A Self-Reliant People
—Greater Deanwood Heritage Trail —
On, May 18,1966, Crowds Gathered
here to witness Lady
Bird Johnson (1912-2007) rededicate eight acres of Watts Branch Park.
"No one more than the residents of this area knows what magic has been
wrought here at Watts Branch," observed the First Lady. Hundreds of
volunteers had cleared tons of garbage, replacing it with flower beds,
trees, and well-manicured grass. But Lady Bird Johnson's Capital
Beautification initiative didn't stop with surface beauty. She raised
America's awareness of the threats from pollution, urban decay, and
lack of recreational opportunities.
Despite the attention to Watts Branch, city officials ignored the blight
of Kenilworth Dump, formerly located across the railroad tracks to your
right. Back in 1942, when they selected the dump's location, officials
simply saw it as remote from downtown. They ignored how close it was
to River Terrace, Deanwood, and surrounding communities. For decades,
smoke from burning garbage polluted the air and land, and toxic
run-off contaminated the landscape, Watts Branch, and the Anacostia.
Still people found ways to benefit from the dump. Some adults tracked
the arrival of department store trucks filled with useable goods and
recycled them, often repairing them for their use or for sale. Longtime
resident Thomas Childs recalled childhood adventures in the dump. "We would take our wagons and ... go shopping" for parts to make go-carts. Despite continuous complaints, Kenilworth Dump was not closed until 1968, after seven-year-old Kelvin Mock died tragically in a pile
of burning trash. Although illegal dumping continued into the 1990s,
the reclaimed grounds now offer public recreation.