While hiking the Soapstone Trail in mid-December, I noticed a weathered plaster cast of an angel. It was sitting atop one of the many manhole covers that mark the location of the 110-year-old sewage pipe that winds through and about Soapstone Creek.
I wondered who had placed it there and welcomed the new addition to the sights east of Audubon Terrace after the first trail crossing. Maybe she had been placed there as protection for our stream, I thought.
On New Year’s Eve, I passed by the angel and noticed it had been joined by another, smaller angel with its wings set off to the side – a double dose of protection.
The angels did not remain that way for long. Two days later, on January 2nd, I found the manhole cover empty and their smashed remains in the stream bed.
The angels may no longer be watching over Soapstone Creek, but several humans are. Volunteers with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, led by Soapstone Trail supervisor JoAnn Shaner, work to keep the trail in good shape and do as much as they can to control stormwater erosion. The DC Department of Energy and the Environment monitors water quality. Rock Creek Conservancy keeps an eye on this important part of the Rock Creek watershed.
DC Water and the National Park Service also have roles to play, and the local community is keeping an eye on their plans to repair that 110-year-old sewer pipe running through the Soapstone Valley and restore the stream bed after the work is complete. To recap: These plans were first revealed to the public in 2013. In June 2019, DC Water presented the environmental assessment of its plan to reline the sewer pipes, which run through NPS and DC property. The public aired concerns about tree removal and wildlife impact, and made suggestions during a comment period which ended August 2nd. Here’s a summary with links to our 2019 coverage of the proposals, the pros and the cons.
And now, we wait. The National Park Service must rule with a finding of no significant impact, or FONSI, for the project to proceed.