The D.C. Chapter, led by Mary Pat Rowan, has been active in opposing two potential threats to portions of the Fort Circle Parks. The first is a proposal to transfer several acres of Fort Dupont, in Southeast D.C., to the D.C. government. The purpose of the transfer would be expansion of an existing ice rink and facilitating the construction of a youth baseball academy by private groups on the transferred land. Fort Dupont is the site of many MNPS Civil War Fort field trips that have extensively explored this unique terrace gravel ecosystem. MNPS, along with other organizations, submitted comments in November on the National Park Service’s Environmental Assessment. We are being represented pro bono by Georgetown Law School’s Institute for Public Representation (IPR). In the following month, planning for the transfer appeared to be moving forward, with only one obstacle remaining. That obstacle was approval by the National Capital Planning Commission, which put the matter on its January 8 agenda. At that meeting, Commissioners heard testimony against the transfer from Jamie Pleune of IPR, who spoke on behalf of MNPS; Rod Simmons, who spoke on behalf of the Virginia Native Plant Society; Mary Pat Rowan; and Philip Blair. To our great delight, the Commission voted to postpone consideration of the matter until its March meeting. The proposal certainly is not dead, but this gives us a chance to continue our advocacy and also gives the new federal administration a chance to review it.
The second threat results from the planned development of the land now occupied by St. Elizabeth's Hospital into an office complex for Homeland Security. The present plan calls for the construction of an access road into the site through existing park land known as Shepherd Parkway. This is not a Civil War Fort, but is one of the "Connectors" in the Fort Circle system. Again represented by IPR, MNPS submitted comments in January to the Federal Highway Administration opposing plans for the access road.
Thanks to Mary Pat and others, including our legal team at IPR, for stepping up to defend these unique and irreplaceable natural resources, surprisingly located right in the densely populated District. Please note that you can explore these areas the first Sunday of most months, on the Civil War Fort walks, led by Mary Pat and Lou Aronica.
The Maryland Native Plant Society's mission reflects a concern for Maryland's plants, yet we have come to adopt an ecological perspective on native habitats. Ecosystems rarely follow political jurisdictions. The ecology of Washington, D.C. illustrates this - it is one point along the Piedmont-Fall Line-Coastal Plain continuum. A few years ago, a Washington, D.C., chapter (WDC) was formed to focus on the conservation issues within the city. The actions of our WDC members, specifically Lou Aronica and Mary Pat Rowan, have resulted in some important outcomes. Over the years, they have led close to forty excursions to the Civil War Forts and surrounding lands. This continuous study resulted in the discovery of terrace gravel communities relatively free from non-native species. Because of the knowledge gained from these field trips, Mary Pat and Lou are writing an article for a National Park Service publication about the Civil War Forts.
The Chapter has been invited to serve on the Steering Committee of the Green Infrastructure Forum to promote low-impact development and natural landscaping as a method for reducing urban pollution into the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers. In addition, they have been working with The Casey Tree Foundation, whose mission focuses on the city's trees. MNPS is advising the Foundation on appropriate native tree species and encouraging a perspective that goes beyond the street trees. Those of you who live or work in Washington, D.C., are encouraged to become involved in issues critical to preserving the "urban forest" that comprises the city. Please contact Mary Pat Rowan about upcoming Civil War Fort trips or other opportunities to help the Chapter.
Mary Pat Rowan, 202-526-8821, or info @ mdflora.org.