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Anacostia Park celebrates 100th birthday, receives $861K grant

The grant will support community outreach and philanthropy for the park

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens during the Lotus and Water Lily Festival
Kristi Blokhin/Shutterstock

One-hundred years ago, on Aug. 31, 1918, Congress preserved a stretch of land along the Anacostia River as a national park. On Friday and Saturday, to mark the centennial of that event and highlight Anacostia Park’s offerings, the National Park Service will throw a two-day birthday bash at the 1,200-acre park, which runs from the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge on South Capitol Street up to the Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Northeast.

The occasion will feature music, arts and crafts, boating and canoeing, yoga, a bike tour, and a “disco skate party,” among other activities. It kicks off with a go-go concert at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at the Anacostia Park Skating Pavilion, located at 1500 Anacostia Drive SE.

“A lot of people don’t know or recognize it as a national park,” says National Park Service spokeswoman Pya Langley. “It’s open to everyone. We want to make sure that people who visit the National Mall know that they can visit [Anacostia Park] while they’re staying here.”

The park has long served as a community amenity, hosting family reunions and picnics. In recent years, as the health of the Anacostia River has improved, it has increasingly become a place for water-based activities. The park has played an important role in national history too, says Langley. There, veterans protested in support of benefits, resulting in the G.I. Bill, and Langston Golf Course—which is part of the park—was an early haven for black golfers.

The park is also receiving a $861,000 grant to support community outreach and long-term philanthropy as part of a broader effort to revitalize the space, the National Park Foundation announced on Tuesday. The money will fund a new community liaison position “focused on connecting neighbors from D.C. Wards 7 and 8 directly to the park,” according to a release.

In addition, the grant will help pay for an assessment to find an anchor partner for the park who could spearhead future fundraising. While private partners support many parks across the U.S.—the Rock Creek Conservancy and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, for example—Anacostia Park currently lacks such a philanthropic partner on a dedicated basis.

The $861,000 grant derives from funding from a number of local community groups: the Agua Fund, the Conservation Fund, the MARPAT Foundation, the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, the Nimick Forbesway Foundation, and the Prince Charitable Trusts.

“This will help the park continue to be a space for recreation and wellness and healing and all sorts of great ways that folks are able to benefit,” says Madeleine Bien, the manager of community partnerships at the National Park Foundation. “Having someone on the ground who can think strategically about the park in the long run [and] our ability to provide initial seed investment is often what it takes to rally the troops and get the infrastructure in place.”

The occasion is officially part of the “Year of the Anacostia.” The full schedule follows below.

Friday August, 31 2018 from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Reminisce on Summer in the Parks during its 50th anniversary with an evening concert on the lawn featuring Go Go stars and headliner Chuck Brown Band. Enjoy music from opening acts Trouble Funk and Reminisce All Stars as the night is hosted by DJ EZ Street.

Saturday, September 1, 2018 from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

9:30 - 10:30 a.m.: Yoga in the Park - Relax and be at peace during morning yoga lessons near the river.

10 a.m. - 12 p.m.: River Rides - Enjoy boat tours that teach you the history and ecology of Anacostia Park and River.

10:30 a.m - 1 p.m.: Tales and Trails - Join a ranger-led bike tour and learn the entire history of the park from the prehistoric era to present day.

12 - 5 p.m.: Happy Birthday Anacostia Park- Enjoy family fun activities in the park including painting murals, live raptors, catch and release fishing lessons with a competition for biggest fish caught, photobooth stations, arts and crafts, bike repair pop up shop, photo exhibits, roller skating performances and much more!

5 - 8 p.m.: Disco Skate Party - Celebrate the centennial at a disco-themed party. Enjoy performances from skating groups, eat cake and sing happy birthday to your neighborhood national park.