On April 4th, the Anacostia Waterfront Trust held a public forum about the future of the Anacostia waterfront in partnership with the Committee of 100 on the Federal City.
Former DC Mayor Anthony Williams, who focused the District government’s attention on the Anacostia river during his 8-year term, provided opening remarks and called for the parkland along the Anacostia river to become Washington’s 21st Century urban waterfront.
Tracy Gabriel of DC’s Office of Planning (OP) provided updates on how the District government has made significant progress on achieving the vision laid out by the Williams administration in the 2003 Anacostia Waterfront Framework Plan, citing development along the waterfront near the Navy Yard and highlighting Yards Park as a benchmark of success for waterfront parks. In addition to several projects related to the waterfront, OP is currently revising the District elements of DC’s Comprehensive Plan, which will affect how District government agencies approach issues like transportation, land use and housing near the waterfront.
Superintendent Tara Morrison of the National Park Service’s National Capital Parks-East division, which includes Anacostia Park and thus a majority of the Anacostia waterfront, spoke of the Park Service’s commitment to their Urban Agenda and their vision for Anacostia Park to become a signature urban national park. She highlighted the recent release of the draft Management Plan Environmental Assessment for Anacostia Park that creates a framework for improving the Park in the future.
I followed this impressive lineup of speakers (certainly a high point in my public speaking career) with an exploration of what the Anacostia Waterfront Trust means when we talk about helping to create a “world-class, equity-enhancing and resilient Anacostia waterfront.” I showed examples of signature parks, innovative approaches and cherished waterfronts from around the world, and discussed what kind of ambitious projects might be appropriate here in DC. Pursuing any big ideas, however, will of course require a long time, deep and robust engagement with residents living nearby, serious vetting, lots of capital investment and all sorts of coordination and cooperation between local and federal government agencies. So I also discussed ways that the Trust and other groups can—and are—enhancing the waterfront in incremental but effective ways right now, at the same time that we advocate for bigger investments in the waterfront.
Ultimately, the evening’s event was a call to action to get more engaged in the Anacostia waterfront and is one of many kinds of discussions that the Trust will continue to hold all across the city. There are many projects and plans currently underway that will define the future of the Anacostia waterfront (see our recent summary and stay tuned for updates soon). That means that there are many opportunities for all of us—residents (especially those in Wards 5, 6, 7 and 8 adjacent to the river), citizens, advocates, stakeholders, and government agencies—to shape these projects to achieve a collective, shared vision for the Anacostia corridor that is greater than the sum of any of its individual parts.