Lotuses & Water Lilies: A Bike Guide

Ever seen a leaf four feet wide? You can at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens just off the Anacostia River Trail! It is probably THE bike ride for July and the Trail Ranger team is here to help you out.

Where are these lotuses?

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens is home to a lot of lotuses though some can also be found at other sites around the region. The aquatic gardens is the only National Park Service site dedicated to aquatic plants and home to many unusual varietals.

1550 Anacostia Ave SE
Washington, DC 20019

Google Maps screenshot of Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens. Image Courtesy of Google Maps.

How do I get there?

The park has limited car parking and public transportation could use some investment (the closest Metro station is across a highway – quite walkable via an overpass). So biking is a great option!

From the Anacostia River Trail:

Note: Our Trail Ranger Matthew may not be there as pictured. (But the beautiful chalking will be!)

From the South: Go along the trail until 40th St and Anacostia Ave. It looks like:

But with more leaves and the grass is greener now! Ride along Anacostia Ave until you arrive at the parking lot for the park. Once in the gates, walk your bike to the first pond and take a right to find the bike parking.

Note: if you want a longer ride in the shade, keep going on the trail instead of Anacostia Ave and connect with the park via the north trail entrance described below.

From the North: Go along the trail past Bladensburg Waterfront Park. Ride until the trail dips under the Amtrak tracks and New York Ave. Just after the trail will arrive on land again and you’ll see:

You’ve arrived at the trailside park entrance!

Signal, stop and walk your bike (this helps protect the turtles and water chemistry of the surrounding wetlands) on the gravel path for a few hundred feet. You’ll come upon the bike parking just as you arrive at the main portion of the park.

From the neighborhoods if you’re east of 295: The best ways to cross the freeway are Deanwood Metro underpass to Polk St NE to the overpass to Douglass St NE, or on the sidewalk on Nannie Helen Burroughs Ave, right on Kenilworth and left on 42nd Ave NE.

When to go?

If you want to visit when its less crowded: weekdays! The lotuses are still kind of a hidden gem but less so every year. If you want the trail and park to not be crowded, visit during the weekday.

If you want programming: there will be lots of things happening in the park during the 2018 Lotus and Water Lily Festival July 21st to July 22nd. All of the details can be found here.

The WABA Trail Ranger team will be there all July 21st – stop by our table and say hi!

If you want to go for a bike ride:

Join us and DPR for a trail ride on Monday July 23rd! Registration required here.

Join us and NPS for a guided ride of park history and ecology on July 29th! Registration required here.

Long Bridge needs to be, well, LONGER

Imagine biking from Crystal City to DC’s waterfront along a brand new bike bridge next to the railroad tracks. You’d sail over the George Washington Memorial Parkway and I-395, riding directly from one urban core to the other on a wide, protected trail. Sounds like the best Potomac River crossing in the region, right?

This vision is enshrined in the master plans of DC, Arlington, and the National Park Service, but the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is about to pass on the chance to make it a reality.

Let’s get this bridge right

Long Bridge is the rail bridge you can see from the Yellow Line as you cross the Potomac River.  It carries Amtrak, commuter rail, and freight rail from Arlington over the George Washington Memorial Parkway, Hains Point, and I-395 to L’Enfant Plaza and eventually on to Union Station. It’s getting a long planned, much needed upgrade from two tracks to four. This project is an opportunity to attach a biking and walking trail to the new bridge, creating a continuous non-motorized connection between Arlington and DC.

It’s a once in a century opportunity that DC, Arlington, and the National Park Service have been discussing for years, but the current trail designs only go halfway— from the Mount Vernon Trail to Hains Point.

DDOT can do better, but they need to hear from you.

Take action

The current proposal treats the river as the only barrier that for people who bike and walk, ignoring two major highways and the tangle of dangerous intersections, congested sidewalks, and freeway ramps that separate DC from Arlington.

DDOT is going through the environmental impact statement process for this project, so now is the time to speak up for better bicycling connections.

Ask DDOT for a better bridge

Comments close on January 16, so it’s important to act on this now!

