Posts Tagged ‘Anacostia River’

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A Ghost Bike in Anacostia

The summer heat was a little milder today than it has been lately, and with forecasts predicting that temperatures will be increasing to over a hundred degrees within the next few days, I decided to go for my daily bike ride a little early again today, and I made it a long one.  For today’s ride I decided to ride around southeast D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood. So I took my favorite route, going past Robert F. Kennedy Stadium and through Kingman and Heritage Islands, and started out today’s Anacostia ride on Anacostia Avenue near Benning Road.

Rather than riding on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, I initially chose to ride on Minnesota Avenue, which parallels the trail and the river, so I could ride through residential areas. The trail has been greatly improved over the past few years, as has the quality of the Anacostia River. But the residential areas provide a better flavor of the historic and unique working-class neighborhood. And it was there that I came across a type of memorial that many people don’t even know is a memorial. I found a “ghost bike.”

By definition, “a ghost bike is a bicycle painted white and left as a memorial, usually by other cyclists, at a site where a cyclist was fatally injured by a collision with a motor vehicle.” And as I would come to find out, the ghost bike I saw on this ride, which is located in the 2600 block of Minnesota Avenue, at the corner of Minnesota Avenue and Burns Street (MAP), marks the spot where a 23-year-old cyclist named Jerrell Robert Elliott was killed by a hit and run driver just last month.

A ghost bike carries with it an extremely personal connection because it memorializes someone at the very location where that person was killed.  And Elliott lived only a few feet from where he was hit and left to die very early in the morning of July 23rd.  He was considered by family and neighbors to be a really good kid with a bright future.  As a child, he was a member of The Young Marines, the Fort Dupont Ice Arena’s youth team and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)/D.C. Police Teen Jr. Police Academy.  And he remained active as an adult.  The 23-year-old loved playing hockey and riding his bike, and is thought to have been on his way home from a local gym when he was hit.

While I was there paying my respects and taking a photo of the ghost bike and memorabilia that had been left at the site, an incredibly nice young woman from the neighborhood named Wanda stopped to talk with me.  She was friendly, and caring, and seemed to embody the best qualities of the neighborhood.  She told me a little about Elliot.  She also told me about how touched his family was by the cyclists who had brought and placed the ghost bike there.  Then she told me about two women who had stopped to help him after he was hit, but that no one had since come forward with any information about what had happened.  She said she had a bike, and we also talked about the neighborhood, and how the cycling infrastructure is not only inadequate overall, but how it has not kept pace with more affluent areas of the city.  Before she left, she stopped to clean up a broken vase and some debris at the base of the ghost bike, further exemplifying to me how thoughtful and welcoming so many people in the Anacostia neighborhood are.

In addition to the personal aspect of a ghost bike memorial, its meaning and appearance also invoke a reminder of the vulnerability of all cyclists.  According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 726 cyclists were killed in this country in bicycle/motor vehicle crashes in 2014, the most recent year for which statistics are available.  So as I rode back to my office at the end of my ride, I rode with a renewed awareness of the need to always ride defensively on my bike, and to drive cautiously when I’m in a car.  I hope all of you reading this will do the same.

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NOTE: Police are still searching for the driver of the car that hit Elliott. The suspect was driving a gray colored vehicle, possibly a Volvo, according to a release from the MPD. “We’re looking for anyone who may have seen anything—either leading up to the actual crash or even after the crash,” according to Officer Robert Wilkins.  Information can be provided anonymously through The D.C. Crime Solvers Program by calling (202) 727-9099, or you can text your tip to 50411.

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The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail

On this lunchtime bike ride I went for a leisurely ride on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, which is located in southeast D.C. and runs along banks of both sides of the Anacostia River (MAP). Although the trail is not yet complete, extensive improvements and additions have been made to the trail in recent years, making it already one of the most scenic and enjoyable trails in the city. To date, 15 of the ultimate 28 miles of the trail are open for use. And completion of the remainder of the trail is a priority project under President Barack Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.

