What Does Success Look Like?

What Does Success Look Like?
June 20, 2019 by: Jim Foster

starts with


Every organization or project starts with an exercise where leaders ask themselves: “what does success look like?”

In the case of the Anacostia River, believe it or not, success looks like last month’s raucous public meeting to discuss a biker/hiker bridge over the Anacostia River, connecting communities on the southern banks of the Anacostia in Northeast DC (eg. Mayfair, River Terrace and Kenilworth-Parkside) with the National Arboretum on the northern bank. Read more from Greater Greater Washington here.

This is a complex and controversial issue, involving passionate recreation communities, disparate government entities, and historically marginalized communities:

  • The National Capital Planning Committee has recommended a low bridge, to reduce the impact on the view shed, but the rowing community is concerned that piers will become an obstacle for rowers.
  • Naturalists who come to the Anacostia for the wildlife, are concerned that more people coming to the area will disturb the wildlife!
  • The USDA who owns the Arboretum is concerned about impacts to their ongoing tree research from opening the property to the public, but pedestrians and bikers want to be able to connect to the expanding network of trails.
  • The DC Department of Energy and the Environment, working with the National Park Service, is leading the effort to clean up hazardous materials on the river bed and bank, but the DC Department of Transportation is concerned that clean-up will increase the cost of the bridge.

30 years ago, the Anacostia River was largely ignored, and decisions were made without public input. Anacostia Watershed Society knew that only by engaging communities in their Anacostia River would we succeed at restoring the Anacostia River to fishable and swimmable.

We advocated for the Anacostia River Trail to give riverside communities opportunities to experience nature in their own neighborhoods. We helped start the rowing clubs to engage a new cohort in on the water activities that would lead them to being champions for the river. We designed a Water Trail and installed docks to allow paddlers to stop and explore. We take thousands of school children and adults on tours of this place so that they can become stewards for the future.

The Anacostia Watershed Society supports a bridge crossing from east to west at or near the Arboretum to bring people to nature by means other than automobile.

  • We recommend proceeding expeditiously with a bridge design that is thoughtful and properly sited to provide the best connectivity for communities east and west of the river in those neighborhoods.
  • We recommend the trail be connected on the west side to Benning Road or other trails or features not simply dead-end at the Arboretum gate.
  • We recommend the bridge be able to carry emergency vehicles.
  • More importantly, we recommend more attention to reducing the sediment deposition along the east side and west side at Watts Branch, Hickey Run, and Pepco Cove that will allow greater access for recreational boaters and reduce the impact of any piers required to support a structure that meets other technical criteria.
  • And finally we recommend continued community engagement by DDOT and NPS with the communities who are now passionate stewards of the Anacostia River.

Every decision about the Anacostia River will be harder going forward because more people care about the River. That’s what success looks like.

Jim Foster

Jim Foster

Keep in the Loop
Get the Latest updates on our work delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe Now
Stay in the loop