Contact DDOT and ask them to:

  • Make the Long Bridge bicycle and pedestrian connection continue across the George Washington Memorial Parkway to connect to the Long Bridge Park (Arlington County’s Long Bridge Park Master Plan has long called for a connection from the park’s multi-use esplanade across the George Washington Parkway to the Mount Vernon Trail),
  • Make the Long Bridge bicycle and pedestrian trail connect directly to Maine Avenue, instead of requiring an indirect, congested or outdated connection across the Washington Channel.  This is called for in both DC’s MoveDC plan and State Rail Plan,
  • Leave space for a future trail connection across Maine Ave to Maryland Ave and Hancock Park, and
  • Build the bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure simultaneously with the rail span, not as a separate project.

Read more about the status of this project in our Dec. 2017 blog post.

Want to get into the weeds? Here are our (really detailed) comments from October 2016.

Find additional information on the Long Bridge Project website.

Trash On Trails: More Than An Annoyance

Trail Rangers do lots of different trail projects: promote trails, answer questions, clip back vegetation, ride trails (and write the word “trails” a lot). Why do Trail Rangers spend some of their time removing trash?

We want more folks wanting to feel trails are welcoming and use trails. People don’t like walking or biking through trash – it’s not fun to look at or be around. Studies have found that litter on trail decreased trail use by 20%. Trails are appealing for a number of reasons but being outside in the natural world is a common one – does this look appealing to you?

Another study found that how folks perceive safety is influenced by trash – eliminating litter from an image increased the perception of safety 30%. It’s hard to encourage more folks to enjoy trails if they feel unsafe or that it’s not a pleasant place to spend their time.

Trash can cause problems. It’s much easier to pick up a whole glass bottle just off the trail now before it breaks and causes flat tires. And it’s no fun to fall because you hit a carryout container just right and then–whee, sideways!

We want a healthy environment. All of our trails are part of the Anacostia River watershed, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay. Trash in the river has been so bad in recent years that the Anacostia River was declared “impaired by trash” by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act. Whatever we don’t pick up will eventually likely go into the bay and from there into the ocean (unless it’s picked up by a few trash traps or the DC Water skimmer but they only make a dent). Plastic and manmade materials are not part of the ocean ecology – let’s keep them out!

 

So how do you help the team and encourage more folks to be on the trails?

Don’t litter. We’d rather be doing something else! Save us a step.

Request a trash can! There are definitely places along the trails and roads that have higher incidence of litter because people expect there to be a trash can (ex: Stanton Rd and Suitland Parkway). There is a whole category in the city 311 reporting system on requesting new trash cans

More info about effective 311 reports here.

Join the team for a cleanup! We do public cleanups a few times a year to make a bigger impact. The next one is January 15th for Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on the Metropolitan Branch Trail. More details and signup here.  

Get updates for all of cleanups by joining our email list. Yes!





Also lots of other organizations are involved in trash reduction efforts so if you’re not near a Trail Ranger trail, there is probably something going on close to you!

We built a park

For the second year, there was a bit more green space on Minnesota Ave NE as the WABA Trail Ranger team celebrated Park(ing) Day, part of an international effort to reclaim our public space and think creatively about its best use. In collaboration with DDOT Urban Forestry, Capital Bikeshare, and Anacostia Park & Planning Collaborative, we built a park!

Out went parking for one car. Instead the 8′ by 20′ spot was home to tables for eating lunch, trees, a bike fence and native plants. We had a number of pollinators visiting us all afternoon, snacking on the goldenrod, asters and other flowering plants from Urban Forestry. Anacostia Park and Planning brought a satellite map of the river corridor and we had great conversations about the nearby trails and how connectivity or lack thereof affects trail use.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by the park and all of our fabulous park partners!

Tales and Trails: A season of rides

The DC Trail Ranger team partnered with the National Park Service this summer to lead a ride series exploring the rich history of the Anacostia River Trail. We had so much fun learning about the trail!

Which bridges were burned in the War of 1812? What is the story of the ship Pearl? Where in Anacostia Park did the Bonus Army camp? What led to the violence at the Anacostia Pool in 1968? Anacostia River Trail and Anacostia Park have seen both the freedom and oppression of people, to just and unjust decisions by those in power.

Check out all of the sights from our Tales and Trails ride series below:

May – A Monument to Civil Rights

Where did thousands of veterans live in Washington DC while demanding the payment of promised World War I bonuses? Anacostia Park! The park was home to the primary camp for the Bonus Army in 1932. Learn more from the National Park Service.