In the past one of the trail’s biggest obstacles was the need to cross the CSX railroad tracks, which bisected the trail just north of the John Philip Sousa Bridge on both sides of the river. But that hurdle has been overcome with the relatively recent addition of two fiber-reinforced polymer, weathering steel bridges that allow trail users to cross over the railroad tracks.

The Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens segment of the trail was started in the spring of 2014 and is currently underway. This portion will extend from Benning Road in northeast D.C. to the Anacostia River Trail in Bladensburg, Maryland, and is expected to be completed by Summer 2016.  The other remaining segments to complete the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail are being constructed as part of the Buzzard Point Trail Project, South Capitol Street Trail Project, various partner development projects along Maryland and Virginia Avenues in southeast D.C., or, in the case of the National Arboretum segment, by the National Park Service.

Once complete, the trail will provide seamless, scenic travel for cyclists, joggers and pedestrians along the Anacostia River, and access to a number of the city’s treasures along the way, including The Maine Avenue Fish Market, Nationals Park, The Yards Park, Diamond Teague Park, The Titanic MemorialThe Washington Navy Yard, Historic Anacostia, Anacostia Park, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, RFK Stadium, and The United States National Arboretum, as well as 16 different communities between the National Mall at the Tidal Basin and Bladensburg Marina Park in Maryland. The trail’s northern end will eventually connect to Maryland’s Anacostia Tributary Trail System for nearly 60 miles of contiguous pathway.

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The Washington Navy Yard

The Washington Navy Yard

The United States Navy recognizes October 13, 1775, as the date of its official establishment, when the Continental Congress passed a resolution creating the Continental Navy.  So to celebrate the upcoming 239th birthday of the Navy, on this bike ride I decided to ride to the Washington Navy Yard, which is located in and takes up approximately half of the Near Southeast neighborhood on the Anacostia River (MAP) in Southeast D.C.

The Washington Navy Yard, or The Yard is it is often referred to, was established in October of 1799.  The Yard was built under the direction of Benjamin Stoddert, the first Secretary of the Navy, under the supervision of the Yard’s first commandant, Commodore Thomas Tingey, and is the oldest shore establishment of the U.S. Navy.  It was formerly the shipyard and ordnance plant of the U.S. Navy.  From its first years, the Washington Navy Yard became the navy’s largest shipbuilding and shipfitting facility, with 22 vessels constructed there.

The Yard currently serves as a ceremonial and administrative center for the U.S. Navy, home to the Chief of Naval Operations, and is headquarters for the Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Historical Center, the Department of Naval History, the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, Naval Reactors, Marine Corps Institute, the United States Navy Band, and other more classified facilities. The Yard also includes the Navy Museum which houses the Navy Art Collection and its displays of naval art and artifacts that trace the Navy’s history from the Revolutionary War to the present day.  A museum ship, the destroyer USS Barry, is also at The Yard and is open to tourists. The Barry is frequently used for change of command ceremonies for naval commands in the area.

The Yard is just one of 42 Navy bases in the United States, with a number of other bases overseas, either in U.S.-controlled territories or in foreign countries under a Status of Forces Agreement.  A large number of bases and installations are needed to support the Navy’s size, complexity, and international presence of the Navy’s personnel and operations.

The U.S. Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined.  It operates 289 deployable battle force ships and more than 3700 operational aircraft.  The U.S. Navy also has the world’s largest carrier fleet, with 11 in service, one under construction, two planned, and one in reserve.

The service currently has 325,143 active duty personnel and 107,524 in the Navy Reserve. It operates 286 ships in active service and more than 3,700 aircraft.  It also has approximately 201,000 Navy Department civilian employees.

