by Marlene Berlin
Alex Ray, a senior at St. John’s College High School, chose a spot near his Forest Hills home for his Eagle Scout project. He decided to tackle the Windom Place parklet on the east side of Connecticut Avenue. It’s a small park but involves many players. The land is owned by the District Department of Transportation, abuts National Park Service property and sits between WAMU and Calvert Woodley.
Alex took some time to tell us about his experience:
Marlene Berlin: First of all, what does an Eagle Scout project require?
Alex Ray: The Eagle Scout project requires planning, development and leadership, and an average of 100 hours of work. The project has to be realistic, safe, and beneficial for the community.
MB: How did you come to choose Windom Park as your focus? What process did you go through?
AR: First of all, I wanted to do my Eagle project in the neighborhood. My original project was going to be building terraced retaining walls in Soapstone Valley Park, near the entrance at Albemarle and 32nd Streets. I got approval from various agencies and the Boy Scouts, and then we found out DC Water was going to re-do that hillside with rip-rap, so I started looking for another project.
My mom [ANC 3F Commissioner Mary Beth Ray] and Commissioner Sally Gresham had been wanting to fix up the WAMU minipark, so I took a look at it and made a list of things that needed to be done. My mom introduced me to Andrew Huff, the American University director of community relations, and the AU landscape architect, Mike Mastrota, and they met us at the site. We also cleared it with National Park Service, DDOT and Rock Creek Conservancy.
MB: What was your goal in doing this project?
AR: My goal was to improve a small park that had deteriorated due to neglect, and to make it a place the community wants to come to, rather than just a place for smokers.
MB: What did you actually do and how many hours did it take?
AR: We worked two days [Friday, August 28th and Saturday, August 29th] from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days, so about 12 hours, not counting all the planning, shopping, meetings, emails and watering. Tasks included spraying with Tilex Pro to remove the paint on the concrete.
Then we scrubbed and power washed, which unfortunately did not work very well. We also scrubbed and powerwashed the light posts. We trimmed all the excess brush beneath the tree canopy, cleared the path to make a nice entrance [to Soapstone Valley Trail], and removed invasive species like ivy and porcelain berry vine.
We dug weeds out from around the base of the trees, removed all the ivy from the trees, pulled out lots of vines, and removed several enormous chunks of concrete, which were preventing grass from growing.
We pruned and mulched the warrior oak on Connecticut, as well as the redbud trees and others in the minipark. We mixed Bumper Crop into the tree boxes, then added new plants and transplanted others to make the boxes match. Boxes now contain fern (donated by one of my volunteers), cilesia, vinca, dusty miller and yarrow.
We picked up litter in the minipark, along the trail, even at Calvert Woodley. We were going to paint the benches but we found out a few days before that AU is going to buy new benches. AU has also agreed to remove the dead tree and they added a smoker’s disposal stand.
MB: Were others involved in assisting you?
AR: We had 37 volunteers. Rock Creek Conservancy publicized the event which brought in some great volunteers. There were Boy Scouts, friends from my crew team, and school. I want to be sure to acknowledge Calvert Woodley because they made and donated 15 sandwiches both days.
MB: How many hours did you devote to this project?
AR: I probably spent about 24 hours on the project. My mom and I are still going over to be sure it gets watered.
MB: What was the most important thing you learned from doing this project?
AR: The most important thing I learned is the power of teamwork!
Alex, we thank you for all your energy, the patience and tenacity to coordinate and get folks to pitch in, and the muscle to transform our parklet.