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Shall We Gather At The River?

2008 June 3

About the author: Lars Wilcut joined EPA’s Beach Team in 2004. He helps oversee EPA’s beach monitoring and notification grants to coastal states and territories.

A couple weeks ago I went to see a baseball game at Nationals Park, which has some great views of the Anacostia River. As I stood there gazing up and down the river, I thought about how nice it is to be on the water.

Lars Wilcut in a kayakI love kayaking, and I paddled the Anacostia even before I joined the Office of Water. From my experience with water quality standards issues, I know how far the river is from meeting its designated uses. I still like it, though. It can be so tranquil out on the water, despite the bustle on the other side of the tree-lined riverbanks. Often, I was the only person on the river, feeling acutely like everyone else thought the river was a nuisance and didn’t want to be on or near it. I didn’t think much about the river before I started kayaking. Once I did get out there, though, I began to value it as an important part of our community that I wanted to protect.

So, if I could come to appreciate the Anacostia, can’t other people as well? Building public facilities like ballparks along urban waterways is a big step toward getting people to value their local water resources. What a great thing to have people come out of the ballpark after a game and stroll along the river! When a city reclaims its urban waterway as a community gathering place and surrounds it with public green space and ballparks, those waterways become as much a symbol of the city as the local sports teams.

Through the water quality standards-setting process, we can all participate in protecting our waters. Standards help define what we want our waters to be used for and how we want to make that happen. The people I work with are an integral part of the water quality standards process: EPA reviews and approves state water quality standards to make sure they meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act.

Here in DC, as I return to Nationals Park over the coming seasons, I’m hopeful that we’ll see an improvement in the Anacostia’s water quality; I know EPA will do its part. Then, the next time I’m out there paddling, I won’t be the only one on the water.

Find out about your state’s water quality standards, from EPA’s Repository of water quality standards.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. Bill S. permalink
    June 3, 2008

    In some big cities public access to rivers is made difficult by commercial development, highways, and RR tracks. Cities also restrict access for safety reasons. The important point, as is made by the writer, is that you need more than just a river flowing through the city to improve quality of life and the quality of the river and encourage acceptance of the river. You need parks, and greenways, and other transitional areas. Given real estate priorities, this is not easy to do. It needs a lot of cooperation – - people pushing for it, business making compromises, and government putting in the effort too.

  2. Steve permalink
    June 3, 2008

    The Anacostia Watershed Society has been a passionate advocate for the Anacostia for years and, among many other things, has been active in bringing more people out to experience the river. They have been organizing trash cleanups and trying to get things cleaned up for at least 15 years. So, if anyone wants to contribute in other ways, check them out:

    http://www.anacostiaws.org/

  3. Lars permalink
    June 6, 2008

    Great comments! I couldn’t agree more with what Bill S. says: it takes a lot of cooperation, and everyone needs to do their part. And thanks to Steve for putting in a good word for the Anacostia Watershed Society. They do a lot of work to promote recreation and raise awareness on the Anacostia River.

  4. Michael Haley permalink
    December 24, 2009

    Thanks for your contribution with this site encouraging recreation, ballparks, waterways and those things that go with less concrete and more natural.
    Dr. Michael Haley

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