The largest wooded area in Ward 8 at 197 acres, Shepherd Parkway is a long, narrow greenway covering the steep hillsides that separate the neighborhoods of Congress Heights and Bellevue from I-295 and Joint Base Anacostia Bolling. It is property of National-Capital Parks-East, an administrative unit covering the many National Park Service properties in the eastern half of DC and in Prince George’s County.
Shepherd Parkway’s rugged topography and hardwood forests hide the remains of two Civil fortifications, a bald eagle’s nest, numerous stream beds and a small wetland. Biologists have identified rare plant and aquatic microorganisms within the park, parts of which have been largely undisturbed since the Civil War.
Several areas are noteworthy for their profusion of beech trees, while others are dominated by tulip poplars, oaks, maples, and sweet gums. Walnut, hickory and holly are also found in abundance.
In winter and early spring when the trees are bare, the hilltops along 2nd Street SE, 2nd Street SW and Martin Luther King Avenue SW give panoramic views across the Potomac River.
Like most the Ward 8’s woods, Shepherd Parkway lacks trail access or even signs to identify it as federal parkland. In many areas where the land slopes downward from residential streets, trash and debris have been tossed for decades. The invasive plants English ivy, bittersweet and Asian wisteria have choked out the native ecosystem in many areas, leaving them ugly and impassible.
At Malcolm X Avenue, a narrow strip of Shepherd Parkway juts eastward as far as Martin Luther King Avenue, where a landscaped area of tables and benches serves as a kind of village green for the Congress Heights neighborhood. This heavily used park is known by many names, but National Capital Parks-East calls it Parkland. The area has unfortunately been a frequent focus of residents’ complaints about public drinking, drugs, littering, and violence.
In response, churches have come to offer food, clothing, and fellowship. A local community leader pays several park users to pick up trash, and events such as Art all Night and National Night Out have sought to make the park more welcoming.
From 2011 to 2018, the Committee to Restore Shepherd Parkway mobilized over 1,000 volunteers to remove over 100,000 pounds of trash from Shepherd Parkway and cut invasive vines from hundreds of trees.
In 2015, eight acres of Shepherd Parkway were transferred (against the protests of the NPS) to the General Services Administration to make way for a new roadway and interchange to carrying traffic two and from the adjacent U.S. Department of Homeland Security headquarters. Funds were paid to NPS to mitigate the loss through improvement of the remaining park land, and a Concept Plan is in the works to determine how those funds will be spent.
Although Shepherd Parkway has received more attention in recent years than other woodlands in Ward 8, much work remains to remove “legacy trash” from years of dumping, crack down on those who continue to dump, halt the explosive growth of invasive plants, and make the park safe and welcoming for all.
Our vision for Shepherd Parkway includes
-a network of hiking trails along the full length of the parkway
-signage to identity the park and interpret its historical and natural significance
-renovation of the Parkland area with walkways, plantings, tables, benches, a new playground, and other amenities
-scenic overlooks at 2nd Street SE and 2nd Street SW
-Planting of native trees and shrubs
-A year-round program of free events in the Parkland area
Join our monthly Shepherd Parkway Volunteer Day
Every second Saturday of the month, 10:30 am to 1:00 pm
Volunteers clean-ups of Shepherd Parkway have been held every month since 2011, a tradition we intend to carry on proudly for years to come.
Meet at 555 Newcomb Street SE, WDC 20032
-2020 Dates: December 12
-2021 Dates: January 9, February 13, March 13, April 10, May 8, June 12, July 10, August 14, September 11, October 9, November 13, December 11
To allow for social distancing, attendance at each event is limited to 10 people. Click here to reserve your spot.
Gloves, bags, and water are provided. Volunteers should dress for the weather with clothes they won't mind getting dirty and shoes with strong traction. Boots are preferred.
Documentation of community service hours provided upon request
For more information contact Nathan at firstname.lastname@example.org