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.

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BGnews_logoMontgomery Council creates two new offices to tackle environmental issues in county

Montgomery County Council created two new offices Tuesday to oversee efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and promote the use of sustainable energy sources in the county.

The county has a broad portfolio of environmental regulations and goals, many of them established by a 2008 working group created by County Executive Isiah Leggett. They include an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050.

But council members said progress toward the goals needed to be accelerated and the county held more accountable. It voted unanimously to create an Office of Sustainability within the Department of Environmental Protection and an Office of Energy and Sustainability within the county’s Department of General Services.

The estimated annual cost of the new offices is $900,000, mostly for additional staff. The council approved funding as part of the fiscal 2015 budget it passed last month.

See full article published in The Washington Post

Poolesville Goes Solar

Poolesville recently celebrated the opening of its new solar array, expected to save $30,000 in energy costs in the first year of operation. Since the array came online in February, it has created enough energy to power 40 homes for a year and has saved nearly 600,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.

Poolesville partnered with Standard Solar to build the 4,480-panel array to offset electricity for the wastewater treatment plant.

See full article published in the Gazette.

Solar Mowing Business Grows in Bethesda

In 2009, Lyn DeWitt decided that she had had enough of the fumes and noise associated with gasoline-powered lawn mowers and launched Solar Mowing, a company using battery-powered mowers charged by photovoltaic solar panels affixed to a truck.

She initially invested about $30,000 on the truck, solar panels, mowers and other equipment. Since then, the company has grown to six mowers, eight trimmers, three trucks with solar panels and a dozen employees. A year ago, it was certified by the Montgomery County Green Business Certification Program, signifying its effective environmental stewardship.

See full article published in the Gazette.

Green Events

  • Good Green Fun Happy Hour — Wednesday, June 18, 5-8 pm, Silver Spring Green networking event at La Malinche Spanish Tapas Restaurant, 8622 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD.
  • Bethesda EcoDistrict Workshop — Wednesday, June 18, 7-9 pm, Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, 4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda, MD.
  • Rock Creek Community Meeting — Saturday, June 21, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm, Mount Pleasant Library, 3160 16th Street NW, DC , hosted by Rock Creek Conservancy.
  • GreenWheaton Gala — Wednesday, June 25, 6-9 pm, Ballroom at Wheaton Glen, 2400 Arcola Ave., Wheaton, MD.
  • Fishbowl Investor Pitch — Thursday, June 26, 1-5 pm, plus reception at Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Ave., Bethesda, MD, a “shark tank” like-program hosted in partnership with the William James Foundation.

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.

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_logoBy Alison Wentzell

Public Hunting Not a Part of Park Service’s Deer Control Plan

Recently there has been a huge spike in the deer population in Virginia and Maryland civil war parks.  The increase in the number of deer has caused new problems for Park Service officials, and they are unsure what to do about them.  Recent surveys have found that there is an estimated 82 deer per square mile in the parks.  However, the areas can only support about 20 deer per square mile.  In addition, the deer affect the cultural landscapes, which presents the officials with a huge dilemma.  Tourists flock to the parks every year to experience them the way they were 150 years ago, but high deer population is changing the appearance of the park at a rate faster than the officials can fix.

Local hunting advocates are pushing the government to allow deer hunting in these parks.  Organizations have arranged for deer “harvests” across the country, including DC.  Hunters killed 20 deer during the span of 3 days at Rock Creek Park back in March.  They even donated the collected venison to food pantries.  However, the organization of this event caused uproar among the local community including protests and an unsuccessful lawsuit.

In spite of the gun community’s vocalization of their support for hunting in these parks, Park Service officials aren’t budging.  They refuse to allow hunting in the parks.  Not to mention, congressional legislation does not even allow Park Services to consider the option of hunting as a means for deer population control.  And with good reason, these parks are open to the public and are visited by thousands of tourists each season.  In my opinion, it seems that the addition of guns adds a tremendous safety concern for all of these people, no matter how regulated they are.  It will also give officials the added challenge of implementing hunting regulations.

For more information, check out the Washington Post article here.

Biking to Work Promotes Healthy Lifestyle

More and more frequently we hear stories promoting a biking lifestyle.  And for good reason.  When it comes down to it, bikes have many advantages over cars.  But an article in this week’s Gazette puts a different spin on the increasingly popular trend.  This story focuses on two local doctors who work for the NIH Heart Center at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda.  Keith Horvath, director of cardiothoracic surgery, and Brad Dick, and interventionalist radiologist, started biking to work five years ago and believe others should do the same.

Horvath takes the phrase “practice what you preach” to heart.  He says that part of his job is promoting a healthy lifestyle, and biking has done that for him.  He claims that the hardest part about exercising is finding the time to do it.  Now he uses his morning commute not only as his exercise for the day, but to relax, plan out his day, and prepare for surgery.

Radiologist Brad Dick also bikes to work, and can’t help but notice the stress people have on their morning commute.  Unlike the people he passes over on the Beltway, Dick never has to deal with traffic because you can always get around it on a bike.  Dick also mentions, “The less gas we use as a society the more healthy we are.”  So, while Dick and Horvath ride their bikes to work every day, they’re not only benefiting from it themselves, but they are also making you healthier by reducing gas usage and traffic congestion.

