Back in 2005, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation helped start a citizens advocacy group for the District’s central greenway, called the Friends of Rock Creek’s Environment (an awkward name with a powerful acronym: FORCE). Originally the group focused mostly on water issues, doing a bit of testifying and volunteering along the way.
As of a few days ago, they’ve renamed themselves and recast their mission: The newly-minted Rock Creek Conservancy aims to become a much more effective and far-reaching supporter of the 1,754-acre park. Think something like the robust Central Park Conservancy, which has effected a turnaround for the glorious Manhattan greenspace.
“They’ve done just an astounding job in being able to revitalize the park over the last few years,” says Beth Mullin, the group’s executive director. “We see that and think it would be really great if someone was paying that kind of attention to Rock Creek Park.”
What does that mean, exactly? The Conservancy would like to be able to do park-wide planning to assist the National Park Service, which has really limited resources, as well as help out on capital projects like renovating the dated Nature Center and helping to improve deteriorated streams. Unlike with some of D.C.’s other parks, at Rock Creek, the Park Service has accommodated volunteer help. “They bend over backwards to work with us,” Mullin says.
In order to become a real force, though, the Conservancy needs much, much more money. Last year, their budget was only about $140,000. “It’s tiny!” Mullin says. “We would need to raise much bigger dollars.” The Central Park Conservancy, for example, had a $37.4 million budget last year. In D.C., the Trust for the National Mall is raising potentially hundreds of millions to restore a much smaller space. The District’s wilder park could use some similar love.