Monday, December 12, 2005

Parks in the News

Two places where I bird frequently turned up in the news this morning, one for good reasons and the other for not so good reasons.

In the first, a church in southeast Washington is sponsoring an exhibit of photographs taken by children along the Anacostia River. The photographs were taken during trips run by the afterschool "Children of Mine" program, backed by local groups seeking to restore the Anacostia. The program helped to introduce residents to the natural areas of the district:

The day started with a ride along the river in a pontoon boat with about 12 children, several adults and a river guide from the watershed society, followed by a hike in Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, with opportunities to snap photos along the way.

Jeffery's mother, Cheri Hall, who volunteers with Children of Mine and also attended the trip, said she was amazed to see raccoon and fox prints in the mud and could scarcely believe that she was in the District, where she has lived all 43 years of her life.

"You live right here, and you don't know that all of this is out here," Hall said, standing next to her photo of hundreds of plastic soda bottles floating atop the river.

The other place in the news is the National Arboretum, which was shut down yesterday afternoon for a manhunt after a raid at a nearby motel went badly. The police found their kidnapping suspect at the Days Inn Motel, but he managed to escape. They presumed he headed into the arboretum.

Marked and unmarked police cars patrolled the perimeter of the wooded reserve, sometimes sounding their sirens and moving in groups of four from one corner or parking lot to another. Officers stationed on foot along the arboretum's high fence scanned the woods for signs of movement. Other officers, assisted by dogs, searched the grounds. Helicopters supplied by U.S. Park Police and Maryland State Police continuously circled overhead.

The arboretum, usually open until 5 p.m., was closed about 1 p.m., and all the workers and visitors were evacuated, arboretum Director Thomas Elias said. He said that he was unsure how many people were visiting at the time but that attendance generally is light in the winter. Elias said he expected the facility would be open on a normal schedule today.

I am sure glad I did not go there yesterday. Escaping into the arboretum does seem like a foolish strategy, as there are only about four or five places where one could leave. So someone who went in would have a hard time leaving without being noticed. But then, a lot depends on how quickly and how thoroughly the manhunt was organized.

Update: More details on the escape here.