So in recognition of the Navy’s upcoming anniversary, I’d like to say happy birthday to the Navy, and to all those who have and are serving.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

Kingman and Heritage Islands Park

Kingman and Heritage Islands Park

On this bike ride I set off with no particular destination in mind. I initially rode to Southeast D.C., and then started following the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. As I was riding past the Redskins’ old home at R.F.K. Stadium, there was a turn off on the trail that went through a gate and disappeared into the woods. So naturally I turned to follow it. As I followed the path I discovered it was the entrance to Kingman and Heritage Islands Park. I later discovered that there is also an entrance on the other side of the park, on Benning Road in D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood.

Heritage Island and Kingman Island are located Southeast and Northeast D.C., in the Anacostia River. Kingman Island is bordered on the east by the Anacostia River, a tributary of the Potomac River, and on the west by Kingman Lake, while Heritage Island is surrounded by Kingman Lake (MAP). This makes both accessible to be explored by boat. The islands were developed from sediment dredged from the bottom of the Anacostia River. Additionally, the wetlands found around the edges of Kingman Lake were developed and constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers and several other partner organizations. The islands were federally owned property managed by the National Park Service from the time they were constructed in 1916, until they were turned over to the District of Columbia government in 1995.

The park is comprised of over 50 acres of natural area to be explored on these two island habitats.  Riparian wooded areas, river views, and wetlands comprise much of the sights to be experienced, where a variety of flora and fauna native to the area can be viewed.  And the area is an ideal spot for birdwatching as well.  Over 100 species of birds have been identified at the park including Bald Eagle, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, and osprey.  The islands are home to many different types of animals as well, including beavers who can be observed build dams and foxes excavate holes.  And the Kingman Island Trail provides over a mile and a half of paths for walking, hiking, and bike riding.

Interestingly, once each year the serene character of these islands is interrupted for the annual Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival, which draws up to 10,000 people to the oft-forgotten green oasis. Attendees bring lawn chairs and sunscreen, and sprawl in the sun for an afternoon of live music that is the biggest fund-raiser for the Living Classrooms Foundation of the National Capital Region, which currently maintains the islands along with the D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.

Despite numerous efforts to develop the area over the last 100 years, the southern half of Kingman Island and all of Heritage Island remained largely undeveloped. A variety of proposals have been made in recent years, most focusing on retaining the islands’ character as one of the few remaining wild places within the city’s limits. As such, it continues to remain largely unknown, which makes it an ideal location for riding completely undisturbed, as I did on this ride.

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[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

The National Capitol Columns

The National Capitol Columns

One of D.C.’s most unusual landmarks is the National Capitol Columns.  What has been described as having the appearance of the ruins of a Greek temple rising up inexplicably in the middle of a field, the 22 Corinthian columns draw visitors year-round to their current home in the Ellipse Meadow at the U.S. National Arboretum, located at 3501 New York Avenue (MAP) in northeast D.C.

The columns were originally part of the U.S. Capitol Building from 1828 until they were removed in 1958, and eventually dedicated at their new home in 1990.  The columns with typical Hellenistic Corinthian motifs were among the 24 that were part of the Capitol Building’s east central portico that was designed by an architect from Boston named Charles Bulfinch, who while serving as D.C.’s Commissioner of Public Building oversaw construction of the portico using a design handed down by the original architects of the Capitol, William Thornton and Benjamin Henry Latrobe.

After being completed in 1828, the columns provided the backdrop for presidential inaugurations from Andrew Jackson in 1839 through Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1957, as well as numerous speeches, protests, rallies, and other gatherings during those years.  The columns, which had originally been constructed long before the familiar Capitol dome was completed, were subsequently removed in 1958 when the base of the Capitol Building was renovated and expanded in order to support and provide aesthetic symmetry for the newly expanded dome.  The columns, which were made out of sandstone, were considered too fragile to support the dome and were replaced with marble replicas.

Soon after the original columns were put into storage on the banks of the Anacostia River, a woman named Ethel Garrett struck upon the idea of preserving them so that the public could enjoy their power, beauty and historic associations.  As a benefactor of the National Arboretum, Garrett wanted the columns to be relocated to the Arboretum’s grounds.  So she consulted with her close friend, Russell Page, a noted English landscape architect, to find a suitable location.

