Friday, September 18, 2015

Redoubling efforts to improve the Anacostia River and waterfront needed

On September 3, the National Park Service announced they would be closing Buzzard Point Marina.   That same day, Buzzard Point Marina to close in December, after a half-century of use ran in the Post, presenting the various perspectives and context for the decision.

Doug Siglin, Executive Director of the Anacostia Waterfront Trust, is cautiously optimistic that the National Park Service's plans to close the the Buzzard Point Marina may actually turn out to be a good thing.   Why?   Because if (yes, a big if) NPS is telling the truth, they will take action on the results of their promised study of "other recreational opportunities on the Anacostia River."

Siglin's op-ed about the marina closure decision is below and printed as submitted.

The National Park Service announced last week that it plans to close the Buzzard Point Marina, on the Anacostia River near its confluence with the Potomac. The 58 people who have docked their boats at the marina’s slips, some for many years, are understandably dismayed.

What I found most interesting was the National Park Service's comment, according to the Washington Post story, that it "will study other recreational opportunities on the Anacostia River." I am cautiously optimistic that this is true, and that because of it, the closing of the marina ultimately might turn out to be a good thing.

In an era of shrinking appropriations from Congress, the National Park Service needs to conserve scarce funds and, the sad truth is, the Buzzard Point Marina is a casualty of these constraints. Fortunately, there is strong demand coming from the community for a new vision for the Anacostia Waterfront and broad support for improving access from the numerous organizations responsible for its administration.

As a person who has spent much of the last 20 years working in and around the Anacostia, I have experienced firsthand the need for kayaking, canoeing, rowing, sailing and other water-based recreation on the river. While the loss of the Buzzard Point Marina may reduce these opportunities a little, it could also allow the National Park Service to redirect resources toward expanding water-based recreation upstream as part of the Anacostia Park experience.



I implore the National Park Service to use this opportunity to invest in the future of “upstream” communities near the Anacostia in Wards 5, 6, 7, and 8 by providing not only additional water recreation, but additional park-based recreation as well. Anacostia and Kenilworth Parks are huge, and not nearly as well programmed as they should be. Such a pledge could also spur action by others to finally address the lingering environmental problems preventing DC residents from swimming, fishing, boating, and playing in their own public backyard.

Legacy toxins from past industrial use, some carcinogenic, hide untreated in the riverbed, and each fresh rain washes tons of chemicals from roads, parking lots, and other hardscapes into the Anacostia. Unless these sources of pollution are finally addressed, and it will require the efforts of more than the National Park Service, then expanding recreation access will only go so far.

Now that we know Buzzard Point Marina will close in December, all of us who are committed to the future of the Anacostia Waterfront must redouble our efforts to create new ways for the community to engage with the river and complete the important environmental work that remains.

Siglin is not the only one concerned about the Anacostia and its surroundings.   Dennis Chestnut and Brenda Richardson, two long-time DC residents and environmental activists, expressed their concerns about the river and the challenges facing it and the communities which live on the eastern border in Fixing the District — a plan for east of the river in November 2014.   Here's what they had to say, in part:

Every four years, issues affecting the 150,000 residents on our side of the Anacostia get attention, and posters and T-shirts proclaim that we are all that year’s variation of "One City." But when the votes have been counted and the excitement dies down, our neighborhoods' disconnection with the rest of the District remains.

Here is a simple but profound truth: We in Wards 7 and 8 are separated from the far larger and richer part of the District by a polluted river and 1,000 acres of securely fenced-off (or seriously neglected) federal land. So here's a suggestion for Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser (D): Act aggressively to make the river and the acres around it a place that really unites our city, instead of one that holds us apart.

Want to get involved cleaning up the Anacostia River, making a difference east of the river?   Contact Siglin by phone, (202) 223-4560, or email, dsiglin@anacostiatrust.org or Chestnut, Executive Director of Groundwork Anacostia River DC, by phone, (202) 650-5651, or email, dennis@groundworkdc.org.

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