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View of the Anacostia River and RFK Stadium from August 2017. View of the Anacostia River and RFK Stadium from August 2017.
November 6, 2017 by: Jim Foster

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View of the Anacostia River and RFK Stadium from August 2017.

As communities around the country scrambled to pitch themselves to Amazon for a potential second headquarters (HQ2), the District of Columbia submitted four potential sites to the ecommerce giant – two of them on the banks of the Anacostia River.

Both sides of the soon-to-be-remodeled South Capitol Street Bridge near the mouth of the Anacostia offer Amazon the chance to bookend the Anacostia River.

Further upriver, the area around the former D.C. General, near East Capitol Street, is a massive riverside site already being primed for redevelopment.

In less than a generation, the Anacostia River has become an attractive asset – the lure used to help attract the biggest development deal in the country.

What’s particularly remarkable about this turnaround story is that environmental restoration and sustainable development have worked hand in hand – that massive projects like Yards Park, The Wharf, and Nationals Stadium have been drivers of the river’s restoration just as much as habitat restoration efforts and legislative actions taken by the Anacostia Watershed Society and other advocates have been.

A healthier Anacostia River created the economic conditions necessary to turn industrial brownfields into desirable destinations for residences, offices, restaurants, and stadiums. In turn, those new developments have a vested interest in keeping the Anacostia River clean, and they’ve been built to some of the highest standards of stormwater and pollution control. But before you move “Clean Anacostia River” from your Wishlist to your Checkout Cart, there are some major challenges we still face.

  • Sustaining Progress – for all the great work that’s been done, there’s still some heavy lifting before we can declare the Anacostia River fishable and swimmable. The biggest challenge is dealing with contaminated sediments in the river bottom, left from decades of industrial activity, including the Navy Yard. Toxic sediments in other rivers have been successfully mitigated – we need to do the same here on the Anacostia.
  • Improving Access – the great opportunity of a restored and protected Anacostia River is that so much of its banks are public property – Anacostia Park, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, the National Arboretum, Bladensburg Waterfront Park, to name just a few. We need to protect these public lands so that the Anacostia River remains accessible to all.
  • RFK Stadium – one of the biggest decisions we still have to make as a community is what to do with the abandoned RFK Stadium and its parking lots. This valuable plot of public land, owned by the National Park Service and leased to the District for sports and recreation purposes, will come under heavy pressure for development. One prominent Congressman has already proposed selling it to the DC government for commercial development. We all need to be at the table when the future of RFK is decided.

Whether or not Amazon chooses to locate HQ2 in Washington, we’re already winners with a steadily reviving Anacostia River. Alexa can’t help us finish the job, but together with your help, we can get it done!

Oh and by the way, by shopping at and choosing the Anacostia Watershed Society, you can sustain our progress toward a swimmable and fishable Anacostia River.

Jim Foster

Jim Foster

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