Page determined that the east side of the Ellipse Meadow would be an ideal site, as the columns would be in scale with the more than 20 acres of open space available at that location, and would be visible in the distance to greet visitors as they entered the grounds.  Just before his death, Page sketched a design incorporating the columns in a nearly square formation set on a foundation of stones from the steps that were on the east side of the Capitol.  The design also incorporated a reflecting pool fed by a small stream of water running down a channel in the steps, which would not only reflect the columns, but provide the added elements of sound and movement as well.

It should be noted that only 22 of the original 24 columns stand in formation at the Ellipse Meadow.  So if you want to be able to say that you have seen all 24, you will have to go to the Arboretum’s Azalea Collection on the summit of Mount Hamilton, where the remaining two lie on the ground.  Both are cracked in half and neither still has its base or capital.  Across the Ellipse Meadow from the formation of columns, however, is a capital, or top portion, of one of the columns.  It is presumably from one of the two “missing” columns.  Located at ground level, it allows visitors an up-close view of the craftsmanship of the stone carver and the incredible detail incorporated into the columns.

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John Philip Sousa's Birthplace

John Philip Sousa’s Birthplace

On this bike ride I went by some of the places in D.C. that have a connection to “The American March King”, John Philip Sousa.  Because the bandmaster and composer was born in D.C., spent much of his career here, and eventually was buried in D.C., there are many connections between him and the national capitol city.

John Philip Sousa was born to Maria Elisabeth Trinkhaus, a Bavarian immigrant, and John Antonio Sousa, a Spanish immigrant of Portuguese descent.  His parents moved to D.C. in 1854 where his father became a trombonist with the U.S. Marine Band. John Philip Sousa was born later that year, on November 6th.  At one point in time Sousa aspired to be a baker, but a career in music was almost inevitable.  Besides having a father who was a musician, Sousa started his music education by playing the violin as a pupil of John Esputa and George Felix Benkert for harmony and musical composition at the age of six. He was found to have absolute pitch. During his childhood, Sousa studied voice, violin, piano, flute, cornet, baritone horn, trombone and alto horn.

His early education and training would serve him well throughout the rest of his life.  Sousa was enlisted at the age of 13 by his father as an aprectice in the Marine Corps in order to prevent him from running away and joining a circus band.  He stayed in the Marine Corps for seven years, but at the age of 20, Sousa received a special discharge from the Marines and embarked on a career as a professional musician.  He toured with two companies and a vaudeville show, worked at two Philadelphia theaters, taught music, composed operettas, and even corrected proofs at a publishing company.  In 1879, Sousa conducted Gilbert and Sullivan’s immensely popular H.M.S. Pinafore. Under his masterful orchestration, the amateur company at his command was able to turn professional.  Its success led to a season on Broadway where famous composers took in Sousa’s production.

Word of the young music director’s accomplishments did not escape the attention of his former employer; and in 1880, the 25-year-old Sousa returned to the U.S. Marine Band when he was named its 14th leader.  He remained as its conductor for the next dozen years.  Sousa led “The President’s Own” band under five presidents from Rutherford B. Hayes to Benjamin Harrison, and played at two Inaugural Balls, those of James A. Garfield in 1881, and Benjamin Harrison in 1889.  He left the Marine Corps again the following year.

After leaving the military, Sousa organized and started his own band in 1892 , named The Sousa Band.  He and his band spent the next 39 years touring and playing concerts in America and around the world.  It was during this time that Sousa composed the vast majority of works in his voluminous musical portfolio, which included 136 marches, such as:  “The Washington Post,” for the celebrated newspaper of the same name; “Semper Fidelis”, the official march of the United States Marine Corps, and; “Stars and Stripes Forever”, officially designated by an act of Congress as the national march of the United States.  It was also during this period, in 1917, that Sousa became the leader of the U.S. Navy Band and directed concerts to raise money for World War I.  The Sousa Band performed at 15,623 concerts, including at the World Exposition in Paris, at which time the Sousa Band marched through the streets to the Arc de Triomphe – one of only eight parades the band marched in over its nearly forty years.

