Coming Clean About the Future
But these agreements do not contain any binding cleanup dates, and in consequence, the pace of improvement has been oh-so-gradual. Things are bound to continue that way if the effort to clean up the river isn't given a huge public boost. So far, disappointingly, the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative has not provided that jolt.
Yes, there is plenty of talk and there are volumes of written words. The plan's text exposes the need in great detail and proposes a thorough set of solutions.
Certainly, new development on the river should follow a fresh pattern, often called low-impact development, whereby buildings are sited and constructed with nature -- and the river -- in mind.
Clearly, the effort to uncover the Anacostia's long-buried tributaries, already begun at Watts Branch in Northeast Washington, will pay environmental and aesthetic dividends.
Demonstrably, many sections of that lovely 20-mile river walk can be combined with new, more ecologically sensitive, visually pleasing ways of treating the river's edge, replacing the old concrete or stone revetment with a kinder planted contour.
All of these proposals, and many more, should be eagerly pursued. It is vigor, however, that seems lacking. There is no sense of urgency about the fundamental substance that makes a river a river. We can wait around, the plan says, until 2025 to have Anacostia water we can safely swim in.
Yet what this complex plan lacks, above all, is a central focus, a sort of banner headline, to grip the public imagination. Water quality should be that focus.
"They ought to commit to a dramatic effort to improve the river by 2010, to make it clean, make it into a place you can paddle on with your child without fear for your health," says Arrasmith. "That would be something exciting, something all can buy into."
This seems right: Clean the water and the money, and people, will follow.
NEXT: Redoing the Southwest waterfront
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Near the South Capitol Street Bridge, a heron's repose is marred by trash gathered around an old dock.
(Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)