Anacostia provides inspiration beyond its shores

Inspiration comes in surprising forms when one looks at progress in the Washington region.

Dan Tangherlini, former Administrator of the United States General Services Administration describes an environmental cleanup project along the Anacostia River.

The Earth Conservation Corps encourages neighborhood children to clean up both the abandoned Capitol Pump House and the river, providing opportunities for children to volunteer and “have an opportunity to understand how nature and ecology, and neighborhoods, and rivers, connect,” said Tangherlini.

He says he was hosting an event for the nonprofit, and invited guests to take in the view of the Anacostia.

“You saw the new D.C. Water Authority Headquarters… and it sat in front of a bridge that connected the Anacostia River Walk from the pump house, actually, over to the Southeast Federal Center,” Tangherlini said. The River Walk, he said, was also a project by the Earth Conservation Corps.

“It was this mercurial kind of notion that if you start building a riverwalk, that would make people want to come down to the river and walk. At the time, that seemed pretty crazy,” Tangherlini told What’s Working in Washington.

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Tangherini called it proof that the D.C. region isn’t transactional or long-term relationship based. Instead, he said, it’s a mix of both. “I think that transactions and tactics in service of a long-term strategy are actually the way things get done,” he said.

“The Anacostia revitalization… does come from a plan that was launched back at the beginning of the [former Washington, D.C. Mayor Anthony] Williams administration. And I think some people look at it and think it just sprung from the ground on its own. But that has been year after year, frankly decade after decade, of thoughtful effort and leadership,” said Tangherlini.

The thing that makes this region special, said Tangherlini, is its diversity. “I think the fact that we are a place that welcomes strangers, both nationally and internationally, gives us the opportunity to pick from the world’s best ideas, to experience the world’s culture,” he said.

“We’re a place that attracts really smart, thoughtful people who really want to participate in the American democratic experience,” said Tangherlini.

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