Interestingly, Sousa held a very low opinion of the emerging and upstart recording industry. Using an epithet coined by Mark Twain, he derided recordings as “canned” music.  In fact, Sousa’s antipathy to recording was so strong that he almost never conducted his band when it was being recorded.

For the first stop on my bike ride I went by the house, located at 636 G Street (MAP), in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Southeast D.C., where Sousa was born.  Over the years the house has gone through a number of private owners. It was most recently purchased in 2008 by Gunnery Sergeant Regino Madrid, a violinist with “The President’s Own.” Founded in 1798 by an Act of Congress, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band is America’s oldest continuously active professional musical organization. Today, “The President’s Own” is celebrated for its role at the White House and its dynamic public performances. “The President’s Own” encompasses the United States Marine Band, Marine Chamber Orchestra, and Marine Chamber Ensembles, and performs regularly at the White House and at more than 500 public performances across the nation each year.

On this bike ride I also road over and back across The John Philip Sousa Bridge, which carries Pennsylvania Avenue across the Anacostia River in Southeast D.C. (MAP).  It has partial interchanges with unsigned Interstate 695 at its western terminus and with District of Columbia Route 295 at its eastern terminus. The first bridge at that location was built in 1804.  Later, it was replaced by an iron, underslung truss bridge on masonry piers which was built between 1887 and 1890. The same masonry piers were used in the construction of the present bridge, which was named after Sousa in 1939, and completed in 1940.

Lastly, I stopped by Sousa’s final resting place at Historic Congressional Cemetery, located at 1801 E Street (MAP), which is also in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Southeast D.C.  Sousa’s gravestone is inscribed with a fragmant of his greatest march, “Stars and Stripes Forever”, and is located within a family plot that includes graves for his wife and three children.   Although he lived a full life and had enjoyed an incredibly successful career that took him all over the world, his gravesite is located within sight of the bridge named in his honor, and just a mere mile away from the house where he was born.

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Commodore John Barry Statue

Commodore John Barry Statue

On today’s anniversary of his death in 1803 at the age of 58, I chose to write about my bike ride to Franklin Square, at 14th Street and K Street in northwest D.C., (MAP) to see the local monument commemorating Commodore John Barry.  The monument consists of a statute of Barry standing on top of a base of pink marble with steps of pink granite. The base is adorned by the carved figure of a woman standing on the bow of a ship, with her raised right hand holding out an olive branch. Her lowered left hand holds a shield and sword steady at her side. To her right, an eagle standing on a branch of oak leaves gazes up at her.

The bronze statue by American sculpture John Boyle is near the western border of the square.  It was dedicated on May 16, 1914, and is part of a group of fourteen statues in D.C. known collectively as the “American Revolution Statuary.” These statues are scattered across the city, mainly in squares and traffic circles, and are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Commodore John Barry Statue is not the only attraction in D.C. with a connection to Barry. The USS Barry Museum Ship, which currently lies moored at Pier 2 in the Anacostia River at The Washington Navy Yard (MAP), was also named after Barry.  It is one of four Navy vessels which were named for the commander.

John Barry was born on March 25, 1745, at Ballysampson on Our Lady’s Island, which is part of Tacumshin Parish in County Wexford, Ireland. The place of his birth had two very strong influences on his life. First, Wexford, at the southeasternmost part of Ireland, has always had a strong maritime tradition. And this tradition was instilled in Barry. Also, Barry learned at a very young age of the massacre of some 3,000 Wexfordians under an invading English force led by Oliver Cromwell in 1649, which led to a lifelong opposition to both oppression in general and the British in particular.

