Volunteers pile their collected trash in the middle of Kenilworth Park as part of an Earth Day Cleanup on April 23, 2016.
by Joan Smedinghoff
May 05, 2016
Over a hundred volunteers signed up to clean up the Anacostia River at Kenilworth Park as a part of the Anacostia Watershed Society’s Earth Day Cleanup on April 23, 2016. From left to right: Ryan Taaffe, Zubin Gadhoke, Fajr Chestnut, Ryanna Robinson, Jiffa Gborgla, and Kristin May.
It’s a gray Saturday morning in Washington, D.C. The sky is full of clouds, threatening rain, but Kenilworth Park isn’t empty. In fact, a large group of people are gathered around a tent in the park’s large, open field. But they’re not here for flag football or barbecuing; they’re here to work.
Today is the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS) Earth Day Cleanup, and all of these people came out to Kenilworth Park to volunteer. As the overcast sky begins to shed its first drops of rain, they break off into smaller groups and head out to different sections of the park. Some begin scouring the field for trash, others head toward the Anacostia River—which cuts through the park—and some begin working on one of the river’s smaller tributaries.
While the Kenilworth group is large, they’re just a small portion of the 2,400 volunteers who signed up to take part in today’s cleanup at 31 different sites around D.C. and Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland. Today seems like a large-scale cleanup effort—because it is—but AWS’s day of action is part of an even larger network of cleanups called Project Clean Stream, hosted by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. For the past 13 years, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay has coordinated cleanups around the Chesapeake region. This year, cleanups ran from Sandbridge, Virginia, all the way up to Westfield, Pennsylvania.
A sampling of the trash volunteers collected along the Anacostia River at Kenilworth Park in Washington, D.C. on April 23, 2016.
Volunteers piled all of their collected trash in the middle of the park for pickup. All total, they collected 103 bags of trash and 150 pounds of bulk trash during the cleanup.
For some of the volunteers at Kenilworth Park, this is their first time participating in a cleanup. Many were drawn to the event through Broccoli City Fest, a local concert that offered tickets to people in exchange for community service at a number of designated locations. One volunteer, Hilina Kibron, remarked, “I probably wouldn’t have done it on my own time. This actually forces me to do it.”
Yasmeen Warner: “I knew it was a Broccoli City event, and I thought it would be a cool way to help the community… It’s the heart of the city, and it’d be nice if it would be cleaned up and we could use it.”
Celine Guichardan: “[I hope this event brings] more awareness about littering and pollution, because I didn’t even realize how bad it was until I was out there picking up garbage—there’s so much of it. I probably saw more garbage covering the ground than the actual earth by the river.”
For experts and newcomers alike, the day is a learning opportunity. After just a few hours of picking up bottle after bottle and a seemingly endless stream of Styrofoam containers, volunteers reflected on personal changes they wanted to make, and hopes they had for others. After cleaning up plastic bottles and even an oil drum, William Klein said, “I hope that it will bring more awareness about littering and trying prevent that so in the future we won’t have to have days like these because people will be more sustainable.”
Despite the trash, many saw the beauty of Kenilworth Park and the Anacostia River, and wanted others to see that as well. They expressed hope about the value that a clean natural space could bring to the community and its residents. Fajr Chestnut, volunteering with her young daughter Ryanna, summed it up best: “The river means health and sustainability and economic development, and it’s the basis for the community. Once it’s to the level where it’s supposed to be, people will be able to have recreation. It’s bettering the community; it’s making it look better, making it sound better, making it feel better. So it’s important to have a clean river.”
Isaiah Thomas: “I love the environment. I want to help out and be a part of positive change.”
Matt Schoenfeld: “One thing we’ve noticed is we’re picking up a ton of bottles and Styrofoam. That’s the stuff that people can use other things for instead. So maybe people will stop using the plastic bottles and stuff like that. Because that’s 90 percent of what we’ve been picking up today.”
Ty Hodge: “My hope is that people who typically don’t come out and enjoy the river are out here this morning and understand how the way we interact with the river is important. You know that when you’re in the park and you eat and don’t dispose of your stuff appropriately that all of that ends up in the river, which is where a lot of our drinking water comes from, for some people a lot of food, et cetera. So it’s important for them to see this and how what we do impacts the health of the river and the community.”
Alysia Scofield with one of her students, Percy Kyd-Bruneau: “I think it’s really important to bring kids out here because I think the solutions that are going to need to be created are in their hands. I think the more they come out and see the problems and get really acquainted with the difficulties, the more that they’ll be able to become passionate about solving the problems.”
Naomi Hawk (left): “Sometimes we miss the point with cleanups because we forget to educate people as to why the litter is here in the first place. If we don’t tell people to ultimately stop littering, we’ll be out here every year picking up trash. As opposed to telling people, once they get back home, to put the stuff in the trash can.”
Serena Butcher (right): “I think [the Anacostia River] has so much potential… Hopefully we’ll make it cleaner, but also, I’m definitely going to make sure I don’t use plastic bottles because I’m finding a lot of those, and Styrofoam cups.”
Horus Plaza: “I’m out here to volunteer. I want to help out—help the community—and pick up the trash.”
Catherine Capotosto: “This is my first time [doing a river cleanup]. I think we’re finding a lot more stuff than everyone thought we would find and it’s definitely different [than I expected].”
Lowell George: “I live in D.C. not far from the Anacostia, so when I go for runs I go by it and see all the trash. For me, it has a lot of opportunity because it’s this great river running through a great city. But it requires some work. To me it holds a lot of promise.”
Dominique Skinner, site leader: “I want people to own the river and have appreciation for it as much as I do. Whether that’s going and recreating on the river, whether it’s walking the trails along the river or if its continuing to do cleanups once or twice or three times a year—that’s what I want people to get out of today.”