For the full article, check out the Gazette.

Events

  • Bethesda Green Happy Hour, Sept. 5, 5-8 pm, The Courtyard by Marriott Chevy Chase, 5220 Wisconsin Avenue

Join Bethesda Green for its First Thursday Happy Hour at The Courtyard and have a chance to win a raffle, get discounts on wine, beer, and cocktails, and delicious appetizers.  Also, meet the people protecting the local watershed—Friends of Cabin John Creek, Little Falls Watershed Alliance and Rock Creek Conservancy.  There is a $10 entrance fee with the proceeds shared among the local watershed groups.  RSVP via Meetup.

  • Red Wiggler Annual Harvest Celebration, Sept. 7, 4-8:30 pm, Red Wiggler Community Farm, 23400 Ridge Road, Germantown, MD

Come out and honor the work of the season and savor the delicious flavors of the fields.  Dishes are prepared by local chefs and consist of ingredients that have been grown right on the farm.  There will be live music and a Silent Auction full of items and services for your home, garden, and family.  Tickets cost $75 for adults and $40 for children.  All proceeds help programs at the Red Wiggler Farm.  To find out more information, check out the Bethesda Green Calendar.

Alison Wentzell is a senior at American University and an intern with Bethesda Green.  Her interests in sustainability focus on the community, environmental politics, and cultural aspects of the environmental movement.

By Susanna Parker

Alice Ferguson Foundation Presents the Litter Prevention Video Contest BGnews_logo

In conjunction with the 25th Annual Potomac Cleanup in April, the Alice Ferguson Foundation is launching a video contest to engage residents from across the region in litter prevention. The contest is open to all ages. Create a video that demonstrates your support for clean land, safe water, and healthy lives in your community. Contest participants have a chance of winning a $1000 prize, and having their video used as a PSA for the Regional Litter Prevention Campaign.  Video submissions will be open from April 6 through May 15. For more information and entry rules, please visit the Alice Ferguson Foundation.

Green Spaces May Reduce Urban Crime

A recent Temple University study has found that city planning which emphasizes urban greening can lower the rates of certain types of crime. Researchers found that the presence of grass, trees, and shrubs in a city setting can lower incidences of aggravated assault, robbery, and burglary. This information goes against the long-standing principle that high vegetation abets crime by shielding activities or allowing the criminal to escape. The authors argue that well-maintained greenery encourages social interaction and community supervision of public spaces, which act as a deterrent to criminal activity.

Increasing urban vegetation has other benefits as well. More greenery helps to regulate temperatures, remove pollutants from the air, reduce stormwater runoff, and prevent pollutants from affecting the local watershed. Urban greenery also has aesthetic and societal benefits; well-maintained gardens, window boxes, and parks give the impression of a stable, healthy community. For more information on the study, please read the full article on the Environmental News Network.

ExxonMobil Pipeline Releases Major Spill in Arkansas

Emergency crews worked all weekend to contain several thousand barrels of crude oil, the result of a rupture in the Pegasus oil pipeline. Fifteen vacuum trucks and thirty three storage tanks have been deployed to the site of the spill to clean up and temporarily store the oil. As of Sunday, 12,000 barrels of oil and water had been recovered, and several thousand feet of boom have been set up on a nearby lake to prevent oil from entering the water supply. Though residents were permitted to return to their homes temporarily in order to pick up personal items, the city of Mayflower recommended the continued evacuation of 22 homes close to the spill. The Environmental Protection Agency has qualified this incident as a major spill; meanwhile, the cause of the rupture is under investigation. For more information, read the full City of Mayflower report here.

Ecuador to Auction Amazonian Property to Oil Companies

In a news article released last week, The Guardian reports that Ecuador’s government plans to auction off more than three million hectares of Amazonian rainforest to Chinese oil companies. The auction is believed to be spurred on by national debt; as of summer 2012, Ecuador owed China more than $7 billion, which is more than a tenth of their Gross Domestic Product. Adam Zuckerman of the NGO Amazon Watch believes that, because Ecuador has depended upon China to finance much of their recent development, they’re willing to compromise on other issues like environmental regulations.

Another point of contention comes from the indigenous tribes who inhabit the land. A recent ruling by an inter-American court has stated that governments must obtain free, prior, and informed consent from indigenous peoples before approving oil activities on their land. Seven groups have come forward to protest the auction, claiming that they have not consented to oil projects that would harm the rainforest environment and threaten their way of life.

No auctions have yet occurred. To learn more about the situation, please read the full Guardian article here.

Upcoming Green Events

  • Celebrate Earth & Water First Thursday Happy Hour, Thursday April 4, 5 – 8pm, Brickside, 4866 Cordell Avenue.

