Ward 8 Woods staff, Board members and volunteers use their expertise and connections to advocate for policies that heal the land and empower people. Our efforts center on three issue areas: parks and planning, local environmental laws, and housing justice.
Parks and Planning
Much of the work of Ward 8 Woods is made necessary by neglect and mismanagement by the National Park Service and DC government. Rarely, if ever, have the responsible agencies found or received the resources needed for basic park maintenance, let alone restoration or public programs. At times, their words and actions have revealed indifference and victim-blaming towards Ward 8 residents.
Ward 8 Woods is an informed local voice advocating for parks that are healthy, beautiful, and inviting for residents and visitors alike. We lobby Congress and the DC Council for more funding for park lands, and we press agency staff to be more responsive to resident input.
We are seeking approval and funding for the construction of hiking trails and reforestation projects, and we guard against the destruction and deterioration of treasured urban forests.
Our Advocacy Partners:
DC has made positive legislative strides on the environment in recent decades, but translating intention into action has proven harder. For years, mayors and councilmembers have vowed to make DC the “greenest city in North America” or even the world, but the reality is that we are losing ground.
Our city has lost more than 500 acres of tree cover since 2015. Developers, including the DC government itself, continue cutting down trees to make way for buildings. And we lack a city-wide plan to combat invasive vines smothering many of the trees remaining.
One of our two main waterways, the Anacostia, despite recent improvements, is one of only two rivers in the United States that the EPA has deemed “impaired by trash.” Legislation, helpful in theory, has fallen short in practice. Bans on styrofoam, plastic straws, and unrequested condiment packets are on the books, but not consistently observed or enforced. Recent trends have added waves of face masks, cannabis containers, and food delivery packaging to the waste stream.
The five cent grocery bag fee in effect since 2010 has likewise changed few habits locally, being paid disproportionately by East-of-the-River residents. In a perverse turn, the fee is now so profitable for the city that officials resist new steps to discourage bag use: Bags and other single-use plastics still befoul the ward’s streets, parks, and streams.
And some legislation remains out of reach. Plastic and glass bottles make up the major of the trash we remove, but efforts to address the problem have been thwarted: The powerful beverage industry lobby has quashed every one of the Council’s sensible bottle-redemption proposals. Recycling is presented as a solution, but recycling rate remain shockingly low, especially East of the River.
Legislation also can’t stop dumping if it’s not enforced. Parks east of the river continue to be used as illegal dumping grounds for construction materials, furniture, electronics, car parts and household items. Monitoring and enforcement are limited and often ineffective, even when citizens report offenders. And cleaning it up falls mainly to us, Ward 8 Woods, and other volunteers.
Even worse, our clean-up efforts indirectly dirty our air, because the DC Department of Public Works sends our trash to be incinerated across the river. Its destination, the Covanta Fairfax facility in Lorton, Virginia, is the region’s single worst source point for air pollution. We are advocating for DC to shift disposal to landfills in rural Virginia as a less harmful option. Long term, we need to restructure our economy to reduce and eventually eliminate single-use products.
Ward 8 Woods works in coalition with other local advocates to press for a truly green city that is supports the health and wellbeing of residents while doing its part to restore of the Chesapeake Bay, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigate the worst effects of the climate crisis.
Our Advocacy Partners:
Even with competitive wages, our staff struggle to afford housing in Ward 8 – or anywhere in DC. As local neighborhoods gentrify, we are seeing the same displacement of Black and working-class residents that occured in other parts of the city over recent decades. Our work to make the woods healthy and welcoming will have failed if only the privileged live close enough to enjoy them.
The profit-driven, market-based model of housing development that prevails in our city has failed to supply decent housing to poor and working class residents. The hundreds of millions of dollars the city spends to subsidize affordable housing lines the pockets of well-connected developers, while most new units are affordable only to middle-income professionals.
Ward 8 Woods advocates for deeply affordable housing through policies including rent control, preservation and expansion of public housing, and the establishment of land trusts and housing cooperatives. The needs of long term residents, not real estate investors, should drive planning.
Our Advocacy Partners:
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