Suitland Parkway was constructed through a natural valley during World War II to connect Bolling Air Force Base with Andrews Air Force. It runs through Ward 8 for three miles, from the I-295 to the Maryland state line at Southern Avenue. With only two street crossings in between, the parkway effectively divides Ward 8 in half.
Known as a busy commuter route between central Washington to its eastern suburbs, the parkway is also a nature preserve, flanked on each side by over 100 acres of forested hillside. These woods shelter the many hilltop apartment buildings from the noise and pollution of the roadway below. In places, the valley is so narrow and the hills so steep that, viewed from above, the road seems to disappear.
Unlike the other three major wooded areas in Ward 8, which belong to the National Park Service, most of Suitland Parkway is managed by the District of Columbia Department of Transportation. Not surprisingly, it has never been managed as a public green space.
The steep hillsides that make Suitland Parkway so striking have also made it the target of decades of illegal dumping. In places where apartment buildings back up to the forest and streets dead-end at the forest’s edge, all manner of household items, furniture, car parts, and construction materials cover the ground.
Invasive English ivy, bittersweet, and multiflora rose are rampant, undermining the diversity of native plants and animals found here.
In 2018 we began the massive undertaking of removing decades worth of accumulated trash and beating back the advance of invasive species.
In 2020, Ward 8 Woods took on its first trail project: restoration and maintenance of the George Washington Carver Nature Trail, which runs through a remarkable secluded and pristine area on the north side of the parkway. Created by the staff of the Anacostia Community Museum in the 1990s, the path has not been maintained or publicized in recent years.
Pick a morning or afternoon to experience some of the best natural beauty Ward 8 has to offer. Start at the Anacostia Museum, located at 1901 Fort Place SE in the Ft. Stanton neighborhood. Walk past the entrance, and behind the building, you’ll see a metal sign at the edge of the woods marking the trailhead. The easy half-mile loop takes about 20 minutes at a leisurely pace.
The forest here is dominated by mature white oaks, with mountain laurel scattered about the mostly open understory. The area is largely free of trash and invasive species and the roadway is visible from only one segment of the trail, giving you the sense of being far from the busy city.
The Carver Trail and the forest it passes through are a model for our vision of what woodlands throughout Ward 8 could look and feel like.
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