November 20, 2017 /
Jona Elwell

From Junior Park Ranger to Superintendent of Rock Creek Park

A lifelong Washingtonian, Julia Washburn (left) has spent quite a lot of time in Rock Creek Park. In fact, earlier this year she was named Superintendent of Rock Creek Park. What on earth is a superintendent of a park? Essentially it means she is in charge of operations at the park (all 3,000 acres!). Julia and her team of 55 employees help to maintain, promote, and manage Rock Creek Park and all of the squares, circles, and triangles it oversees.

A circle is just where we met up with Julia – at our Sherman and Grant Circles Community Tree Planting! Although the space is owned by the National Park Service (NPS) as a part of Rock Creek Park, Julia stressed the engagement of the community at this planting. Julia said, “The staff worked with the citizens of Sherman Circle, who were actually the ones that originally advocated for replacing many of the trees. It’s thanks to their work that we’re here. Our horticulturist collaborated with them on selecting species and locations of the trees, and we’re lucky to have such an active and involved community.”

So how did Washburn end up overseeing the management of Rock Creek Park? It’s safe to say she’s come full circle. “I grew up across the street from the Park on Broad Branch,” Washburn mentioned. While she started out as a Junior Ranger when she was just seven years old, her career with the NPS truly began in 1989 as a park ranger at Fort Dupont Park in the District of Columbia. She later worked at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, and then found her way back to Rock Creek Park, as chief of resource management, interpretation and education, among other things.

Her one wish for Rock Creek Park? “I wish people didn’t take it for granted. Spend just five minutes walking in the forests of Rock Creek Park and feel the city and your troubles melt away.”

Not only is Julia thankful for the natural space she gets to work in, she mentioned the people that made it happen. “So many people and organizations – from Rock Creek Conservancy to our Weed Warriors and Casey Trees – work tirelessly to combat invasive plants, erosion, and manage stormwater.” She added, “I’d love for people to know that their actions in their own yards and houses matter to the park. We can all be stewards of the forest, and I’m grateful that Casey Trees and its volunteers are already there.”

Thanks for your work and your enthusiasm Julia! We’re also lucky to be a partner of NPS. Do you have a neighborhood spot that could use ten or more trees? What about a sad, empty patch of grass that could use a shade tree? We can help you help the urban forest! Just head to our website for Community Tree Planting applications, information on how to plant trees for a low cost, and details on all our volunteer opportunities. Let’s keep Rock Creek Park (and all of D.C.) beautiful and lush for another 127 years.