Barrry was 10 years old when his family immigrated to the American colonies after they were forced out of their home and off their land by a British landlord.  And his loyalty to his newfound adopted homeland became evident early on. Late in 1776, after the colonies had declared their independence from England, Barry was approached by an acquaintance who sympathized with the British, and offered a monetary bribe along with a commission in the Royal Navy and his own ship under Royal authority if he would turn his American ship over to the British. He indignantly refused because, in his own words, he “spurned the eyedee of being a treater.”

Barry presented an imposing and commanding figure. He was a burly and in shape man of 6’4″, with a ruddy-complexion who spoke in a commanding tone. In an era when most men stood only about 5’5″, Barry’s physical presence served him well throughout a career which took him from humble cabin boy to senior commander of the entire United States fleet after becoming America’s first commissioned naval officer, at the rank of Commodore, receiving his commission from President George Washington in 1797.

Barry is widely credited as “The Father of the American Navy,” although it is moniker which is shared with one of his contemporaries, Commander John Paul Jones. As most naval historians note, Barry can be classed on a par with Jones for nautical skill and daring, but he exceeds him in the length of service to his adopted country and his fidelity to the nurturing of a permanent American Navy. Although frequently obscured by his Commander Jones, Barry is an unsung hero of the young American Republic and is indeed deserving of the byname, “Father of the American Navy.”

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The United States National Arboretum

The United States National Arboretum

On this bike ride I rode to the United States National Arboretum, which is located just two miles from the U.S. Capitol Building in northeast D.C., with entrances at 3501 New York Avenue (MAP), and at the eastern end of R Street.  The arboretum was established in 1927 by an act of Congress after a campaign by the then chief botanist at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Frederick Vernon Coville.  The Arboretum is a public garden, research facility, and urban “green space” operated by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service as a division of the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center.  The Friends of the National Arboretum, an independent, non-profit organization, also works to enhance and support the National Arboretum.

As the only federally supported arboretum, and one of the largest arboretums in the country, the National Arboretum plays a unique role.  Functioning as a major center of botanical research and education, the arboretum conducts wide-ranging basic and developmental research on trees, shrubs, turf, and floral plants.  It is also a source for independent researchers, with a library containing approximately 10,000 volumes and 90 publications concentrating in botanical literature.

Comprised of 446 acres, and bordered on the east by the banks of the Anacostia River, the arboretum breeds, grows and displays acres of trees, shrubs and plants.  One of the most popular exhibits is the azaleas, with approximately 10,000 specimens planted throughout its hillsides.  It was one of the first collections, and  is such a sight to behold in early spring when the plants are in bloom that it was the azalea bloom that first prompted the Arboretum to open its doors to the public in 1949.

Also during the early spring, the arboretum is an ideal spot to enjoy cherry trees.  Although the National Mall area may be more widely known for the spring cherry blossoms of its dozen species and cultivars of trees, the arboretum boasts the same 12 varieties as well as 64 more.

Visitors also enjoy a variety of other exhibits year round, from formal landscaped gardens to the Gotelli Dwarf, and the slow growing Conifer Collection.  The Arboretum is also well known for its bonsai collection at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum.  Other special displays include seasonal exhibits, aquatic plants, collections of herbaceous plants and a National Herb garden, the Asian Collections, native plant collections, and the National Grove of State Trees.  Single-genus groupings include apples, boxwoods, dogwoods, hollies, magnolias and maples.

Another of the arboretum’s recent features and one of its most unique is The National Capitol Columns, comprised of 23 Corinthian columns that were part of the U.S. Capitol Building from 1828 until 1958.  They are the remnants of the old east portico that were removed when the building was renovated and expanded.  Originally destined for a landfill, the columns were rescued and put on display on a knoll near the Arboretum’s main entrance.

The arboretum is not only a good destination for a ride, but also allows riders to tour the grounds on their bikes.  With a campus that includes nine miles of roads with little to no traffic, as well as multiple trails and paths, I’m going to have to go back many times to continue exploring all that it has to offer.

