watershed


by Nic Wells

After his first wife died in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson secretly courted Edith Bolling Galt on regular strolls with her in Rock Creek Park. In 2008, police discovered a man from Chevy Chase growing marijuana in the Park, and in March 2013, someone sacrificed a goat and chickens in a part of the Park near Piney Branch Parkway.

These three dissimilar events share one common feature:  Rock Creek Park.

While such anecdotes may or may not be good conversation starters, stories that impress, they are indicative of what geographers call a sense of place, a combination of experiences and certain attributes that makes a place distinctive. Without a doubt, Washingtonians have that sense of place with Rock Creek Park.

Because Rock Creek Park includes the main stem and many diverse units scattered throughout neighborhoods in Northwest and Northeast,  Rock Creek Conservancy’s community engagement meetings this summer and fall seek to explore and understand locals’ senses of place of the Park.

We’ve held two meetings so far – one in Mt. Pleasant, the other in Chevy Chase. The turnouts at both were fantastic, with people asking questions and chatting about the Park over coffee, tea and delicious treats provided by local businesses. If you happened to miss these, there will be more community meetings in September and October, so stay tuned! Until then, explore the Park and develop your sense of place of place in Rock Creek Park like the charmer, the stoner and the butcher did, but unlike them, please keep it PG.

You also might want to check out a recent issue the Washington Post Magazine, which featured a great cover story about Rock Creek Park. Give it a read, and then get yourself to the Park!

Nic Wells, a McLean native, interns for Rock Creek Conservancy, part of the Bethesda Green Business Incubator, and studies Geography and Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

RCC logoby Nic Wells

I wouldn’t consider driving a pastime. Driving drains me, and radio stations never seem to live up to their “no commercial” arrangements. Driving doesn’t do Mother Nature any favors, either. But, as I drove through Northwest DC to get to work this morning, I rolled down my windows and, quite frankly, enjoyed my ride for once.

I cruised down streets filled with shades of green, so many that even Crayola’s 96 Crayons cartons couldn’t compare. I know I’m not the only one who is impressed. National Geographic’s  “Nine Cities That Love Their Trees” recognizes the District’s 36% tree cover – much of which belongs to our very own national park, Rock Creek Park, and its constituent parks scattered throughout the city.

Now, you don’t have to be a treehugger to appreciate what Rock Creek Park has to offer. Its trees provide shade that is desperately sought by profusely sweaty people like myself on those humid summer days. Civil War buffs can troop through Fort Stevens and Fort DeRussy to trace the footsteps of long-gone soldiers.  Whatever your reason for visiting, you are guaranteed to find something of interest in Rock Creek Park.

Unfortunately, Rock Creek Park is not as lucky as its visitors. In recent years, its natural and cultural resources have taken a beating. Non-native invasive species like English ivy threaten the ecosystem’s fragile balance, and historical landmarks and access routes have deteriorated. Luckily, Rock Creek Conservancy  is working to change this.

With the 125th anniversary of the park approaching in 2015, Rock Creek Conservancy is developing exciting yearlong plans to celebrate the occasion, some of which include engaging with neighbors in local communities that use the Park and its resources. Rock Creek Conservancy will host two Saturday morning meetings: one on June 21 in the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm and the other on June 28 in the Chevy Chase Library from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm.

The meetings will include four “topic tables” relating to Access, Historic Buildings & Designed Landscapes and Civil War Defenses, Programming and Recreation, and the Environment. The meetings will provide platforms for local residents to offer ideas and are designed to give residents the opportunity to play a vital role in the Park’s future.

If you’re allergic to driving like I am, these meetings can help secure a future with scenic drives through Northwest DC. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Nic Wells, a McLean native, interns for Rock Creek Conservancy, part of the Bethesda Green Business Incubator, and studies Geography and Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

Cabin John Creek flows under the MacArthur Blvd. bridge.

Part of our local watershed, Cabin John Creek flows under the MacArthur Blvd. bridge.

by Julie Clendenin

I spend a lot of time enjoying Rock Creek Park, which runs alongside my Kensington neighborhood. I drive through it every day on my way to work.  I run and walk regularly on the Beach Drive path. I have enjoyed the playgrounds and wetlands with my children and friends. I love it. Rock Creek is an oasis of natural beauty in the midst of our highways, lawns, houses, supermarkets, and sports fields. But sometimes, when the rains (and snows) are heavy, Beach Drive is closed due to high water, which reminds me that our suburban sprawl is a real threat to this precious natural wetland. We are slowly edging out the Potomac River’s natural filtration system of forests and wetlands.

Right now the water is running fast and the marshy grass along the creek’s banks is pocked with huge puddles. And all of our runoff — fertilizers, pet waste, de-icing chemicals, and other pollutants — is headed straight for the Potomac River (our main source of drinking water) and the Chesapeake Bay.

