Thursday, October 28, 2010

Celebrating Five Years of Protecting Rock Creek

Deer pauses in Rock Creek Park. (Photograph courtesy of Warren Hindley)
Today, Friends of Rock Creek’s Environment (FORCE), a local nonprofit organization, celebrates five years of caring for and protecting Rock Creek.

Rock Creek flows 33 miles through the heart of Washington, D.C. and Montgomery County, Maryland, and it has 30 tributaries.  Its watershed -- the land area that drains into the creek -- covers a densely populated area of 77.4 square miles.

"Every time it rains, Rock Creek becomes a torrent," says FORCE Executive Director Beth Mullin, "and the storm water carries with it severe pollution -- dirt, gasoline, oil, pesticides, all of which gets put into the creek.  This issue really brings you into the surrounding neighborhoods, and that is why it is so critical to engage the community."

Ms. Mullin says the river's neighbors can help reduce this problem by building rain gardens, as the Chevy Chase Community Center recently did, and capturing water from their roofs in rain barrels.

"The great thing, the positive thing, is that people really love Rock Creek Park," Ms. Mullin says, "and we are looking to connect with anyone -- neighbors, schools, religious institutions, business, embassies, really any organization or individual -- who cares about the park."

Looking to involve local residents in caring for the park and river, FORCE has established "Stream Teams," groups of volunteers who adopt a stretch of Rock Creek or one of its tributaries.  The teams regularly monitor their stretch of the creek and report any problems to the proper authorities and FORCE.  They also organize at least two trash cleanups per year and set up advocacy and restoration projects.

"By dividing the area into smaller pieces, allowing people to adopt sections, you make caring for the creek much more manageable," says Ms. Mullin.

There are currently 34 "Stream Teams," and FORCE is working to establish 50 teams in total.  Individuals interested in leading or joining a team can contact FORCE directly.  More details are available on the FORCE website.

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