On a hot, late July morning in Southeast Washington, D.C., I joined about 50 other volunteers to clean up the banks of the Anacostia River for the third annual “Green Up Day,” hosted by the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, the Earth Conservation Corps and other partners.
The river cleanup was held at Diamond Teague Park, located in the shadow of Nationals Stadium and adjacent to the ECC’s old “pump house” headquarters. The ECC is a grassroots organization that works to empower Washington’s endangered youth to reclaim the Anacostia, their communities and their lives. I was pleased on this hot day to see volunteers from the EPA and other organizations working at the cleanup – wearing waders, boots and gloves and filing up bags of trash to keeping the waste from flowing into the Anacostia.
I have been involved with many ECC cleanups such as this over the past decade as part of the EPA’s mentoring program with the ECC. But this one was especially significant to many of us because it was at the “new” Diamond Teague Park. I asked a few of the volunteers if they knew who “Diamond Teague” was – one of them even thought Diamond was a baseball diamond! But no, Diamond Teague was a very special ECC Corps member who was an enthusiastic participant in the EPA/ECC mentoring program about eight years ago. He truly stood out among his peers that year of the mentoring program. He had recently completed his GED and was looking forward to going to college after completing his ECC tour. Then one night while standing in front of his house, he became a needless victim of a drive-by shooting. A bright light snuffed out way too soon and a loss to the ECC and all who knew and loved him.
So back then, we decided to take an abandoned plot near the ECC pump house and turn it into a small neighborhood park. We named it Diamond Teague Park. Building it was a labor of love by ECC members, EPA mentors (including me) and other volunteers. And then the new stadium came and covered the original Diamond Teague Park with left centerfield grass in Nationals Park. But the Nationals were kind enough to create a new Diamond Teague Park adjacent to the ECC pump house along the banks of the Anacostia.
And so, it brings us back to today and the voluntary cleanup effort that will help D.C. meet the Anacostia trash TMDL (a “pollution diet” for trash in the river) and ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. Because in the end, it’s about cleaning up the local streams, creeks and rivers that lead to the Chesapeake Bay that is going to make the Bay restoration effort a success. One stream at a time, one river at a time and, indeed, one person at a time.
There are more than 17 million people living in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and each of us needs to do our part. One person can make a difference – just like Diamond Teague did. Now it’s your turn – and mine too.