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RCC responds to slash in Chesapeake Bay Program funding

Statement from Matthew Fleischer, executive director:

Rock Creek Conservancy is disheartened to hear that President Trump’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018 eliminates funding for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup project, a program supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Bay Program, which receives $73 million per year, is a regional partnership that has led the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay since 1983. Program partners include federal, state, and local governments as well as nonprofit organizations—including foundations and trusts that support the work of Rock Creek Conservancy.

Clean water should be a priority to our elected officials. Unfortunately, the President’s budget says otherwise. More than 18 million people living in the Chesapeake Bay watershed could suffer if this recommendation stands. Because the health of Rock Creek impacts the health of the Chesapeake Bay, we ask our constituents to contact legislators and tell them you support restored funding for the Bay Program.


RCC comments on Nature Center Plan

Rock Creek Conservancy has submitted comments to the National Park Service regarding its Nature Center Complex Development Concept Plan. These comments reflect the work done with Rock Creek Park stakeholders, results from the Green Ribbon Panel that was commissioned for the Park's 125th anniversary, our Strategic Plan, and the Park's own documents. 

Highlights include:

  • We strongly support improved Park facilities. Desired results include the removal of the fewest large trees, proper stormwater management, the protection of wildlife and native vegetation, and an enhanced visitor experience through education and access.
  • We support expanding or rebuilding the Nature Center with a restored or enhanced nature trail. We do not want to see the construction of a canopy walk without the consideration of mature trees in the area. We also hope that any upgrades to the facility will include stormwater management. 
  • Our desire is to see the Park explain its operational objectives and limitations in order to assess the priority, costs, and benefits of changes to the Horse Center relative to other resource needs. If the footprint of the Horse Center is expanded and the surrounding natural environment is threatened, we will have concerns
  • Any activities to improve the Maintenance Area must not adversely affect bird habitat. It is our desire that any improvements will not just focus on the facilities themselves, but the enhancement of the habitat, also.
  • We believe Miller Cabin should be rehabilitated in its current location on Beach Drive.
  • Overall, we are unsure if the proposed concepts sufficiently manage vegetation for wildlife in areas around the Nature Center, Maintenance Yard, and Horse Center. We urge the Park to improve vegetation management for wildlife by minimizing the removal of trees, minimizing mowing, maintaining native vines and shrubs, and using native plants when re-landscaping.   

To read the comments in their entirety, click here

RCC Board welcomes new leaders

This year we are welcoming six new members to our Board of Directors. Representing a variety of backgrounds and talents, these individuals will serve a two-year term. They include:

  • Tracy Church: Church develops strategic plans for philanthropy and oversees fundraising for Nursing and Patient Services, Children’s Research Institute, Center for Neuroscience and Behavioral Medicine, Mind Brain Institute, Institute for Anticipatory Medicine and priority projects for Children’s National Medical Center.
  • David DeSantis: DeSantis, a partner at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, has 25 years of experience in sales, public relations, marketing and management. He is a recipient of numerous awards for real estate marketing and sales in the Washington, DC area, and is one of Washington’s top brokers serving diplomatic, high-profile and international clients.
  • Gary Guzy: Guzy is Senior of Counsel at Covington & Burling LLP in Washington, DC, where he is a member of the firm’s environmental, clean energy, public policy, and government affairs practices. Before joining Covington, Gary served as Deputy Director and General Counsel of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
  • David London: London is a senior government relations executive who has provided strategic counsel and direction pertaining to critical public policy, regulatory and crisis-driven issues facing technology and e-commerce companies. He has collaborated with multiple levels of government, including federal, state and local as well as throughout Canada and Latin America.
  • Jason Reid: Reid is currently Vice President of the Stagwell Group, a marketing services focused Private Equity group, where he manages the investment team. Reid previously served institutions as an investment professional with a sector focus on technology, media and telecom and generalist event-driven strategies. He has experience in public equities and private market idea generation, evaluation, and execution through more than a decade of hedge fund, private equity, investment banking and corporate strategy roles.
  • Danielle M. Reyes: Reyes serves as the executive director of the Crimsonbridge Foundation, a Bethesda-based foundation that is the primary grantmaking arm of the social investment and philanthropic platform The Crimsonbridge Group. She is creator and owner of the popular outdoor fitness company Yoga Hikes DC, which specializes in outdoor yoga and hiking for groups.

Rock Creek Conservancy’s Board of Directors is responsible for determining how the Conservancy carries out its mission through long-range and short-range planning and review; adopting an annual budget and providing fiscal oversight; and ensuring the organization has the financial resources it needs, among other things.

“Millions of people will benefit from a clean and protected Rock Creek, and it is now more important than ever to have strong leadership in place as we continue to fulfill our mission,” said Matthew Fleischer, the Conservancy’s Executive Director. “Rock Creek Conservancy is honored to work with these new individuals who will offer a diverse array of skills to an already talented Board of Directors.”

Board officers are Scott Siff, president; Katherine Schinasi, vice president; Sambhav Sankar, treasurer; and Betty Kotcher, secretary. Additional directors include Tracy Bowen, Kathy Byrd, Karen Cooper, Alan Fleischmann, Dennis McClellan, Jane Paul, Allison Bartlett Rumsey, Sam Shelton, and Ted Trabue. Visit for more information.


Piney Branch & Rock Creek Songbirds

The Challenge

The Piney Branch stream is probably the most compromised of all the major tributaries to Rock Creek in the Washington, DC section of the waterway. The Piney Branch watershed covers approximately 2,500 acres, 95 percent of which is impervious surface. The presence of a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) system magnifies the pollution of the tributary. The 67-acre Piney Branch section of Rock Creek is largely wooded, but the tree canopy is aging and regeneration of the forests has been limited by deer browse and invasive plants. 

