50 acres of island in the Anacostia River will soon reopen to the public, now with more federal dollars, a new educational mission, and a greener look. Kingman and Heritage Islands, both closed last September for a makeover, will come back online within the next week as recreational parks with a mandate for environmental education, and a new federal law to fund restoration and education.
The islands have had their challenges - begotten from a polluted source, the islands were created from the residue of dredging excessive agricultural sedimentation that gummed up the Anacostia, the never ending recipient of the trash-laden effluvium. Kingman (42 acres) and Heritage (7 acres) are now in the midst of a restoration that will eventually add 3 outdoor classrooms spaces, a 9/11 memorial grove, outdoor seating, and observation deck. Preservationists will add a nursery where the public can make their own contribution with tree plantings, and habitat restoration will remove a host of invasive species - from trees to groundcovers - and replace them with "an extensive list" of native species.
Lee and Associates, a DC based landscape architectural firm, is working with the District to give the parks a more natural aesthetic, while keeping the visitor center, hiking and biking trails and building environmental workshops in "outdoor classrooms." Access points are being improved - from both sides of the river - at Benning Rd. and from RFK stadium (parking lot #6). Living Classrooms, hired by the District in 2008 to manage the parks, provides the educational element with environmental instruction throughout the school year and volunteer opportunities in the summer, highlighting the challenges of environmental stewardship in an urban setting. "We see the trash flow down the river," says Matt English, Kingman Island Programs Coordinator for Living Classrooms, of the distant tidal forces that raise the water levels up to 3 feet, "and then we see it flow back up."
But thanks to more federal largess - President Obama just signed a bill providing funding to restore the Anacostia River ecosystem - and to educational efforts, conservationists hope that will be a decreasing problem. Footbridges to both parks allow for ample public access when the parks reopen. Matt English says the next event is scheduled for the Martin Luther King holiday, so the team is working to finish the first of three phases before that date. "Fingers crossed," says English.
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