June – Legacies of the Nation’s River

We moved through a big timeline on this ride, starting with talking about the Nacotchtank village on the east bank of the Anacostia, the largest Native American village in the DC boundaries. John Smith sailed the river, the plans for Kingman Island kept changing and there was a big lawsuit about the appearance of the Navy Yard gate. We ended in the modern era on the 1949 riots at the Anacostia Pool over DC Recreation Board and white residents’ refusal to integrate.

July – Bikes, Blooms and Botany

Finally – plants! Lots of conversation about the fabulous Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens that are right off the trail, but we also saw the capped Kenilworth Dump sprouting monarch butterflies’ favorite food – milkweed, and talked about the silting up of the Anacostia due to deforestation to build Civil War forts.

August – War of 1812: Battles, Burning and Dueling

The British were here! It was a firepower team of WABA, Maryland Milestones, and National Park Service that led our August ride to learn about the Battle of Bladensburg and subsequent burning of the Capitol. We saw the American lines of defense, toured the dueling grounds and ended at the Navy Yard to cover the destruction of Fort McNair and the Navy Yard (Pro tip: Don’t destroy cannons within sparking distance of a well you recently dumped a military fort’s worth of gunpowder barrels down. The gunpowder might not be quite wet and likely to explode.)

Huge thanks to the District Department of Transportation for making the DC Trail Ranger team possible and the National Capital Parks East unit of National Park Service for telling the stories of the park with us.

We’d love your feedback on the ride series if you joined us this summer

A Day in the life of Trail Ranger

WABA’s Trail Rangers are a near-constant presence on DC’s trails, and they work harder than just about anybody else around here. Here, for the first time, is your chance to experience a day in the life of a Trail Ranger. Enjoy!

Interested in keeping in touch with the team? Sign up here! Yes!




Photo credit: 501pix Photography

Whew! That was quite a ride, wasn’t it? Next time you see a Trail Ranger be sure to give them a wave and a smile. They’re working hard to make the trail better for all of us.

Full photo shoot can be found here.

Halfway Through the Summer: A DC Trail Ranger Report

The DC Trail Ranger team has been up and running this year since the beginning of April – riding the Metropolitan Branch, Anacostia River, Marvin Gaye and Suitland Parkway trails doing outreach and maintenance with our distinctive green bikes and yellow trailers (say hi if you see us!). We’ve organized guided bike tours, joined massive festivals, popped up with ice water on hot days, and played hundred of games of trail etiquette trivia.

But in between the bigger events, the team is out on the trails keeping them safe and passable – glass removed, vegetation trimmed, trash gone. What does 275 hours of trail cleanup look like?

A Bigger Trail Ranger Team

It has been a busy spring for the DDOT-funded DC Trail Ranger team – we’ve biked about 1,000 miles, removed more than 50 bags of trash from the trail corridors and talked with more than 750 people about trails. Our work doing outreach and maintenance along DC’s urban paved trails keeps folks rolling, walking and engaging with our fantastic trails.

In recognition of this impact, the Trail Ranger team is even bigger this summer thanks to additional funding by National Park Service. Same great program – now with more folks! Welcome Shira, Kemi, Daniel and Kevin!

What is your favorite snack?

“Hummus and pretzel chips.” – Shira

“Grapes all day and everyday.” – Daniel

“Yogurt + granola.” – Kevin

“Kit Kats and pita chips.” – Kemi

What is your bike story – how did you start and what has the journey been?

“I’ve been biking for as long as I can remember because my dad loves biking so much. I learned everything I know about bikes from him. He also encouraged me to pursue biking at college.” – Shira

“My bike story will start with WABA and the Trail Rangers Program. I have not biked extensively in the past, but love the idea of getting more into it.” – Daniel

“My brother left me his bike to commute to class in college. I ended up really enjoying it and started delivering for a sandwich company which lead me to buy my own bike and I started planning actual trips from there.” – Kevin

“I started biking early; my older brothers had bikes that they would ride around the neighborhood with their friends and I remember being so jealous and wishing I could go with them, but my feet couldn’t even touch the pedals. I learned easily after that and could not stop. I rode to the grocery store with my brother all the time and rode to friends houses after school. Biking is so much fun and as a young kid it gives a sense of freedom and independence.” – Kemi

What is your favorite thing about biking?

