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Public Spaces

Riverwalk will connect communities and the Anacostia River

Cyclists and runners, nature lovers, communities in DC's Ward 7, residents of Prince George's County, and the Anacostia River will all gain from the final segment of the Anacostia River trail network. An impressive lineup of elected officials and agency heads from DC and Prince George's County gathered yesterday to unveil the segment's design.

North end of trail at Bladensburg Park. All photos from the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative.

When completed in 2014, this trail alignment, segment 9 on the below map, will run from Benning Road north to the Maryland border. It will complete a crucial link between the District's Anacostia Riverwalk Trail and Maryland's Anacostia Tributary Trail system.

In April of this year, DDOT completed a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over the CSX tracks on the west side of the Anacostia River, which creates a seamless connection between M Street SE/11th Street SE and Benning Road NE. The bridge on the east side is scheduled to open the end of this year. It will close the missing link between Anacostia Park and Benning Road NE. Both appear on the map as segment 11.

Map of the trail's complete and planned segments.

Completing this trail network is exciting for a lot of different reasons.

It connects DC and Maryland, uniting our communities. Once complete, the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail will connect 16 different waterfront communities in DC and Maryland.

Not only will the continuous trail create recreation opportunities, but it creates a potential bike commuter route. For example, if a cyclist wants to bike from the Sousa Bridge (at Pennsylvania Ave SE) to the Bladensburg Waterfront today it would require a daunting excursion through local roads, including biking on Bladensburg Road.

Pedestrian bridge over tidal gut, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

It advances local and regional transportation goals. In anticipation of the transportation challenges that come with the DC region's expected population and job growth, local and regional governments have developed aggressive goals to facilitate alternative modes of transportation. For example, the Region Forward Plan seeks to create a "transportation system that maximizes community connectivity and walkability, and minimizes ecological harm to the Region and world beyond." Completing the ART system creates a safe environment for pedestrians and cyclists, which moves the Region Forward Plan closer to fruition.

Crossing below Amtrak bridge.

It gives some Ward 7 neighborhoods access to parkland. As exciting as it is to think that people from all over the metro area will rediscover the Anacostia River, one of the best outcomes of this new trail segment is the access it will provide for the Ward 7 communities east of the river, but west of DC-295, to park lands and the river. (Note: the Kingman Park neighborhood of Ward 7 is west of the river).

Ironically, the National Park Service ownership along the Anacostia effectively "walls off" the river for communities like Mayfair Mansions and Kenilworth-Parkside. The new trail will provide new access routes into the park lands from the communities that surround them. Residents who have suffered living along a polluted Anacostia should certainly be among the first to reap the rewards of a clean river.

Aerial view of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

One challenge that still remains is connecting the remaining local communities east of 295 to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. Even once completed, 295 still cuts of access to the majority of residents living in Ward 7 and Ward 8.

It provides access to a beautiful section of the Anacostia River that is currently reachable only from the water. The biggest challenge facing the Anacostia River restoration is countering widely held beliefs that the river is a dirty place to avoid.

Make no mistake, there's a lot of work left to be done before we have an Anacostia River that is safe for swimming and fishing. But even now it is a place of surprising beauty where people can walk, see wildlife, and seek solace in the heart of the city. This final trail segment will make these recreational uses possible in the most natural and hardest to access portion of the river.

Entrance to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

Right now, at most a few hundred people enjoy this section of the river in any given year—rowers, kayakers, and others who can access the river by water. The new trail segment will take the number of people exposed to the beauty of the Anacostia River to tens of thousands yearly. More people that see and know the river means more people who care about its restoration.

The last several years have been unprecedented in terms of restoration progress, and we can consolidate and build on that momentum. We'll need to if we are to reach DDOE's goal of a swimmable and fishable river by 2032.

Veronica O. Davis, PE, has experience in planning transportation, urban areas, civil infrastructure, and communities. She co-owns Nspiregreen, LLC, an environmental consulting company in DC. She is also the co-founder of Black Women Bike DC, which strives to increase the number of Black women and girls biking for fun, health, wellness, and transportation. 
Brent Bolin is a community activist and non-profit executive with a background in environmental law, science, and policy. He is passionate about social justice, clean water, sustainable urbanism, and the Anacostia River. Brent served on the city council in Mount Rainier, MD and (rarely) blogs about local development issues


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If only we had a proposal for water taxis along that route. Oh wait. Let's make it happen!

by Shipsa01 on Oct 16, 2012 1:18 pm • linkreport

I like the picture of the diesel Amtrak train crossing the bridge without any emissions.

