Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Park Playground Honors Environmental Impact of Freshwater Mussels


11th Street Bridge Park, Washington, D.C.’s first elevated park, announced plans to build an interactive “Mussel Beach” play area to honor the environmental impact that freshwater mussels have had on the preservation of the Anacostia River.

Building Bridges Across the River (BBAR), a nonprofit organization located in Ward 8, partnered with the District Department of Transportation on the 11th Street Bridge Park project and announced plans for “Mussel Beach” on March 24. The playground will feature sculptural mussels, seagrass climbers, artificial water sounds and slides to connect D.C. residents with the natural features of the Anacostia River. The play area will be accompanied by an environmental education center. 

A single adult freshwater mussel can filter anywhere between 10 and 20 gallons of water per day, removing pollutants and improving the aquatic ecosystem, according to BBAR. The Anacostia Watershed Society, a nonprofit organization that works to protect and restore the Anacostia River, began propagating freshwater mussels into the river in 2014. 

Christopher Williams, president and CEO of the Anacostia Watershed Society, said the 11th Street Bridge Park and the Anacostia Watershed Society share the goal of connecting District residents across the river.

“One of the main motivations behind the development of Bridge Park is to bring people down to the river and connect people on both sides of the river, who have been historically cut off from each other by the river,” Williams told The Hoya. “That is also in the DNA of the Anacostia Watershed Society, one of our chief tools for raising awareness around the river, for improving policy around the river, and for promoting direct action preserving the river, is just to make people aware, bring them down there and show them what a wonderful resource it is.”

The “Mussel Beach” playground will celebrate and educate local children and families about the importance of native mussels to the river, according to Williams.

OMA + OLIN | 11th Street Bridge Park announced plans for an interactive “Mussel Beach” play area, which intends to honor the impact freshwater mussels have on the preservation of the Anacostia River.

“One of the really important set of species in the river that are important for the health of the ecosystem, and they make a pretty dramatic impact on the water quality with populations healthy, are freshwater mussels,” Williams said. “‘Mussel Beach’ is kind of a fun salute to this really important species that’s a bedrock of river health, and so the whole play area in addition is kind of a fun, whimsical salute to the river and the river ecosystem.”

Educating residents about the Anacostia River’s preservation efforts will inspire future generations, according to Hallie Boyce, a partner at OLIN, one of the landscape architecture firms behind the playground, in a March 24 press release.

“Celebrating the mussel restoration program we felt was a meaningful way to teach children about river ecology and its connection to community health, while encouraging the next generation of river stewards for the Anacostia,” Boyce said in the press release.

The play area will not only increase environmental awareness, but will also connect divided neighborhoods on both sides of the Anacostia, according to Scott Kratz, senior vice president of Building Bridges Across the River, in the March 24 press release.

“Mussel Beach will create an inter-generational play area that represents the Bridge Park’s core mission: to connect long-divided neighborhoods and provide a new venue for healthy recreation,” Kratz said in the press release.

According to Williams, honoring freshwater mussels will serve as a reminder of their important role in conserving the Anacostia River. 

“One of the things that makes Mussel Beach so much fun for me is that mussels are a symbol of the renewal of the river, but they’re also a symbol of the effort that it takes to restore the river,” Williams said. “The fun and the joy that the kids have as they’re playing at Mussel Beach while they’re learning about mussels is a great way to impart that message.”

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