“ I love that is is passive exercise and it enables you to see much more of a trail or place than running or walking. It is also just really fun!” – Shira

“Feeling the breeze on my face as I ride. I also the the ability to stay active as I move from one area to another at a quick pace.” – Daniel

“I really don’t need a car. As long as I’m healthy I can get just about anywhere on my bike. That and it just feels so great to be outside.” – Kevin

“My favorite thing about biking is getting around freely, while getting in a workout, and reducing my carbon footprint” – Kemi

What are you excited to do as a Trail Ranger this summer?

“I am really excited to get out and learn about this city. I have lived right outside of D.C. all my life but haven’t explored it nearly enough.” – Shira

“I am excited to interact with my team and the local residents who use the trails. Biking for 8 hours a day, 3-4 days a week sounds pretty amazing as well.” – Daniel

“I’m coming from Indiana, so I’m really excited to get to the know the communities I’ll be working with. D.C. is a very historic place with a lot of cool to stuff to offer. It’s a pleasure to be here.” – Kevin

“Meet people and tell people about the trail while supporting an awesome grassroot organization that is doing awesome things. #WABA.” – Kemi



Trails connect communities

June 3rd was National Trails Day, and we hope you had as much fun as we did.

Our Trail Ranger team joined the National Park Service, the District Department of the Energy and the Environment, goDCgo and a host of other community partners to celebrate the Anacostia River Trail.

In addition to lovely weather and a beautiful trail, the event sported a native fish exhibit at Anacostia Park, health screenings at River Terrace, trail trivia at Kenilworth, and fantastic flora and fauna at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

As part of their biannual Doc in Day Festival, Stone Soup Films came out to make a short film about the trail. Have a look:

The Kenilworth section of the Anacostia River Trail opened in October of 2016. It is a game-changing addition to our region’s trail network, reconnecting neighborhoods that have been cutoff for decades providing a safe, car-free trail experience from Anacostia Park to the ends of the Anacostia Tributary Trail System in Greenbelt, College Park, and Wheaton.

WABA would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to Stone Soup Films’  extraordinary crew – Madeleine Cook, Kaitlin Puccio, Asia Taylor, Josh Weiner and Chris Zarconi, and also to the District Department of Transportation and National Park Service for funding the DC Trail Ranger Program. And also:

  • Thanks to the Rails to Trails Conservancy for additional support for the trail etiquette signs!
  • Thanks to volunteer Will!
  • Thanks to Urban Arrow for the cinematography assist.

More photos below:

 

Bikes in Bloom at the Anacostia River Festival

April got off to a great start on April 9th with the 3rd Annual Anacostia River Festival. This year, bikes were the star of the show, and folks from all over the city turned out to celebrate. With Anacostia Drive and Good Hope Road SE both closed to vehicle traffic, the park was filled with people walking, riding,  kayaking and more. Kids raced each other around the car-free roadways, adults explored the city’s scenic riverbanks, and everybody enjoyed a stellar weather day.

We handed out more than 250 DC bike maps, teamed up with Project Create DC to do helmet decorating, we talked about Vision Zero (Good Hope Rd SE and Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE saw 41 crashes and 5 serious injuries in 2015), saw approximately a million bikes sporting handmade fish-flags made by ArtReach DC, talked up the Anacostia River Trail to hundreds of people, spread the word on our confident city bikes classes to oodles of people, helped give away 300 (properly fitted) helmets with DDOT and had a fabulous (and thoroughly exhausting) day.

It was inspiring to talk with so many folks who want to start biking, learn to ride with their kids, figure out how to commute, learn how to bike or check out a new trail!

Huge thanks to all the folks that put on the festival – 11th St Bridge Park and National Park Service in partnership with the National Cherry Blossom Festival, the other fabulous organizations that joined us to make the festival a celebration of all things bike – Gearin’ Up Bicycles, Velocity Bike Co-op, The Bike House, MORE, Black Women Bike DC, Project Create DC, ArtReach DC, Capital Bikeshare, DC Circulator,  Bike and Roll, District Department of Transportation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Benning Park Bike Club, Two Wheel Valet, and the US Coast Guard, and the absolutely rockstar volunteers who helped us connect and promote the trails with hundreds of people. You all rock.