According to the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB), of the 14,650 square miles in the Potomac River watershed, 57.6% is forest; 31.8% is agricultural; 5% is water or wetlands (like Rock Creek Park); and just 4.8% developed land. While agriculture and development play important roles in our community, it’s important to understand their far-reaching affects on the local watershed. Everything we do on land has an impact on our river, which is the source for 90% of DC’s drinking water; in fact, 486 million gallons are taken out of the Potomac every day to provide drinking water for 5 million people in the DC metro area. We need to protect our river.

Recently, a number of water conservation groups organized a regional river clean up day. including the Alice Ferguson Foundation, which reports that more than 5,000 volunteers picked up over 1oo tons of trash. Here’s some of the things pulled out of the river banks:

  • 73,700 beverage containers
  • 7,800 cigarettes
  • 18,300 plastic bags
  • 510 tires

RWFFLogo_FullColor_EST2012All of this trash was rescued from the Potomac River watershed. How does that make you feel? Disgusted? Regretful?  Personally, I feel grateful to the many people who spent their weekend cleaning up after us. I also feel inspired by them, and I’m thinking that maybe you do to. The Reel Water Film Festival, Saturday, June 14 at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, is a great place to learn more about local water issues. Also, here are a few things, including some from Potomac Riverkeeper, that you can do to help protect the Potomac River:

  • Scoop pet waste and dispose of it properly
  • Plant a rain garden or use a rain barrel – Montgomery County residents are eligible for rebates of up to $2,500 through the RainScapes Rewards Rebate Program
  • Properly dispose of hazardous wastes like oil and paint
  • Use natural fertilizers and do not over-fertilize your lawn or use chemical pesticides
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle (don’t forget your reusable shopping bags)
  • Wash your car at an eco-friendly commercial car wash or use biodegradable soap
  • Safely dispose of unused drugs and other chemicals – DO NOT FLUSH THEM
  • Spend time enjoying  the river and show your friends and family why it’s important to protect it

Julie Clendenin grew up in Montgomery County and is happily raising her family here with her husband, Tom.  She enjoys having unlimited access to Rock Creek Park; tasty, cold water from her kitchen tap; and swimming in the ocean.

BGnews_logoOcean rapidly warming

The length of the melt season for Arctic sea ice is growing by several days each decade, and an earlier start to the melt season is allowing the Arctic Ocean to absorb enough additional solar radiation in some places to melt as much as four feet of the Arctic ice cap’s thickness, according to a new study by National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and NASA researchers.

Arctic sea ice has been in sharp decline during the last four decades. The sea ice cover is shrinking and thinning, making scientists think an ice-free Arctic Ocean during the summer might be reached this century. The seven lowest September sea ice extents in the satellite record have all occurred in the past seven years.

“The Arctic is warming and this is causing the melt season to last longer,” said Julienne Stroeve, a senior scientist at NSIDC, Boulder and lead author of the new study, which has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters. “The lengthening of the melt season is allowing for more of the sun’s energy to get stored in the ocean and increase ice melt during the summer, overall weakening the sea ice cover.”

See NASA News article for full story.

Eat your fruits and vegetables

Eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day reduces your risk of death at any point in time by 42% compared to eating less than one portion, reports a new University College London (UCL) study.

Researchers used the Health Survey for England to study the eating habits of 65,226 people representative of the English population between 2001 and 2013, and found that the more fruit and vegetables they ate, the less likely they were to die at any age. Eating seven or more portions reduces the specific risks of death by cancer and heart disease by 25% and 31% respectively. The research also showed that vegetables have significantly higher health benefits than fruit.

This is the first study to link fruit and vegetable consumption with all-cause, cancer and heart disease deaths in a nationally-representative population, the first to quantify health benefits per-portion, and the first to identify the types of fruit and vegetable with the most benefit.

See UCL News article for full story.

Events

  • Rock Creek Extreme Cleanup —  Saturday, April 5, 9 am – noon. Join Rock Creek Conservancy at one of more than 50 locations along the 33-mile length of Rock Creek for volunteer trash cleanups.
  • Master-Metered Condo Alliance Meeting — Monday, April 7, 4 – 5:30 pm at Bethesda Green. A representative from WSSC will discuss ways to reduce water consumption and get some control of water and sewer bills.
  • Demystifying Clean Green Energy — Thursday, April 10, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, Silver Spring Civic Center, One Veterans Place, Silver Spring, MD. GreenWheaton, Silver Spring Green, and Bethesda Green present an expert assessment on the current state of the clean energy industry.

 

BGnews_logo

World’s Largest Urban Greenhouse

Giant Food Stores signed a deal with BrightFarms to build the world’s largest urban greenhouse, expected to open this fall.  At 100,000 square feet, the greenhouse aims to deliver 1 million pounds of fresh produce throughout the year to about 30 Giant supermarkets in the Washington, DC,  metro area. Plans also include making the greenhouse available to schools as an educational tool on urban agriculture and sustainability.