This month we’re kicking off the April Earth Day celebration and learning about local and global water issues. Tiffany Jones will discuss the upcoming Reel Water Film Festival, hosted by Journey’s Crossing, Bethesda Green, and Mark Leisher Productions. The event will be held June 15th at the Bethesda Jazz and Supper Club, and will showcase water-related film projects and expert presentations. Come and enjoy complimentary appetizers, discount drinks, and a gift card raffle courtesy of Brickside. Admission is $10 at the door. For more information and to RSVP, visit the Bethesda Green Meetup.

  • Rock Creek Extreme Cleanup, Saturday April 6, 9 am – 12 noon

Join the Rock Creek Conservancy and local residents for the 5th Annual Rock Creek Extreme Cleanup. Each year, Rock Creek Conservancy organizes and promotes this event with cleanups at over 50 locations along the 33-mile length of Rock Creek. The goal is a total stream cleanup of Rock Creek and its tributaries, the parks connected to Rock Creek, and the neighborhoods near Rock Creek where trash originates. Working with the National Park Service and Montgomery County Parks, the Conservancy coordinates cleanups in the District of Columbia as well as Montgomery County, MD. Come help clean up Rock Creek, and help keep trash out of the Potomac River, the Chesapeake Bay, and our oceans. To find a cleanup site near you, visit the 2013 Extreme Cleanup Map.

  • Take a Bite Out of ALS, Sunday April 14, 11:45 am – 2:30 pm, BlackFinn Bethesda, 4901 Fairmont Avenue

Join Gator Ron’s and BlackFinn as they launch their partnership – Gator Ron’s Bloody Marys are now available at BlackFinn! Come enjoy special prices on appetizers created especially for this event using Gator Ron’s Zesty Angel Wing and Heavenly Barbecue Sauces, and $5.00 Gator Ron’s Bloody Marys. Come out, celebrate the partnership, remember Ron Griffith, and show support to BlackFinn’s joining the fight against ALS!

Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.

by Susanna Parker

Climate Change Could Cause Major Shift in Coral Reef Communities BGnews_logo

Climate change and the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may result in conditions less favorable to reef building stony corals. The buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has had the effect of increasing oceanic acidity worldwide. When carbon dioxide reacts with water, atmospheric carbon dioxide transforms to carbonic acid. That acid damages hard corals, which secrete calcium carbonate to form a protective outer shell. Softer corals, cousins to the reef building corals, lack the hard outer skeleton that is damaged when the water turns acidic. The changing conditions could lead to a change in the makeup of coral communities. When you combine the less favorable conditions with the softer corals’ ability for rapid colonization, softer corals may out-compete hard corals.

Stony corals are an important member of the underwater ecosystem. Their protective outer layers help provide shelter and habitats for many reef organisms, such as clownfish. Though it covers less than 1 percent of the ocean floor, hard coral reefs support about 25 percent of all marine life. Soft corals do not provide the same shelter to marine organisms, and their dominance could result in a major shift in the underwater environment.

For more information about carbon dioxide and coral reefs, please read the full Huffington Post article.

Obama to Designate Five New National Monuments

Sources from several prominent environmental groups say that President Obama will designate five new national monuments, including one in Maryland commemorating Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railway. The other four monuments are the First State National Monument in Delaware and Pennsylvania, the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico, Washington state’s San Juan Islands National Monument, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio. The Antiquities Act, which allows the president to protect federal lands without congressional approval, was rarely invoked by President Obama during his first term. After an internal Interior Department list of potential monument sites became public, House Republicans threatened to repeal the act. Obama therefore kept his first four national monument designations to areas of cultural or historical significance.

Two of Obama’s new designations – San Juan Islands and Rio Grande del Norte – are ecologically valuable. Environmentalists have shown vocal support the president’s move, and local communities near all five monuments support additional federal protections. In Maryland, Governor Martin O’Malley, and Democratic Senators Barbara Milkulski and Ben Cardin had all lobbied President Obama to establish a monument commemorating Harriet Tubman’s work. Brian O’Donnell, the executive director of the Conservation Lands Foundation, praised Obama’s actions, saying “…we are grateful for President Obama’s leadership in advancing conservation at a time when it’s desperately needed.”

For more information, please read the full Washington Post article here.

Upcoming Green Events

  • Bethesda Green Finance Workshop Series for Green Business, “Due Diligence: Evaluating a Potential Investment”, Thursday March 28, 8am – 10am, 4825 Cordell Avenue, Second Floor

The fourth installment in Bethesda Green’s Finance Workshop Series will address the substance and process of the due diligence investment evaluation. Advice will also be given on how entrepreneurs should conduct due diligence on the potential investor. Speakers include John May of New Vantage Partners, Mahesh Konduru of Potomac Energy Fund, and David Levine of Geostellar. For more information, and to RSVP, please visit Bethesda Green’s Program Page.

  • Non-Native Invasive Plant Removal Class, Wednesday April 3, 6:30pm – 9pm, 3030 12th Street NE

Join Rock Creek Conservancy and Casey Trees for an educational session on non-native invasive plants. Learn how to identify and control species of non-native invasive plants, including garlic mustard, mile-a-minute, and bush honeysuckle. Once you’ve learned all about invasive plants, you’ll be ready for the Rock Creek Clean-up on Saturday April 6th! For more information, and to RSVP, please visit here.

Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.