Chestnut and white oak, beech, and tulip poplar are among the dominant tree species of the stream valley, and persimmon, sassafras and elderberry can be found under the forest canopy. 

Ribbon Cutting:

On October 28, 2017 we celebrated the work we've done with Rock Creek Park and Rock Creek Songbirds with a ribbon cutting. The ribbon cutting was in honor of the installation of the protective fence, the new interpretive signage, and the useful new grill and coal disposal bin! You can see photos from the event below. 

Piney Branch Ribbon Cutting

Where are we now? 

It's been two years since Piney Branch Tributary and Picnic Grove 29 were designated by Rock Creek Park (National Park Service) as Rock Creek Conservancy's Sustaining Our Lands with Volunteer Energy (SOLVE) site, and since then things are looking up for this underserved section of Rock Creek Park. 

Together, Rock Creek Park, Rock creek Songbirds, and Rock Creek Conservancy have cleaned 408 bags of trash from the site, removed 100 bags of invasive species, installed a grill and coal disposal bin at the picnic pavilion, planted 550 trees, moved trash bins closer to te site, and installed a fence to protect the unique wetlands. Rock Creek Songbirds has even installed an educational sign to teach people who use the picnic pavillion about the environment they are visiting. 

Major Milestones:

There is still a lot of work to be done, but we're already starting to see the results of our work! 

1) Installed the first grill at the Picnic Grove 29.
2) Rehabilitated wetlands near the picnic grove. 

3) Built a fence surrounding the wetlands to limit human impact. 

4) Planted trees on both sides of Piney Branch Parkway. 

5) Cleaned up trash around picnic grove and in surrounding forest. 

6) Removed many invasive plants.

7) Moved trash bins closer to the picnic area for convenience and to help limit litter. 

What's Next? 

An old, unusable slab of basketball court asphalt is taking up space that could be better use for habitat restoratio. Removing it will be the next big Piney Branch project. 

Invasive plants still threaten large portions of the tributary. But, with the continued efforts from out volunteers, the native ecosystem is already bouncing back. 

Piney Branch and SOLVE

Piney Branch Graphic
Image: Summary of all Rock Creek Conservancy restoration work in the Piney Branch Tributary.  

Rock Creek Conservancy has a formal agreement with Rock Creek Park designating Piney Branch as a SOLVE site. Launched in September 2015 as part of Rock Creek Park's 125th birthday, SOLVE is a program that enables interested individuals and groups to adopt, care for, and look after a part of the Park. In Piney Branch, volunteer tasks include trash pickup and invasive exotic plant removal. 

Rock Creek Songbirds


Rock Creek Conservancy is proud to be a partner of the Rock Creek Songbirds habitat restoration project. Steve Dryden, a founding RCC board member, created the Songbirds initiative to improve the Piney Branch section of the Park for nature and people. Since 2013, the initiative has planted or protected close to 500 native trees, assisted by RCC volunteers who have cleared invasive plants and cleaned up trash. Tree plantings in this area are intended to thicken the tree canopy and understory to make the habitat more attractive to birds.

The mission of Rock Creek Songbirds is to restore habitat for migratory birds in the Park and engage the nearby Latino community. Using the migratory story, presentations are made in local schools to students whose families often are from the many Latin countries where the birds spend the winter months. Students have helped to plant trees and protect native species near their school grounds. Art projects include the creation of "Welcome Back Songbirds" banners that are hung in the school's foyer when birds return in the spring. So far, more than 350 students and youth have participated in programs about the migratory phenomenon.

More Photos of Piney Branch: 

Piney Branch

MLK Weekend of Service

MLK Weekend of Service with Rock Creek Conservancy

We're gearing up for the 2017 MLK Weekend of Service, and we need you to help us save trees and clean streams in the Rock Creek watershed! Join us for events throughout Washington, DC and Montgomery County, MD on Saturday, Jan. 14 and Monday, Jan. 16. See what we accomplished together in 2016!

Volunteer activities include:

  • Cutting invasive English Ivy from trees to protect Rock Creek's tree canopy
  • Cutting invasive vines such as berry and Oriental bittersweet so natives can thrive
  • Cleaning up trash that has accumulated in and around Rock Creek and its tributaries

Use the map below to find a volunteer event near you, or keep scrolling for a complete list.


Saturday, Jan. 14

CANCELED - Broad Branch: 10 a.m. to noon, trash and invasive removal (kid friendly)

CANCELED - Piney Branch: 10 a.m. to noon, trash cleanup (kid friendly)

Monday, Jan. 16

FULL - Peirce Mill: 10 a.m. to noon, trash cleanup (kid friendly)

Beret Park (Silver Spring, MD): 1 to 3 p.m., trash cleanup (kid friendly)

Meadowbrook Park (Chevy Chase, MD): 10 a.m. to noon, trash cleanup (kid friendly)

Turkey Branch (Aspen Hill, MD): 10 a.m. to noon, trash cleanup (kid friendly)

FULL - Soapstone Valley: 10 a.m. to noon, trash cleanup (kid friendly)

Glover Archbold: 2 to 4 p.m., English Ivy removal (kids are welcome, but they will not be able to use tools)

Soapstone West/Wilson Aquatic Center: 2 to 4 p.m., invasive removal (private event)

Piney Branch: 9 to 11 a.m., invasive removal (private event)

Pinehurst Branch: 9 to 11 a.m., invasive removal (private event)

Tregaron Conservancy: 10 a.m. to noon, invasive removal (private event)

Our partners for these events are the National Park ServiceMontgomery Parks, and Blue Planet Scuba.

Interested in getting a group involved? Email John Maleri at