by Ahmad Toure '08, '09, '10 & Miguelo Resto '10
“My favorite place at Kenilworth Park is the boardwalk to the wetland that borders the Anacostia River--it gives you a feel of what an actual marshland ecosystem looks like, and it’s an area frequented by majestic water birds like ospreys, egrets, and blue herons." Ahmad adds, "I feel like everyone should learn about the vital role these gardens play by providing water filtration and flood control.”
Once a vast wetland, now greatly diminished by industrialization and urban encroachment, it's the only remaining tidal marsh in Washington DC and is administered by National Capital Parks-East of the National Park Service. In the 1880s, Civil War veteran Walter Shaw saved what was left of the marsh by claiming it as his own garden where he cultivated water lilies.
See VIDEO below.
In the 1960s the US government, realizing the value of these gardens, started working towards restoring the wetlands. Today, the Marsh and adjacent Gardens are home to a rich diversity of native plants, birds, fish, reptiles, mammals, and insects.
The ecosystem, however, faces both natural and man-made challenges.
Pollution is a major issue -- when tides rise, trash and silt float in from the Anacostia River and surrounding waterways creating risks to flora and fauna. Ahmad and fellow SCA Intern Miguelo Resto, under the direction of Park Supervisor Doug Rowley, are working to control water levels by restoring levees and installing devices that allow controlled transfer of water from the Anacostia River. Recently they installed coconut core logs in order to extend the land area lost to erosion. Above all, they are removing invasive species that threaten to disrupt the natural ecosystem of the area and saving native plants that keep the wetland from washing away.
Miguelo Resto, a native of Puerto Rico, talks about his experience working as an SCA intern at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens:
“Working here I’ve seen some pretty cool things happen like moving all the plants into the greenhouses. Clearing out the greenhouses and getting them ready was tough because at the time the heat inside was almost unbearable. It was awesome to see the greenhouse filling up, and just knowing that we were saving these plants from certain death during the winter.
"The best time of day is at lunch when the temperature is the highest. I'm from the Caribbean, so I'm used to weather that's warmer than this. It pains me to hear from everyone that this is hardly even the beginning of winter.
"My favorite part of the gardens has to be near the ponds housing the exotic lilies. The reason for this being the same as to why I enjoy conservation work so much. It’s just farther away from city noises. I enjoy sitting around these ponds and listening to the sounds of nature: the frogs, birds, and wind sweeping through the needles of this beautiful pine tree I sit under during my break time.
"This work is important to me because I feel like not enough people are taking initiative to take care of their own home, the world we all share and live in. That’s why when I go to work every day, I try to complete as much work as possible, to compensate for the lack of care others are giving to their home, Mother Earth."Return to Hands On Newsletter page.
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