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Helping Hands Restoring Dumbarton Oaks Park

The Dumbarton Oaks Park Conservancy and the National Park service are funding a program to slow stormwater runoff and help prevent further erosion.

Though Dumbarton Oaks Park, a 27-acre naturalistic park in north Georgetown, was designed to be a natural woodlands setting, nature—in the form of stormwater runoff and erosion—has been harsh on the park.

The Dumbarton Oaks Park Conservancy is working with the Rock Creek Park branch of the National Park Service to try to undo the damage and prevent future damage.

Dumbarton Oaks Park was once part of the Dumbarton Oaks Estate, which belonged to Ambassador Robert and Mildred Woods Bliss. The two secured the services of revered early landscape architect Beatrix Farrand to create formal and informal gardens. Later the couple donated their mansion and formal gardens to Harvard University and the remaining 27-acres to the National Park Service.

“The severe storms over the last year have done immense damage to the small stream and waterfalls in the park,” Rebecca Trafton, president of the conservancy, said in a press release. “A violent storm last July made the situation even worse, sending water four feet deep coursing through the stream and undercutting the banks, damaging vegetation and soil in the adjacent areas. Unless we begin to address the effects of stormwater immediately, park resources will continue to be vulnerable.”

Over the weekend, a group of volunteers began the first phase of a months-long project to reduce surface runoff. The effort will be organized and lead in part by conservancy intern Liza Trafton, a landscape architecture student at Spitzer School of Architecture at The City College of New York.

Sunday they installed stormwater erosion control blankets at the Stone Bridge, Laurel Pool and an area near the Stone Bench in the park.

The erosion blankets, along with fencing and compost logs, will serve as temporary solutions to stabilize and rebuild the stream banks, according to the conservancy.

The horizontal fencing, which volunteers will make from materials harvested in the park, will run the southern section of the stream. They will be in place for several years.

“Overuse of non-pathway areas or any traffic on sensitive areas – such as slopes and stream banks - can aggravate soil compaction and erosion," Rock Creek Park Superintendent Tara Morrison said in a press release. "Fences will help direct  visitors to pathways, and encourage new vegetation by allowing for leaves, brush and other organic matter to build up on their uphill side.”

There will be several work days for the stormwater project in the coming months. Patch will provide updates as they are announced.

In addition to volunteer hours, the conservancy, a 2012 recipient of a National Park Foundation grant, still needs an estimated $8,000 to match the $50,000 from the National Park Foundation.

Donations can be made online at www.dopark.org or sent to DOPC, P.O. Box 32080, Washington, D.C. 20007.

Rebecca Trafton January 24, 2013 at 03:48 AM
Thank you, Shaun, for this very thorough report of our volunteers' efforts in the Park on Sunday. We are addressing major problems and it will take time. You are helping us get the word out to our community, explaining the work we're doing and how people can get involved. We are so grateful to you and to Patch for your support. Rebecca Trafton, Board President, Dumbarton Oaks Park Conservancy rtrafton@dopark.org
Shaun Courtney January 24, 2013 at 02:18 PM
Thanks, Rebecca. It's my pleasure! -Shaun

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