by Jasper on Oct 16, 2012 2:24 pm • linkreport

diesels don't cross that Amtrak bridge

by JessMan on Oct 16, 2012 2:29 pm • linkreport

Nice write up, thanks.

by H Street LL on Oct 16, 2012 2:46 pm • linkreport

@ Jessman:diesels don't cross that Amtrak bridge

Well, there are no wires, so it ain't an electrical train either.

by Jasper on Oct 16, 2012 3:31 pm • linkreport

Its also got high level Superliners instead of the Amfleet tubes, so its safe to say that its not, uh, entirely accurate.

by Another Nick on Oct 16, 2012 3:35 pm • linkreport

So looking forward to this, and it's great to see all the politicians touting this relatively low-dollar but much needed connection. Such a wise investment compared with new multi-billion dollar superhighways (ICC, anyone? anyone?).

by Greenbelt on Oct 16, 2012 4:05 pm • linkreport

it's not a water taxi, but there are boat rides from the Anacostia Waterfront Park in Bladensburg.

by Richard Layman on Oct 16, 2012 9:14 pm • linkreport

I am *really* excited about this project! Both ends of the Anacostia are revitalizing, from DC's urban riverfront to College Park, and both ends have access to amazing, extensive trail systems. In between, the Anacostia River is lined with beautiful, pristine parkland that's currently impossible to access since it's bound by highways on both sides.

by Payton on Oct 16, 2012 10:10 pm • linkreport

I must be missing something but there is not a bridge or bike path along East Capitol Street for a bike; hell there isn't even a sidewalk on the bridge that gives you access to River Terrace from East Capitol.

The bridges under the Amtrak bridge look very cheap and the height doesn't seem right.

by kk on Oct 17, 2012 12:38 am • linkreport

If the original post gets updated, it would be useful to put a descriptive caption with each photo or rendering.....

by Lindsley Williams on Oct 17, 2012 6:59 am • linkreport

Lindsley: I have added captions. Good suggestion.

by David Alpert on Oct 17, 2012 8:48 am • linkreport

This is terrific progress, but there is one more link of the trail that is vital and needs to be completed. That is a planned pedestrian/biking bridge and path that will connect the trail to the National Arboretum. When visitors can bike and seemlessly visit both the Aquatic Gardens and the Arboretum, we will truly have linked two incredible green spaces in the city.

by Jeanne on Oct 17, 2012 7:34 pm • linkreport

Good post and thanks for the update on a great project. I've never rode around that part of the Anacostia river. I'll start planning my next ride there ...

by TC on Oct 17, 2012 10:05 pm • linkreport

As someone who literally lives within a stone's throw of this planned segment of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, I am THRILLED that U.S. DOT's $10million TIGER grant is going to finally get it done (provided Amtrak grants the needed permission to go under its tracks right by the DC-Maryland border).

But I do take issue with a couple of points in this article highlighting this positive community news:

1) NPS's Kenilworth Park doesn't "wall off" our community from the river. The park is a joy. Here in Ward 7, we have a fair number of deer living in this expansive green space. Walk through the fields between the trees and descend a short path down to the river's edge and you're sure to see at least a few herons and egrets by the water. A "wall" is not the metaphor that comes to my mind walking through that park.

2) There is NO SUCH THING as a Kenilworth-Parkside neighborhood in Ward 7. Kenilworth is a neighborhood and Parkside is a neighborhood, but they are quite distinct neighborhoods. Between these two you also have the neighborhoods of: Mayfair Mansions (which you mentioned), Paradise, and Eastland Gardens...all of which are very different from each other. Though Kenilworth and Eastland Gardens are adjacent and separated by nothing more than tiny Nash Run, the former consists almost entirely of a large public housing project and the latter consists of mostly owner-occupied single family houses. If you ever saw them, you wouldn't confuse the two. Don't assume everything on this side of the river is the same, it's most definitely not.

by Dan on Oct 19, 2012 4:41 pm • linkreport

Dan... I am a Ward 7 resident, so I share (and often express) your feelings regarding everything isn't the same east of the river. We actually had the neighborhood names you mentioned above listed in the original draft. I inadvertently edited them out. My apologies.

by Veronica O. Davis (Ms V) on Oct 19, 2012 4:46 pm • linkreport

Please work on East Capital Bridge to allow wheelchair, pedestrian and cycling access!! Let us out! We're trapped inside infra-structurally fortified neighborhoods!

New York Avenue, separated bike lane from at least Tuxedo RD, Cheverly, to at least FL Ave/EckingtonPl -why not?

by WorkOnPresentBridges! on Oct 22, 2012 3:30 pm • linkreport

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