Talk about being close to your work. The Anacostia Watershed Society, a nonprofit dedicated to restoring the Anacostia--and making it fishable and swimmable by 2025--has opened a new office space on the Anacostia. As in floating on it.
Two barges, donated by Gangplank Marina when the management company moved its headquarters, have been retrofitted, towed up the Anacostia, and now serve as hoteling office space for the society's staff.
The barges, parked in the river across from 1301 Water St SE, serve a number of purposes. For one, Jim Foster, president of the society, says "it's about having a physical presence in the District. Bladensburg [where the society is headquartered] is Bladensburg. I need to be here."
For another, the views are great--and staffers can jump in a canoe or kayak and get straight out onto the water. (Or take board members and donors, always an important consideration for nonprofits.)
"It's my little happy place," says Foster, standing in his office.
The society is technically leasing the space for the barges from the Eastern Powerboat Club, which, along with other members of the Historic Anacostia Boating Association, has been located along this stretch of the Anacostia for decades--long before this stretch of land was seen as desirable. The society is subletting barge space to HABA so those members can work on getting a longer-term lease from the District for the space and improve their facilities.
One unforeseen consequence of parking the barges in this section of the river is that their placement has created a trap where garbage of all sorts accumulates, which is arguably good for the society's mission of removing trash from the main part of the river but which looks fairly nasty. On a recent visit a reporter spied soda bottles, foam takeout containers, tennis balls, tires and a lone Croc shoe. The society is planning a cleanup and will install a boom or other trash-blocking mechanism when time allows.
Baby turtle just because
Foster says the society spent about $10,000 retrofitting the barges, removing some walls to make the office spaces bigger and putting in "new" carpet (from building material reuse store Community Forklift). Another change? The old setup had a toilet that emptied its contents into a removable tank. The new setup has a composting toilet imported from Sweden. Still in the works? Stormwater reclamation and a possible green roof or solar panels. Or--why not--both. Right now it seems the sky's the limit.
He's optimistic about the society's ability to affect the change it wants to see, as well. "When the river's cleaned up, we'll look back and say, 'This used to be dirty?'"