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Government and People
he Environmental News December 11, 1999
Street Trees are all the rage over at the Department of Public Works, which recently announced the penning of new contracts calling for the planting of 9,000 trees between our streets and curbs during this fiscal year. Yes, this is the same DPW which single-handedly crashed our street tree population from about 95,000 in 1993 to about 75,000 last year. (without new planting, about 4,000 die every year.)
Credit goes to (1) Mayor Williams, who recently asked the federal Office of Management and Budget for a one-time grant of $15 MILLION for tree-planting, (2) Councilmember Carol Schwartz, who rightly labeled the Administration's FY 2000 tree planting budget request as lame and persuaded the Council to tack on another million and change, (3) the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, whose November report on the decline of the City's street tree population, and some behind-the-scenes-lobbying, helped Williams see the light, and (4) American Forests, a national group whose graphic depiction of the plight of Washington total "urban forest" made it to the front page of the Metro section.
Thriving street trees are more than the soft-core fantasies of the tennis-shoed environmental set. Studies show that they reduce summertime temperatures by 5-8 degrees in the City, thereby reducing energy use and pollution generation and making the place attractive to residents, businesses, and tourists. A Council oversight hearing is scheduled for December 15. Contact: Sally Boasberg, 363-2147.
Corrections Corporation of America, with leadership from former Councilmember John Ray, continues its fight to convert National parkland along the Potomac in Ward 8 into a prison. Last month they filed a court appeal of the Zoning Commission's heroic rejection of their petition. Representing the neighborhood and civic defenders is land-use specialist Richard Nettler. Contact: Eugene Kinlow 563-2131
More than 100 concerned citizens filled the officer's club at the Navy Yard December 3 for an all-day "summit" on the Anacostia River Basin and the challenges it faces. Issues include the fate of the islands once slated for development into the Children's Island amusement park, and what to do about the 40-foot high "mystery mountain" of construction debris that appeared in Kenilworth Park last year under the nose of National Capital Park East chief Gentry Davis. Contact: Sue Gunn 429-2676.
This correspondent and Friends of the Earth staffer Elizabeth Berry testified at the hearing held December 3 by the Councilmember Carol Schwartz on her bill to create an environmental license plate. We urged the Council to put the sale proceeds into a trust fund to be used by non-profits for eco projects and to sponsor a public competition on the plate's design. Schwartz is collecting all of the best ideas and finalizing the bill, which is deemed likely to pass. Contact: your Councilmember 724-8000. Just say yes.
This little-used road once twisted its way up from Beach Drive at Porter (in Rock Creek Park) along the Zoo, under Connecticut Ave., and into Woodley Park. A storm-induced water main break wiped out a major section of the road about nine years ago, and no one noticed! After nine years, the woods have gradually reclaimed much of the roadway like a post-apocalypse B movie, and are on the verge of reestablishment.
Park advocates, cyclists, enviros, and local property owners have banded together in a call for a return to nature or possibly a gravel trail. A few local road warriors, however, and pushing for the restoration of pavement. The man to watch: At-large Councilmember Phil Mendelson, whose impressive record of civic accomplishment was founded on a 1985 campaign to restore Glover-Archbald Park by removing an inappropriate road. On Klingle Valley, however, he is strangely silent... Contact: DPW (Vanessa Burns, Director) 939-8035; Isabel Furlong 333-3345.
A year-long campaign to prevent BELL ATLANTIC MOBILE from erecting a pair of cellular phone transmission towers in Rock Creek Park was deal dual setbacks last month when: (1) the National Capital Planning Commission ("NCPC") voted 9-4 to approve BELL ATLANTIC MOBILE's application; and (2) Congress approved the D.C. appropriations bill with a rider sponsored by Senator Tom Daschle (D) that compelled the NCPC and the National Park Service to install the towers, no questions asked. Tower opponents were mildly disappointed by the outcome. At our urging, the NCPC had retained a consultant to consider the technical and precedential implications of the proposal. The consultant reported in October that BELL ATLANTIC MOBILE really had no need for two towers one would improve coverage along Beach Drive significantly, and the other (on the east side) would not. At this point, however, the political winds were howling. The NCPC, a political animal if ever there were one, was in no mood to obsess over facts. The vote went through quickly, and we expect the towers to go up quickly (e.g., concrete pouring in December). On-site demonstrations are planned please join us.
The consultant's report contained a warning that sent a chill though Park defenders. It predicted that BELL ATLANTIC MOBILE is probably just the first of many cell phone service providers with designs on the forested hills of the Park. As many as seven other companies can be expected to push applications along the skids that have now been greased by BELL ATLANTIC MOBILE. Leaders of the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth recently sent letters to the heads of many cell phone service providers in an effort which are hoping to erect towers in the Park, and which are not. The responses will be reported here. Contacts: Elizabeth Berry 362-0789; Jim Dougherty, 488-1140.
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