More than 175 volunteers joined Rock Creek Conservancy, the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), and the National Park Service to celebrate National Public Lands Day (NPLD) on September 28. As the signature site of thousands of NPLD events across the country, the day of service attracted an intergenerational crowd of enthusiastic volunteers. Volunteers also had the opportunity to participate in Rock Creek Park Day, an annual celebration of Rock Creek Park’s establishment on September 27th, 1890!
Rock Creek Conservancy Executive Director Jeanne Braha thanked the partner organizations and volunteers for their support and hard work to care for this unique, urban wilderness. Speaking from a podium made out of a rain barrel, she reminded the crowd that, “We can continue today’s vital stewardship work through our individual actions as good park neighbors. Through efforts such as the downspout disconnect program and other green infrastructure, we can reduce stormwater runoff and help restore Rock Creek for the enjoyment of all people for generations to come.”
Speakers also included Julia Washburn, Superintendent of Rock Creek Park; Meri-Margaret Deoudes, President and CEO of NEEF; corporate sponsor Kevin Butt director of Toyota’s North American Environmental Sustainability Programs, and David Vela, Acting Director of the National Park Service.
Vela energized the crowd by speaking about the importance of our national parks and addressed the young people joining the day of service, stating, “This is for you!”.
Volunteers worked on a variety of projects including Trail 9, one of the Conservancy’s five mini-oases. By removing invasive plants and planting native ones, these oases preserve a healthy and diverse ecosystem. With the help of hard-working weed warriors, the Trail 9 site is now closer to reaching a goal of having less than 5% of invasive plant coverage.
Other volunteers picked up trash while hiking along Rock Creek, removed invasive plants near the Horse Center, and built bee hotels outside the Nature Center for native pollinators. Together the volunteers gave Rock Creek Park an amazing collection of birthday presents.