Project Lilypad: A Portrait of Kingman Island

By: Paige Cooper
To an outsider Kingman Island may not seem so impressive. Benning Road Bridge and the metro overpass cross over the Island and river perpendicularly. Driving across the road on one side of the Island, it would be easy to miss. There are chain-link fences, dirt, gravel and a view of the Langston Golf Course’s flat grass turf, which easily turns to sludge in the rain. If you travel beyond all this development, the park has scenic views of the river.

When I first visited the Island over a year ago in the summer, my white sneakers sank into the grass and became covered in mud in the golf course’s driving range. My dependence on GPS had led me astray and into the muddy golf course. The real entrance to the park is hidden away within a massive parking lot. As a non-native DC resident, I had a hard time imagining that many people in my own Georgetown and Foggy Bottom bubble had visited the park tucked along the river.
The park is located alongside historically overlooked communities in the DC-area within Wards 6 & 7. Previous plans to restore the Island have fallen short to city budget cuts. Moreover, the Park will be impacted by proposed redevelopment of the RFK Stadium site. Every new construction has potential risks to the habitat of the River and Island.

Despite all of the political conflict and commotion that has surrounded the Island, the park is a special refuge. While there have been many struggles to protect the land and water in the past, this struggle is validated by how much potential the Island has as a restored habitat. Already the island has benefited the DC community by hosting the Blue Grass Festival every year and by providing one of the few escapes from city noise. What makes this park special is not just what it has already provided or the challenges it has had to persevere, but its potential for growth. If given the funds and means to thrive, Kingman Island would offer the whole DC community a prime space for breathing room, beauty and nature.

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