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A Greener Green Line: Anacostia

Walking from the Anacostia Metro Station to Anacostia Park, there is a stark contradiction between the crumbling, littered concrete sidewalks and the serene view of the water and lush greenery ahead. Anacostia may not be thought of for its scenic nature walks, but the peaceful bike path on the river’s edge makes a person wonder if it should be.

A chronic victim of environmental injustice, the Anacostia area may finally be experiencing positive change in the health of its river and the growth of its community.

According to Lee Cain of the Anacostia Watershed Society, deforestation and erosion that occurred during the industrial revolution filled the Anacostia River with soil and made it unsuitable for shipping. Once the river was no longer of economic importance, the rest of Washington began to neglect the surrounding area.

In the eyes of the city, Cain believes, Anacostia became the perfect location for power plants and landfills, posing health risks to the economically disadvantaged people who have been moved there by the process of gentrification.

The Anacostia Watershed society has spent the last 25 years working to make Anacostia a more appreciated region. Through public engagement, legislative action, and by improving access to the river, the society has made progress in improving the quality of life in the Anacostia community.

According to Cain, improving the cleanliness of the river and fostering a happier community in the surrounding area have a direct correlation. A cleaner river will draw more attention to the area, which will in turn inspire the creation of more positive change.

Cain is hopeful about the area’s future.

“I think it’s very quickly being realized that [Anacostia] is a destination to value...not a place to avoid,” Cain said. 

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