A Striving Community Heals Itself While Re-birthing a Natural Wildlife Habitat

NPR recently reported on the story of youth at the Southeast D.C.’s Valley Green housing project, who started a project more than 20 years ago to clean up an Anacostia tributary and transformed their own lives in the process.

As reported by NPR, “‘Those were some serious times, rough times,’ recalls Burrell Duncan, who was among the first volunteers.

The choices facing kids in Valley Green in the early 1990s were stark. ‘You could be three things,’ Duncan says — ‘a drug dealer, a killer or you could play sports.'”

Between 1994 and 1998, members of the group, who dubbed themselves the Earth Conservation Corps, raised and released 16 bald eagles. They named the eagles in memory of their friends who had been killed in street and drug-related violence.

Said one, “We wasn’t supposed to live to see the age of 21 … We was just as endangered as this majestic bird.”

A cocaine dealer who found his way to the Earth Conservation Corps more than two decades ago is now a licensed falconer – one of only 30 African-American falconers in the entire U.S., as he tells to schoolchildren when he visits them in their classrooms. He teaches kids to face their fears as part of a D.C. police program called Youth Creating Change, which works with at-risk youth to help them get a job and get involved in community service.

At the same time that youth in the Earth Conservation Corp are being built up themselves, they are also helping to rebuild a historically polluted and overlooked wildlife habitat.  On the day that NPR interviewed them, the group was building the bones of a new osprey nest – welded out of decommissioned firearms seized by the D.C. police.

The Earth Conservation Corps has a website, with a Live Eagle-cam.

I took this photo this morning of ECC Headquarters at the Diamond Teague Pier.

My family and I recently took a trip down the Anacostia, where we spotted several bald eagles along the way. If you would like to take your own trip, contact the Anacostia Riverkeepers to arrange a free tour (supported by the D.C. 5-cent plastic bag tax), and enjoy the beauty of the emerging wildlife, and the hope inspired by the ongoing renewal of nature and community.

Photo credit: Nicole Boucher

 

 

DC Public Schools Make Sure All Second Graders Learn How to Ride a Bike!

 

 

As bike riding, bike commuting and bike sharing are growing quickly in the DC area, somebody noticed that some kids in the city were getting left behind. In wards “with high concentrations of low-income families,” officials noticed that “less access to bicycles, fewer bike lanes and no bike shops means that fewer children there are learning how to ride.” (I’ll add to that list the fact that there are relatively fewer safe places to ride as compared to the suburbs.) As a result, a surprisingly high number of kids in the city did not know how to ride, especially in schools serving the poorest neighborhoods.

Well, not anymore! DCPS took the problem on head-on and in 2015 started a program to teach every DCPS second-grader in the city how to ride a bike! Isn’t that cool?! 

With help from the District Department of Transportation and private donations, the school system purchased 1,000 bikes that it is loaning out on a rotating basis to each of the DC public elementary schools for use in a four-week training unit.

I have seen the kids out learning at parks around town and on the National Mall. The sentiments expressed by the kids in this article express the feelings of my own DCPS first grader on Capitol Hill- she has the (unsubstantiated) notion that all of the other kids know how to ride a bike except for her. We’re so glad that DCPS is making sure that none of the students grow up feeling that way for long.  This is a fantastic program to equip students, no matter their neighborhood or background, with the tools for a healthy lifestyle and lifelong eco-friendly, urban-friendly fitness habits!

Nationals Park “an urban development triumph.”

Nationals Park has become an urban development triumph. 

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OK, I’m  biased here because this is my neighborhood, but it’s awesome to see so much effort into rebuilding a neighborhood on its way to success!!!! And great to get some recognition for it.

Go Nats!!

Man, I love those guys. They are SO fun to watch. And they were SO sweet when my daughter broke her arm. While I’m on the topic of the Nats, props to Ryan Zimmerman who last fall donated a first-rate Little League field to DC Little League, and the Nats also donated uniforms for the Little Leaguers. (Here’s a pic of the field dedication ceremony with Zimmerman and Screech!! Nats Coach Dusty Baker is there too.)

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