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Leaders Hope Anacostia Trails Will Connect Communities

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D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray takes to a segment of the recently completed hiker/biker trails between D.C. and Anacostia.
Jessica Gould
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray takes to a segment of the recently completed hiker/biker trails between D.C. and Anacostia.

Local leaders hope the construction of a new set of hiker and biker trails along the Anacostia River will revitalize waterfront communities and reconnect people to the environment. The partnership between the federal government, D.C. and Maryland will help bridge the divide between the communities that often are so starkly divided by the river.

For people who live in the area, the new trails would also offer a reason to enjoy the river again. D.C. resident Dennis Chestnut learned to swim in the Anacostia, but these days it's too dangerous to swim in the river or even walk along its banks.

"The lack of access makes it difficult to get there. And that prevents other things from being able to happen there as well, such as development, improvement," says Chestnut.

That's why Chestnut says he's so excited about a partnership between the federal government, D.C., and Maryland to build new trails up and down the Anacostia. Mayor Vincent Gray says the river is often seen as a dividing line in the city, but it doesn't have to be that way.

"We want to get to the point where we're like the River Seine," Gray says. "Or the Thames River, which have a unifying impact on their respective cities."

When complete, the Anacostia Riverwalk will give people in Maryland and D.C. access to a network of trails that extends from Maine to Florida.

"We've seen the conservation agenda through the lens first of job creation," says U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar. "We know that outdoor recreation creates over 8 million jobs a year across America. The other is connecting urban communities and young people to the outdoors."

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) says the new trails will also connect people to each other.

"People will get to know their neighbors because of this project," he says.

The multi-million dollar effort -- part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative -- is already underway. When it's complete, it will link 60 miles of trails, including 39 miles in Maryland and 20 in the District.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, Sen. Ben Cardin and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray cut the ribbon on a recently completed chunk of hiker/biker trails.

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