Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Views from the Park Bench: A New Kind of Green Man: Inspired by the Catalytic Power of Parks, One Washington, D.C., Resident Tackles Community Revitalization

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Views from the Park Bench: A New Kind of Green Man: Inspired by the Catalytic Power of Parks, One Washington, D.C., Resident Tackles Community Revitalization

Article excerpt

The Watts Branch stream valley in far northeast Washington, D.C., just four miles from the National Mall, was until recently one of the most forgotten parts of the capital. The 1.6-mile park alongside the stream, recently renamed to honor native son Marvin Gaye, had become D.C.'s single worst park, with rampant crime, violence, illegal dumping, drugs, and decay.

When Brian Rodgers, now 51, grew up near here, the encircling parks and woodlands of the historic Fort Circle Parks system were the center of adventure: swinging on Tarzan vines, chasing the alien "Green Man" hidden somewhere in the woods, and playing football on every inch of grass. But Rodgers saw parks disintegrate, losing stewardship, protection, and programming.

He never dreamt that he would one day find a career and calling in these very woods, helping to use green spaces as economic engines to uplift some of the poorest communities in D.C.

Rodgers is becoming a new kind of Green Man himself, leading a model effort to use Washington, D.C.'s vast areas of public green space--among America's highest park percentages--as a base for job training and a gateway to various careers, ranging from broad green infrastructure reclamation to expeditionary learning and park programming of all kinds.

In 2001, Rodgers, a youth programmer and photographer, volunteered to be part of an effort to transform Marvin Gaye Park. The Down by the Riverside campaign, organized by City Parks Alliance member Washington Parks & People, a nonprofit network of community park partnerships in the nation's capital, would become the largest community park revitalization initiative in D.C. history. More than 45,000 volunteers would remove 2,000 tons of trash and debris to revive the entire greenway system with intermodal trails, playgrounds, amphitheaters, fitness courses, and programs.

Rodgers became so inspired helping his community use the park to transform itself that he got his master gardener's certification, became a volunteer for the U. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.