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Fort Circle Park National Recreation Trail

Fort Circle Park National Recreation Trail

The Fort Circle Trail is what’s known as a hiker-biker trail, and follows along part of a route connecting historic sites that are collectively known as The Civil War Defenses of Washington.  The seven-mile trail passes through four of D.C.’s dozens of Civil War era forts which were originally built to defend bridges, naval installations, Capitol Hill and the rest of the city from likely approaches by Confederate rebels through southern Maryland during the Civil War.  Trail end points are at Bruce Place (Fort Stanton) in southeast D.C. (MAP), where I entered the trail on this ride, and at 42nd Street (Fort Mahan) in northeast D.C., where I ended.

The Fort Circle Trail contains surprising expanses of natural open spaces in what is otherwise a highly urban area.  It runs along the traces of old roadways, as well as through forests which are thick with oaks, beech, maples, and pine.  It can also get overgrown with vegetation at times along the route.  There are a few busy road crossings too, and navigating the starts and stops can sometimes get tricky if a rider is not paying attention.  The trail’s surface is mostly natural earth, with some improved sections which are paved with asphalt.  Be aware that the natural surface areas can also get muddy after heavy rains.  But the trail is signed in most places and easy to follow.

The Fort Circle Park National Recreation Trail was designated in June of 1971, and was one of the first National Recreation Trails.  It is administered by the National Park Service, and is part of the larger American Discovery Trail as it winds its way from Chesapeake Bay to Georgetown, as well as the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, whose 425 miles of trail stretch between the Chesapeake Bay and the Allegheny Highlands.

The Fort Circle Park National Recreation Trail is unique in that it is the only natural-surface trail within the D.C. city limits that allows mountain bikes.  In fact, a good way to see the trail is on mountain bike guided tours that are offered on the last Saturday of the month during warmer weather, and are lead by a Park Service ranger.  And if you don’t have a bike, the National Park Service will even provide one for you with advanced notice.

Whether you happen upon it like I did and explore the trail at your own pace, or plan ahead and take a tour guided by a ranger from the National Park Service, the Fort Circle Trail is unique among D.C.’s many trails, and worth experiencing in whatever way you choose.

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The Yards Park

The Yards Park

The greater D.C. area boasts a large number and variety of public parks.  From small neighborhood parks administered by the D.C. government, to expansive Federal parks administered by the National Park Service, there is no shortage of choices and opportunities to enjoy these natural areas.  Among the many choices is The Yards Park, one of the newer parks in D.C., and where I went on a recent bike ride.

The Yards Park is a waterfront recreation area, boardwalk, and outdoor performance space, which was designed as the center of The Yards development project to bring 5.5 million square feet of retail, residential, office and recreational development to the waterfront area near Nationals Park, the home of the Washington Nationals.  It was built as a public-private partnership between the District government, the General Services Administration, and Forest City Washington development company.  Construction began in 2007, and was completed three years later.  The park is on the Anacostia River, located at 355 Water Street in southeast D.C.’s Capitol Riverfront neighborhood (MAP), which is  just south of Capitol Hill, and to the west of the Washington Navy Yard.

The Yards Park consists of open grassy areas and well-landscaped outdoor rooms, as well as a terraced lawn performance venue, recreation trails, an elevated overlook, an iconic bridge and light sculpture, a riverfront boardwalk, and riverside gardens.  It also boasts a canal-like water feature complete with a wading pool, a waterfall and dancing fountains.

There are a variety of events and activities available at The Yards Park as well.  From sunrise yoga and bootcamp fitness classes, to beer festivals and bicycle rallies, there are activities throughout the year.  But perhaps the most popular events are the Friday Night Summer Concert Series.  With family-friendly lyrics, the concerts are designed for both adults and children to be able to enjoy a variety of bands in grassy open spaces with a river view.  The park is also available for private events including children’s birthday parties, receptions, corporate picnics and fundraising events.

So whether it’s for a special event or just to go and relax, I highly recommend The Yards Park as a destination worth considering.

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