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!

Cleanup of the Paul Meijer Garden

Fourteen friends of the Metropolitan Branch Trail gathered at the Paul Meijer Garden this Sunday for a short garden cleanup. The garden is filled with tulip bulbs to honor Paul’s Dutch roots but a summer of enthusiastic Bermuda grass growth meant they would be chocked out next spring. We pulled out as much of the grass and other weeds as we could, spread a light mulch layer and prepped the garden for growth next spring after a dormant winter. And in trail reclamation bonus, the mulch was from a tree on the trail. It was no longer safe as a tree but it has a new life in the garden! Thanks to everyone who joined us, and to Rich and Dan for going above and beyond with extra supplies!

Our best Trail Ranger season yet!

The DC Trail Ranger program went into its annual winter reduced operations in October. The team did important work this summer and we had so much fun. Huge thanks to Daniel, Gabriel, Harum, Kemi, Kevin, Seth, Shira, Tom and Trey for being the greatest 2017 Trail Ranger team we could imagine.
  • 3,173 miles covered
  • 232 hours of outreach
  • conversations with 3,747 people
  • 1,000 bike bells distributed
  • 385 hours of cleanup
  • 113 issues reported to the city
  • 2,617 DC bike maps distributed

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Interested in being a trail ranger? Sign up to hear about future job openings Yes!
Want to volunteer with the team next year? Yes!

City Cycling Class Brings you More Joy When you Ride

Many people are familiar with WABA’s Learn to Ride class–to teach adults to ride a bike for the first time–but that’s just where the learning begins. Whether you’ve been riding for four months or forty years, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll learn something new at a City Cycling class. Read below to see how Kemi, a Trail Ranger for WABA in 2017, appreciated her ride even more after picking up a few tricks.
“How do I put more pedal to the metal?” this was the question I asked during an orientation ride around the city as a new D.C. Trail Ranger.  I did not realize how embarrassing the question was until I heard the answer, “Shift the gear up”, said Ursula. I replied with a “Oh duh, thank you.” This said a lot about my cycling experience level coming into this Trail Ranger position. I hadn’t biked in years before getting on one of the Trail Ranger bikes for a quick city cycling lesson. To be quite honest, that first ride was a bit of a struggle. Getting used to turning, stopping, and starting, after the first ride I was afraid I was never going to be able to get the hang of it. Practice makes perfect. My first ever shift was with the amazing Trey Robinson, he taught me everything I needed to know that first time and did a great job explaining a lot to me. Because I was training we took one trailer with things in it and headed to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. “Since it’s your first shift, I’ll take the trailer,” he said. “Sure,” I replied and we took off. We picked up trash, glass, and trimmed vegetation. Then it was time to make our way back, “I’ll take the trailer now,” I said with confidence; “Are you sure?” he questioned me, “Yes!” I replied with determination. My first time riding with the trailer was not as bad as I imagined it was going to be. I zoomed ahead and navigated safely through traffic, I nearly forgot that I had the trailer. We got back and Trey says, “Wow, you know what you’re doing, and they told me to take it easy on you.” I felt great and even more confident that this was going to be one of the best summer positions I’ve ever had. Working with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) taught me about the cycling culture in a city. It showed me that WABA is 100% necessary, without this organization and the work that they complete day in and day out we would not witness as many cyclists in the area. I have learned about the incredible work WABA does and what it means to all the many communities in the D.C. area, including: biking infrastructure such as bike lanes and trails, advocacy for safety, cycling classes, small bike business support, etc. All of these things have brought so many people from different walks of life together in order to support a wonderful mission. This internship has really taught me a lot and most importantly it has provided me with skills that I can share to so many others like myself. I am adopting cycling as a great mode of transportation, exercise, and discovery, which is something I didn’t do before. Working with WABA has really shown me how easy cycling is and has given me confidence to continue to bike almost everywhere and express this sentiment to anyone who is as hesitant as I was. I really enjoyed telling everyone at outreach about city cycling classes so they can join me in riding more.”
Kemi became a confident rider on the job with city cycling as we covered urban riding, quick stops and other skills as employee training. We’ll be hiring Trail Rangers for the 2018 season in April but you can get the same skills in the course of a morning and no cover letter required! City Cycling classes are scheduled to take place in multiple locations this fall. To view the complete schedule of classes click here. To get a discount code to register for free, email me. As with riding in general, the City Cycling class is more fun if you bring a friend. If you don’t, no worries, you’re bound to make a friend or two during the class. Happy riding!

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.

Kales and Trails

The DC Trail Ranger team will be out and about at Farmers Markets across the city this month. Check out our outreach schedule below. Come by and say hi! Trail Ranger Coffee Hour August 11th, 7:30 am – 9:30 am 4th St NE on the Metropolitan Branch Trail Say hi to fellow trail users at our monthly free coffee hour! Capitol Riverfront Farmers Market August 13th, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm 200 M St SE SW Farmers Market August 19th, 9:00 am – 1:00 pm 4th and M St SW Gallaudet New Student Orientation August 23rd, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm Starting at Gallaudet this fall? Come by and learn about the trails near campus. Kenilworth-Parkside Farmers Market August 26th, 9:00 am – 1:00 pm 750 Parkside Place NE H St Festival September 16th, 12:00 pm – 7:00 pm H St NE corridor DC State Fair September 24th, 11:00 am – 8:00 pm 425 M St SW    

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