Group Goes to Bat for the Environment
Thursday, June 19, 2008
With wild birds inside Nationals Park and visits to the Anacostia riverfront, a local youth organization is attempting to enlist baseball fans in environmental awareness efforts.
The Earth Conservation Corps, which works with at-risk District residents 17 to 25 years old, aims to have events in the children's play zone at Nationals Park as soon as this week. The ballpark plans include having young corps members interacting with an owl and a hawk, and having members facilitate educational games and activities. The group will also encourage fans to walk to its facility in the Old Capitol Pumphouse, steps from the ballpark, at Diamond Teague Park, after games.
The nonprofit corps maintains the park and the historic pump house on the Anacostia's banks and, with a $1.2 million annual budget, works with about 50 young people a year. It teaches them environmental awareness as well as financial management, conflict resolution and other life skills.
The organization was formed in 1989, long before the ballpark in Southeast Washington was built. But the thousands of fans who have been coming to the games this season have given the Earth Conservation Corps newfound visibility.
"We've noticed the crowds, and they've noticed us," said Glen O'Gilvie, president and chief executive of the corps.
He said some curious fans have found their way down the grand staircase on the ballpark's south side and wandered into the pump house on game days.
What they find is a refurbished structure that dates to 1903. O'Gilvie said it pumped river water to the Capitol building for steam heat until 1950.
After sitting vacant for more than 40 years, the squat brick building was rehabilitated with the help of Navy Seabees and is used for classes, such as video editing, for the corps.
The building is also the entry to docks for the organization's three boats, which carry volunteers on river cleanup and education cruises. The corps plants trees, removes trash and debris, and restores wetlands near the river.
The District plans to start work on new docks and a riverfront boardwalk at the pump house this summer or early in the fall, with the hope that it will be ready by next year's opening day at the ballpark, said Judi Greenberg, a special assistant in the office of Neil O. Albert, deputy mayor for planning and economic development.
The docks would allow water taxis to bring fans to games and give kayakers and canoeists a place to launch.
O'Gilvie said he hopes to further refurbish the pump house with an environmentally sensitive grass roof that would serve as an example to baseball fans looking from the ballpark to the river, "things that fans can see and take home and implement," O'Gilvie said.
The ballpark has received special recognition for its efforts to be environmentally sensitive. Among other things, a roof on a main concession building is covered with grass and its plumbing fixtures have cut water consumption by about a third of what stadiums its size typically use.
The corps is a partner of the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation charitable group. In April, the foundation said it would provide the corps with $40,000 a year for the next three years.
"The health of the Anacostia River is a concern of all District residents, and by partnering with the Earth Conservation Corps, the Nationals are assisting in its revitalization," foundation Chairman Marla Lerner Tanenbaum said.