The Anacostia River took center stage as thousands of Washingtonians gathered to celebrate and renew the city’s green efforts.
The National Park Service and the 11th Street Bridge Park project presented the third annual Anacostia River Festival on Sunday, April 9 at Anacostia Park in Southeast. The premier event of the National Cherry Blossom Festival had a special focus on biking in the city and celebrating the new extension of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail to Bladensburg, Md.
“Residents from both sides of the river and across the D.C. region discovered the Anacostia – an amazing natural treasure that can be explored this year by both bike and boat,” said Scott Kratz, director of the 11th Street Bridge Park project.
The festival featured art exhibitions, live music performances, hands-on activities and special biking activities.
Residents participated in recycled art projects, fishing workshops, the annual fish bicycle parade, trail rides, bike tune-up stations, safety stations, urban gardening, lawn games, boating and other family-friendly activities.
11th Street Bridge Park, a lead producer of the festival, plans to keep engaging the community leading up to their civic space’s projected opening in 2019.
“The goal of the Bridge Park is to physically and metaphorically connect communities that have been divided by the river for a long time,” said Irfana Jetha Noorani, 11th Street Bridge Park’s deputy director. “The new civic space will connect Capitol Hill and Navy Yard to historic Anacostia and Fairlawn.”
Noorani said her group has several key goals: improve the health of communities that align the riverbank by providing a safe place for play, for all generations, ages and people; reconnect the community with the river; and serve as an anchor for equitable and inclusive development.
“This is a real opportunity to create a democratic space, a space that is inclusive for all types of people from around the city,” she said.
Noorani and her team uses the Anacostia River Festival as a catalyst to highlight and develop programming that will work for the anticipated civic space.
“We hope it will give people an idea of what we’ll have in the 11th Street Bridge Park, 365 days a year,” she said.
Visitors who attended the festival learned about a few of the major conservation efforts happening to the river.
“Groups like the Anacostia Watershed Society, Anacostia Riverkeeper and Groundwork Anacostia DC have been working up and down the river for years, so we are really seeing their conservation efforts come to life,” Noorani said. “The Anacostia Water Society has made a big push to make the river swimmable and fishable by 2025.”
Noorani said DC Water is building a Metro-sized tunnel underneath the Anacostia, named The Anacostia River Tunnel Project, which aims to eliminate much of the sewage overflow that goes directly into the Anacostia and the Potomac River.
“Washington, D.C., was founded at the confluence of two rivers,” she said. “We were early defined as a river city and we certainly lost that connection through much of our development. What we’re seeing now is a reconnection to natural space, green spaces and parks in the city.”