2019 Year in Review

By: Scott Kratz

December tends to be a time of reflection. Looking back over the last 12 months, the Bridge Park team had such an incredible and rewarding year. We moved forward designing this new civic space, celebrated the river and our nearby communities, ensured local residents can stay and thrive in place through our equitable development strategies and grew over 3,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables right here in Southeast DC. Read on for our 2019 in review!

Building the Bridge!

In May, DDOT signed our next big contract with our engineers and talented design team OMA+OLIN which kicked off our environmental assessment, permitting and refining the park’s design. The community continues to shape the park and in September we led a half day session with local stakeholders to provide feedback on the Environmental Education Center, plaza and intergenerational playspace. We ended the year with drilling equipment out in the field (so exciting!) boring test holes for our future bridge foundations. We also came closer to realizing our $139MM Capital Campaign goal (which includes construction costs, equitable development investments and a reserve for operations & maintenance) by announcing a $5MM gift from Exelon. To date, we’ve secured $114MM towards our Capital Campaign goal which means we’re 82% there!

Equitable Development in DC & Beyond

We are investing in the bricks and mortar of the Bridge Park AND investing directly in our nearby neighborhoods with our equitable development strategies. Seventy-nine Ward 8 Home Buyers Club participants became home owners helping to build generational wealth. In the summer we announced our first property acquisition as part of the Douglass Community Land Trust – a 65 unit apartment building in Congress Heights. In December we led our twelfth construction training program at Skyland Workforce Center. Fifty-six local residents have already placed in construction jobs. And earlier this year we launched 5 to 1 matched children savings accounts for 110 Ward 8 families. As our work continues to inspire like minded projects around the U.S., we created a series of short videos describing our seven-step process for to create community driven equitable development strategies. In fact, we are currently advising parks in Los Angeles, San Francisco, St. Louis, Dallas, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Durham and Boston to set their own inclusive economic goals. Washington DC should be proud that we have become a template for equitable development across the nation.

A Festive 2019!

We bookended 2019 with a pair of festivals – our fifth annual Anacostia River Festival and our third annual Taste of the Harvest. At this year’s Anacostia River Festival, we once again partnered with the National Park Service, National Cherry Blossom Festival and over 40 non-profits to welcome over 7,000 residents to historic Anacostia and the beautiful Anacostia River. (PS – save the date for April 5, 2020 for our sixth annual festival!) And in October, nearly 500 residents joined us for a giant communal meal, roasting s’mores, listening to local music acts and planting garlic at our Taste of the Harvest Festival along with representatives from our six Bridge Park Plots – all located in SE DC. 

Engaging the Community

There were SOOOO many opportunities to engage with the Bridge Park team in 2019. We held a series of summer walking tours from both historic Anacostia and Capitol Hill. We partnered with our friends at the Anacostia Watershed Society for regular river boat tours. And in September we held a design update with our architects, landscape architects and engineering team at Anacostia High School. Throughout the year we had hundreds of volunteers plant veggies and harvest fresh fruit at THEARC Farm and Bridge Park Plots.

Cultivating Food, Cultivating Health

Speaking of farming, in 2019 we grew over 3,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables at THEARC Farm and our 6 Bridge Park Plots – a partnership with local communities of faith and non-profits. And thanks to a generous grant from Seeds of Change we offered healthy cooking classes, herbalism workshops, composting 101, and a very popular honey harvest.  (Did you know we have the largest collection of bee hives in SE DC?) From May through November, we hosted a Saturday Farmers Market at THEARC offering locally grown carrots, beans and the sweetest watermelon I’ve ever tasted. Hundreds of families participated in our weekly Community Supported Agriculture (CSA.)

Looking Ahead to 2020

While its rewarding to look back at a productive and busy 2019, we are so excited about 2020. Stay tuned for more Bridge Park design updates, walking tours, our April Anacostia River Festival, weekly Saturday Farmers Market starting in May, beekeeping classes and even a mushroom inoculation session – yup, we’re trying our hand at growing shiitake mushrooms this season. Wow. Look forward to seeing you soon!