Each month, City Parks Alliance recognizes a “Frontline Park” to promote and highlight inspiring examples of urban park excellence, innovation, and stewardship across the country. The program also seeks to highlight examples of the challenges facing our cities’ parks as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures, and urban neighborhood decay.
In 1815, the Washington City Canal opened and connected the Anacostia and Potomac rivers via the National Mall. In the early 1900s, the canal was paved over to create Canal Street and has served many different purposes over the years, including as a holding area for idling buses. The site’s newest function as a park began back in 2000, when a developer formed the nonprofit Canal Park Development Association, which secured the site and was tasked with overseeing development of the park. Funding came from many different sources, including some not traditionally associated with funding for local parks; the District and Federal governments, the DC Housing Authority, and private developers contributed funds in addition to neighborhood stakeholders. The design competition opened in 2004, and in 2010, the project finally broke ground. The park is owned by the District of Columbia, but Canal Park Development Association and the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District will be responsible for programming and management.
Canal Park isn’t a typical neighborhood park, and not just because of its history and public-private partnership management structure. The park serves as a pilot project for the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) and is a candidate for LEED Gold certification, thanks to some innovative features:
- Underground cisterns collect water from the park and neighboring city blocks.
- Water is treated and reused, satisfying the park’s water needs for fountains, irrigation, toilets, and the ice skating path. It is estimated that the system will generate 1.5 million gallons of reused water annually.
- Heating and cooling for park amenities will be generated by 28 geothermal wells, reducing the park’s energy consumption by 40%.
Canal Park was designed to be the leader in urban environmental strategies: stormwater management, energy efficiency in its programming and structures, and soil remediation, but was imagined to be a great space in a city full of iconic spaces that would give an individual identity to a newly revitalized community.
To learn more about Canal Park, click here: www.canalparkdc.org