Over 100 People Gather At Fort Dupont Park For MLK Day of Service

Sarah Anne Hughes
DCist
Tuesday, January 21, 2014

DCist covers SCA Service Day in DC

At the 376-acre Fort Dupont Park in Southeast D.C., over 100 people gathered to mark Martin Luther King Jr., Day by freeing nearby trees from the grip of English Ivy and picking up garbage.

Chopping an invasive species of vine off trees may not be what you think of when you think of the great civil rights leader, who would have been 85 today. But the federal holiday doubles as a day of service that reaches every type of need.

National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis was one of today’s Fort Dupont volunteers — who were mainly high school- and college-aged, with many involved with the Student Conservation Association. “It’s critical to the next generation,” Jarvis said of the young people’s interest in the parks. “It gives them some feeling of ownership of the place. This is their park.”

Dale Penny, president of the SCA, echoed this while chopping down some English ivy. “Many of the young people here are local and work with our programs at National Park sites and Forest Service sites,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for us to engage them and really create the next generation of leaders.”

Volunteers were equipped with gloves, loppers, trash picker-uppers and trash bags before heading out into the tranquil woods. Garbage found included many glass bottles, several tires, a windshield, an animal skull and a dog collar.

Kathy Kupper from the NPS’ office of communications said they depend on volunteer support to help keep Fort Dupont and other parks clean. (Last year, 257,000 people volunteered 6.78 million hours for NPS.) “Between sequestration and other forces, the staffs are much smaller than they were,” she said. Daily maintenance crews focus on the facilities, pathways and roads, Kupper said, making days like today even more important. “It’s amazing the amount of work that can be done,” she said.

Amira and Ash, students from Connecticut’s Charles H. Barrows STEM Academy, and Lauren from the local School Without Walls are members of SCA.