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Volunteers give Rock Creek Park early 125th birthday gift

WASHINGTON — Rock Creek Park will celebrate its 125th birthday on Sunday. As an early birthday present, the National Park Service on Saturday launched a new volunteer program to help take better care of the…

WASHINGTON — Rock Creek Park will celebrate its 125th birthday on Sunday. As an early birthday present, the National Park Service on Saturday launched a new volunteer program to help take better care of the park.

“It’s a great opportunity to celebrate the anniversary,” says Tara Morrison, National Park Service superintendent for Rock Creek Park. “And, as I’ve said over and over, it’s not just about celebrating the 125th anniversary but preparing for the next 125 years. So we invite people to be a part of that process.”

Morrison made the remarks Saturday morning at the Piney Branch section of Rock Creek, where she helped kick off the SOLVE (Sustaining Our Lands through Volunteer Energy) stewardship program. It’s kind of like the adopt-a-road program, though in this case it is more like adopting part of a park for a year.

Community groups are committing to helping take care of part of the park for a year and doing what needs to be done whether that’s picking up trash, rehabilitating trails or removing invasive plant species.

The Rock Creek Conservancy — a nonprofit that protects the park’s lands and waters and helps to revitalize Rock Creek Park — is adopting the Piney Branch section of the park for a year. Shaun Gonzales was one of the volunteers out at Piney Branch on Saturday picking up trash and removing invasive plants.

“The 125th anniversary is just a reminder of how long these lands have been here and how long they should be here after I’m long gone. I want to do my part to make sure future generations can enjoy this eco-system right here in the city,” Gonzales says.

An official birthday celebration will be held 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday (birthday cake and selfie time is at 2:30 p.m.) at the Rock Creek Park Nature Center. The activities, all of which are free, include pony rides, rock climbing, REI-led workshops on smart phone photography and knot tying. For a list of times visit go.nps.gov/rockcreek125.

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