DPR Written Testimony of Dr. Jessica Sanders

Testimony of Dr. Jessica Sanders
Director of Science and Policy
Casey Trees
April 5, 2019
Budget Oversight Hearing D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation
Before the D.C. Council Committee on Recreation and Youth Affairs

Good afternoon Councilman White and Committee members. My name is Dr. Jessica Sanders and I am the Director of Science and Policy at Casey Trees. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Every spring, millions of people come to Washington D.C. to see the cherry blossoms. From Oxon Run to Upshur Park, when the cherry blossoms bloom, we know spring is in the air and it is times like these that we are truly reminded why Washington D.C. is the “City of Trees”. We applaud the Department of Parks and Recreation for the work they have done to maintain not only the cherry trees, but all District park trees in all eight Wards.

Over the past decade, the Department of Parks and Recreation has made great strides in financing their recreation centers and parks and using these projects as platforms for educating communities on the value of their local environment. Their work in protecting our environment and promoting environmental literacy for all ages has led and will continue to lead to us becoming a city of environmental stewards. We are pleased to see an increase in funding for the Environment and the Great Outdoors programs. These programs provide residents of all ages with outdoor recreation and environmental education experiences as a means of cultivating a genuine connection to the local environment. With our city growing at a rapid pace, it is not only important to protect our environment, but make sure residents understand why it is important to protect it. Additionally, these programs give participants an opportunity to go and engage with nature. For some residents, street trees are the most access they have to their environment on a given day. Outdoor recreation and environmental education programs encourage residents to go outdoors and not only learn about their local environment but experience it.

We at Casey Trees are lucky to be able to support this effort. In 2018, Casey Trees formed a partnership with DPR. As part of this agreement, Casey Trees hosts summer camps for kids ages 6-12 at DPR recreation centers. This, along with other school programs, provide a way to connect school age kids to their natural environment through trees. In addition to youth programming, Casey Trees is responsible for holding 12 community engagement classes per year and 3 tree planting events on DPR sites. We are currently on track to plant 615 trees during this Fiscal Year; 115 trees more than required by the MOA. We are proud to be partners with DPR and hope that this Committee will approve the Mayor’s proposed funding so they can continue with their good work.

We also are happy to see an increase in funding for small parks. Not every resident has easy access to large green spaces like Langdon or Garfield Park and it is DPR’s mission to make sure District residents have universal access to parks and recreation services. This is why these small parks are so important. These pockets of green space provide natural havens in otherwise commercial areas. D.C. residents deeply value the time they are able to spend in their city’s outdoor spaces and we appreciate the Mayor showing her support for this by proposing an increase in small parks funding.

It is wise to invest in our parks. From softball to lunches in the park, access to clean and vibrant open spaces has always been a defining feature of our city and as a Ward 5 resident, I personally have benefitted from my local parks and have seen firsthand how the modernized recreation centers, community programs and engagement opportunities bring groups together. We urge this Committee to support the Department of Parks and Recreation and hope they will approve Mayor Bowser’s proposed budget.

Thank you for your time and I welcome any questions.