In addition to building greenhouses attached to supermarkets, BrightFarms designs rooftop farms and is working on projects in Kansas City, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, and St. Paul.

To read more, check out this article.

New Bike Lanes

As Bethesda proceeds through a new sector plan for future development, interested parties may want to take note of Alexandria’s plan to add new bike lanes. The Alexandria City Council voted unanimously recently to create bike lanes on a span of King Street from Janneys Lane to West Cedar Street, one of Alexandria’s busiest streets.  Many Alexandria residents objected to this plan, however, because it will cause the removal of more than two dozen parking spots and add to congestion. Those in favor of the bike lanes argue that more and more people are using bikes for commuting so creating a safe way for them is key to cities like Alexandria.

Ultimately, the bike lanes proposal was approved with the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians in mind. Bicyclists will share the traffic lanes with motorized vehicles in the areas where parking is still allowed. New crosswalks and electronic speed indicators will also be installed for the safety pedestrians and bicyclists.

To find out more information, check out the Washington Post.

Events

  • Maryland Day, a weekend celebration of all things Maryland, March 21-23, explores historic sites, cultural activities, and natural resources around Annapolis. See the Annapolis Green Growing a Little Greener webpage for more details.
  • H2O SummitMarch 22, 9:30 am – 4 pm, Silver Spring Civic Center, 1 Veterans Plaza, Silver Spring, MD. Topics covered include: What is Stormwater and How Can You Help Prevent Pollution? and Volunteerism & Community Efforts to Improve the Environment. The morning session (9:30 to 1:00 pm) will have speakers and workshops. Attendance is limited, so register in advance. The afternoon session will be a Family H2O Fair hosted by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and will include kid’s crafts and environmental demos for families. An assortment of water related exhibitors will also be on hand located in the Great Hall. Registration is not required for the afternoon session.

by Julie Clendenin

DC Water lifted its two-day Boil Water Advisory March 7, which was a relief for many DC residents. Their short “water crisis” ended without much drama. It did, however, remind me of our good fortune when it comes to drinking water. It’s good that the remarkable days are those when our water supply is NOT absolutely safe.

And it made me wonder about the flip side of that luck that escapes my consciousness most of the time. I started really thinking about what it would be like to live without a reliable, convenient source of drinking water.

I wanted some perspective from the flip side, so I went looking for some data. Here’s what I found:

  • 768 million people in the world do not have access to safe, clean drinking water (UNICEF, 2014).
  • “Access to drinking water,” in international development language, means that the water source is less than 1 kilometer from its place of use.  That means that someone has to travel, collect water, and carry it home for use. EVERY DAY. The World Health Organization estimates that, globally, 200 million hours are spent EACH DAY collecting water for domestic use.
  • An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the average person in a developing country slum uses for an entire day (UN Development Program, 2006).

Our city’s briefly threatened water supply was an inconvenience for many of our neighbors – in fact, it was a very real health hazard that needed to be taken seriously. I am grateful that this kind of thing is a rare occurrence for us, and that we can remain confident about the safety of our drinking water.

RWFFLogo_FullColor_EST2012The thing is, in the developing world, the lack of clean drinking water is daunting crisis. In some African nations, less than half the population has access to clean drinking water. Every day, 1,400 children die from diseases directly linked to unsafe water or lack of basic sanitation.

The Reel Water Film Festival, Saturday, June 14 at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, is a great place to start exploring the global water crisis. It’s also an opportunity to explore our own, local water supply challenges. Roughly 6 million people live in the DC area – and most of us get our drinking water from the Potomac River, which is threatened by stormwater runoff from our paved surfaces, sewage overflows caused by massive rainstorms (and snowmelt!), chemical & nutrient pollution from our lawns as well as larger industrial and agricultural sources.

There are things we can each do to help, on both fronts. Let’s not take clean water for granted. It’s not really just a matter of good fortune. We need to get real about protecting it.

Julie Clendenin grew up in Bethesda, met her husband during high school at Walter Johnson, currently lives with her family in Kensington, and works for a consulting firm in Bethesda.

fall-leaves-200Raking leaves into big piles along the street for the county to pick up is in high gear this time of year.  But an alternative to consider is mowing your leaves into a healthy mulch for your yard, and it’s a lot less work.

An excellent blog post on this topic was originally published by the Little Falls Watershed Alliance in 2011, which includes details about the benefits of mowing your leaves from Scotts Fertilizer company.  Here’s what they recommend on their website:

Take the grass catcher off your mower and mow over the leaves on your lawn. You want to reduce your leaf clutter to dime-size pieces. You’ll know you’re done when about half an inch of grass can be seen through the mulched leaf layer. Once the leaf bits settle in, microbes and worms get to work recycling them. Any kind of rotary-action mower will do the job, and any kind of leaves can be chopped up.

So while there’s a few weeks left for all the leaves to come off the trees, give the mow, don’t rake approach a try.  It’s an easy way to treat your lawn and reduce the runoff into the gutters.

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