staff Biologist of Anacostia Riverkeeper. I’m out on a boat with a dozen high school students from a DC charter school, this is their final exam for an AP Biology Course and they are listening and participating actively despite summer vacation being days away. Over the course of two hours we get an in-depth biological and cultural history of the Anacostia River.
Our tour departs from a boat house behind the Washington Nationals Stadium we pass The Yards Park, The Navy Yard, The National Arboretum, Kenilwoth Aquatic Gardens and we turn around and head back at Kingman Island.
Did you know?
When DC public pools were segregated the black community used the river for recreation and reverence, people learned to swim and were baptized in these waters. These same waters have since been polluted by power plants, run off from the city and DDT can still be found in the sediment. Another problem for the river are the manmade concrete walls on either bank, they have reduced biological diversity by destroying what is known as the riparian zone. This zone becomes a defecto nursery to animals which would get eaten in deep open water and additionally this spongy transition zone serves to slow down run off, a function that prevents pollution. Trash and sewage flow into the river on a routine basis, things do not sound promising and it’s unclear to me how this river could ever become swimmable.
One solution is a giant pipe. If you’ve been to the Navy Yard lately you might have noticed some construction. That construction is part of a new pipe that is being built underneath the Anacostia River. When the pipe is finished over flow sewage that would have gone into the river will instead go into that pipe- imagine that!
Take a boat tour!
In addition to tours and outreach the Anacostia Riverkeepers have floating garbage traps within the river that they routinely clean out. I’m told that their load has been lightened since the DC bag tax has been implemented, they are finding less garbage in these traps. You are welcome to join the clean out party, or you can benefit from the bag tax and take a boat tour.
The two hour boat tours are funded by the DC bag tax. Tours leave from a boat center behind the Washington Nationals stadium. You can join an existing tour or grab 15 – 20 friends and schedule your own, kids are welcome. I recommend bringing water, sunscreen, snacks and a pair of binoculars.
How can I help my local waterways?
- bottles, cans and other discarded items often end up in the river, make it a habit to pick up garbage throughout your day (trash won’t pick it up) or give each kid a bag and do it as a family
- go on a guided boat tour of the Anacostia River , they’re free (funding comes from the DC bag tax) all you need is 15-20 people and a spare 2 hours
- Donate your time or money to the Anacostia Riverkeepers!
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