Posts Tagged ‘National Mall’

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Escape and Be Free in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C., the city of young professionals and fast politics, is one of the hardest working cities in our country. And as an environmentalist, it can be particularly easy to get disenchanted with politics. Sometimes you just need to escape.

It’s important to get away and remind yourself what you’re working for. To get lost in the woods, to paddle on a river. To remember why you are working for the environment in the first place. To feel at peace.

The pockets of nature and beauty dispersed throughout the city make DC wonderfully unique. Even in the midst of the hectic atmosphere, it is possible to find stillness in nature.

If you’re looking for your next get-away, here are some places to escape to without leaving city borders:

The National Mall

Although this is probably the most well-known (a.k.a. tourist-frequented) getaways, there are many pockets of beauty that aren’t the first stop on a segway tour. The World War II Memorial usually is less crowded than the others – and in the summer heat, the fountain is a quenching hiatus. You can also take the long walk around the tidal basin, which might seem too daunting for tourists, but is perfect for the DC native trying to escape!

Rock Creek Park

Washington D.C.’s most ubiquitous secret, Rock Creek Park extends all throughout the city. Almost anywhere you are, a patch of this Park is likely nearby. If this park is good enough for 200 deer then it is good enough for a peaceful escape.

National Zoo

Just a few steps can transport you to a foreign land with pandas, elephants, and dragons! Komodo dragons, at least. Go to the zoo to gaze into the eyes of a creature you’ve never seen in person before. Maybe you will see your own image deep in its the eyes – maybe it will awaken your inner tiger. (Or your inner penguin, no one’s here to judge.)

Capital Crescent Trail

This biking and hiking path that runs along the Potomac goes on for miles. It extends Northwest out of DC, eventually into Maryland. When the trees start enveloping the landscape, you may forget the city is just a mile away. Grab a bike and go if you want to get really far away – and be able to find your way back after.

Additionally, if you don’t mind leaving city borders (or at least crossing the river to Virginia):

Roosevelt Island

The monument that got separated from the mall. The Theodore Roosevelt monument rests in the middle of this tiny island, smack dab in the middle of the Potomac. With DC on one side, and Arlington on the other, the stillness lies in the middle of the noise. The island doesn’t feel that small when you’re on it – there are footpaths, riverbanks, and an expansive open area around the monument itself.

Gravelly Point – Ronald Reagan International Airport

This is secretly my favorite spot in all of D.C… well, I guess the secret’s out now. A simple, humble park on the Potomac, Gravelly Point is windy enough to be a respite on a hot day. And, the national airport is approximately 20 feet away. To be able to see airplanes heading towards you at top speed, and take off just barely over your head, is exhilarating. You feel like you can almost reach out, grab onto the wheels, and take a ride.


Next time you’re stressed
about the inequality of women in the workforce or after five oil spills in one week, you can go to one of these getaways and clear your head. When you come back, you’ll be ready. Ready to walk into work and ask for what you want. Ready to take care of yourself. Ready to jumpstart your career. Ready for change.

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posted by | on , , , , , , | Comments Off on Ecology and the National Mall

The following is a guest post from EcoWoman Board Member Alison Alford

 I recently attended DC EcoWomen’s EcoHour with Teresa Durkin, Senior Project Director for the Trust for the National Mall.  I was astonished to find that the Trust plans to make over 700 million dollars of improvements to the mall over the next decade, and raised over 350 million to match the government’s funding to get to the 700 milllion dollars needed for the project.  Teresa told us that each year, there are over 3,000 permitted events that bring 25 million people to the the Mall.

How do you capture their hearts? With all of those visitors walking around and through the Mall each day, this is the question on Teresa’s mind. After all, the 700 acre plot that make up the National Mall isn’t just a landmark, it‘s a teaching moment for ecology.

At Templeville University in Philadelphia, Teresa learned that building things right the first time is the key to saving money in the end, and applies that knowledge to projects on the National Mall.  You can’t just throw money at the trampled grass on the Mall and just replace it with new grass; you need to restore it with a working system. The National Trust for the Mall decided to dig four feet down into the earth, re-blend the soil and add turf and native grass plants before replanting the grass.  They also added a curb, and a solar powered irrigation system that grabs weather data from satellites. The reflecting pool was cracked and leaked 6 ½ million gallons of potable water into the tidal basin, but the Trust for the National Mall spent 100 million dollars to fix the cracks and refill the pool with 4 million gallons of fresh water from the tidal basin.  Now, the reflecting pool no longer leaks, and the Mall does not need to waste drinking water to fill an ornamental pool.

Teresa tries to develop learning initiatives, so when people visit the National Mall, they learn a little about ecology and environmental preservation, along with the rich history that surrounds the Nation’s Capitol.

Teresa did not start out as a landscape architect.  In fact, Teresa began as a film producer and went back to school for landscape architecture when she was in her thirties.  She was apprehensive, because she thought she would spend her life designing perennial gardens for “ladies who lunched,” but she became a protégé of Ian McHarg and  learned that “Land Matters.”  Ian McHarg taught her that we need to think of the impact of our designs, and that green roofs and storm water management will make more of a difference to the landscape than just a few ornamental trees planted here or there.

Before working at the Trust for the National Mall, Andrea worked for Andropogon Associates, a design firm that focused on sites covered with invasive species and restoring them to their native and natural habitat.  In fact, Andropogon Associates is named after a pioneer native grass species. Teresa worked on creating infiltration beds, restored sites, and wetlands where no wetlands were before it.   At Andropogon, Teresa learned that, when you communicate creatively with people, you get them to believe in your science and ultimately in your goals.  

As a living example, when Teresa worked at global firm in Dubai, she found herself trying to sell storm water management to a place that receives only three inches of rainfall a year.  Since Dubai is built on top of salt flats, in monsoon season those three inches of rainfall actually amount to 4 million gallons of water all at once. Without storm-water management, the city would be wasting over 4 million gallons of water a year.

Teresa told us that we must think of cities and parks as whole systems – not just individual components.  Urban forests are in poor shape, watershed parks in cities now need stewardship because they are too small of a system to take care of them.  Without access to nature, children need to be taught environmental stewardship.  We need policy changes, legislation and management to all come together to get something to work.

It’s wonderful to find out that the people that take care of our National Mall love it and work hard to preserve it for generations to come.  After attending DC EcoWomen’s EcoHour, I can take my out-of-town relatives to the Mall and truly turn the visit into a teaching moment – just as Teresa envisioned it to be.

VIU