Kingman Island Gets Conservation Status And Funds For Upgrades

January 22, 2018

DC wants to make Kingman Island a destination for outdoor learning

WAMU – January 12, 2018 – If you’ve ever been to Kingman Island you know it’s not easy to get to, hidden behind the sprawling parking lots of RFK Stadium. But the District envisions this sliver of land on the Anacostia River as a destination for outdoor learning and recreation, complete with outdoor classrooms, a ranger station, an environmental center and better public access.

Mayor Muriel Bowser took a step toward that vision Friday, pledging $4.7 million toward the plan, and designating Kingman and neighboring Heritage Island as a state conservation area. The southern tip of Kingman Island is now a critical wildlife area, adding further protections for the 100 species of birds, mammals and other creatures that can be found there.

“We’re not growing any more precious land like this,” said Bowser, speaking on a pier between the islands, before a background of melting ice floes, mud flats and the aging stadium. “We’re going to do everything in our power to preserve it for generations to come.”

For the past hundred years, various planners have had their eyes on Kingman Island for everything from an east leg of I-295 to an amusement park.

While Kingman Island is about as wild as any place in the city, it’s actually man made, created from mud dredged up from the river bottom — a side effect of an Army Corps of Engineers project in the early 20th century to deepen the river and straighten the river banks.

“On the one hand, that may sound unnatural,” said Tommy Wells, director of the Department of Energy and Environment. “But on the other hand, because nobody’s touched the islands, you really had a natural habitat that is indigenous to the neighborhood grow up without hardly any disturbance at all. That is a forest that has been untouched since these islands were created over 100 years ago.”

In recent years, Kingman and Heritage Islands and the surrounding marshes have been used for outdoor education, with school kids using them to learn about nature and participate in restoration and cleanup projects.

“It’s so close to our school, we walk over here quite a bit and can really see the river as an extension of our classroom,” said Kelly Custer, who teaches at River Terrace Education Campus in Ward 7. He brings students to the islands as often as once a week, and was happy to hear upgraded facilities are coming — one type of facility in particular.

“I think everybody was really happy about hearing the bathrooms coming in, because that’s a big challenge,” Custer added. Bathrooms, he said will mean students can stay out longer, and a covered pavilion will mean they can come out in inclement weather.

The entire two phase project would cost more than $10 million: $4.5 million for the first phase, and $6.3 million for the second phase, which would involve acquiring more land from the federal government adjacent to the RFK parking lots.

article by Jacob Fenston, WAMU 88.5. Listen to the broadcast here: