The Anacostia Park & Community Collaborative: Past, present, and future
This is the first in a series of monthly blog posts highlighting the activities and other work of APACC members, APACC working groups, and the collaborative as a whole. We look forward to sharing more of our experiences and plans as time goes on.
2018 is the 100-year anniversary of the legislation that designated and preserved the Anacostia Park as a place to be cherished along the Anacostia River. This centennial has provided a unique opportunity to build the capacity of the Anacostia Park & Community Collaborative (APACC), and together with government agencies, nonprofits and residents, celebrate a shared vision for the Anacostia River and Park that supports the community’s environmental, economic, cultural and physical health.
Improving the Anacostia River goes hand in hand with improving other aspects of communities situated along this urban river and requires engagement on a broad set of health, economic, environmental, and social issues. APACC originally came together as part of the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network’s Capacity Building Initiative (CBI) to build a broader set of communities and organizations involved in natural resources issues. The CBI program provides the main source of funding for APACC and seeks to build regional networks of diverse conservation and civic organizations working to improve local environmental and community health conditions in priority landscapes.
2017: Building the collaborative
Much of 2017 was spent developing the internal framework for APACC that allows partners to collaborate, including the creation of a steering committee and issue specific workgroups. The Anacostia Waterfront Trust, Clean Water Fund, DC Appleseed, and the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. established the APACC steering committee to provide leadership to the collaborative. Since forming a steering committee in mid-2017, APACC has grown to 28 member organizations committed to its mission.
2018: Getting down to work
For 2018, APACC developed an ambitious work plan that begins to move beyond the initial premise of the capacity building initiative and position the network to influence decision making around the Anacostia River toxics cleanup, engage more organizations and community members in the restoration of the Anacostia River, its parks, and its communities, and open a dialogue about equity and redevelopment in Ward 7 and 8 communities. We made progress addressing barriers to 1) redeveloping welcoming, usable, activated Anacostia River-front parks that physically and emotionally connect communities near the river; and 2) increasing our own capacity, organizationally and individually, to understand and connect with the Wards 7 and 8 communities and to work with each other in order to better achieve our goals and works towards our vision.
At the beginning of 2018, APACC helped facilitate the first ever application for outside funding, with several partner organizations collaborating on three separate applications to the Community Stormwater Solutions grant program of the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE). The APACC steering committee has continued serving as the leadership and project management structure of the network, and has played a key role in building relationships with elected and appointed officials in particular with the National Park Service (NPS) and DOEE. Individual members of the committee have served as chairs of the individual sub-work groups, and have led project planning and execution within their respective collaborative capacity building area(s). APACC Coordinator Malusi Kitchen has continued to help coordinate sub-work group activities, and convene monthly steering committee and membership meetings. As the network’s public liaison, he has focused on brand-building, connecting with Wards 7 and 8 residents and outside organizations, and testifying on behalf of the membership at public hearings and meetings.
Will there be individuals as members?
APACC has recently been exploring an “individual membership” policy and recommended guidelines so that interested community residents can become directly involved in the collaborative. As part of that effort, the network’s communication and policy sub-work groups has begun developing a public facing online communications program in an effort to build our capacity to publish original content that is both meaningful to Wards 7 and 8 residents, and relevant to the network’s vision and goals.
Looking to the future
As we approach 2019, we are continuing to work towards the shared objective of achieving socially, environmentally, economically vibrant civic spaces along a clean river adjacent to healthy, sustainable, diverse, and exemplary communities, and diversifying and increasing participation of organizations and residents who have not traditionally been involved in the overlap of water quality, neighborhood development and green space.
Michael Bochynski, Standing Chair, APACC Steering Committee and Chesapeake Program Manager, Clean Water Fund