By Hamil R. Harris, Special to the AFRO

At one time few people dared to take a boat or kayak ride down the Anacostia because her brown waters contained plastic bottles, old tires and plenty of trash in addition to the smell of raw sewage.

On May 27 a youth group from the University Park Church of Christ took a boat ride on the areas almost forgotten waterway, yet it was clean without a foul odor thanks to years of volunteer efforts and the implementation of a $2.6 billion Sewer System that has replaced an old system that mixed sewage with rain water every time it flooded.

A member of the University Park Church of Christ youth group captured this photo during their tour down the Anacostia River on May 27, which left from the port of Bladensburg. (Photo taken by Alana Harris)

Experts say that the river has come a long way in the last decade, so much so until 2018 was named the ‘Year of the Anacostia’ and conference was held at U.S. Capitol visitors center on Wednesday.

“I thank the Anacostia Waterfront Trust and the forum’s other sponsors for championing one of the District’s prized assets, the Anacostia River,” said D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton in a statement.  “If we continue our efforts, the District will see what it means to be located on a beautiful, clean river to enjoy for recreation and to witness our native fish and wildlife thrive.  I also look forward to continuing to work with the National Park Service and others on our work to transform Anacostia River Park into a one-of-a-kind urban park that will greatly benefit our residents and visitors to the District.”

On Wednesday Norton presented a congressional resolution designating 2018 as the “Year of the Anacostia” that recognized the area’s efforts and partnerships to restore the Anacostia River watershed.  Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD) is a cosponsor of the resolution.

Norton has secured federal funding for ongoing work to clean up the Anacostia River for years, including  $14 million in fiscal year 2018.  One of Norton’s major economic projects, the Capitol Riverfront, created new development and economic activity along the Anacostia River while fueling new efforts to clean up the river.

Norton was the lead sponsor of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 that directed the Secretary of the Interior, in partnership with the Mayor of the District of Columbia, the Governor of Maryland and the county executives of Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, to develop a 10-year action plan to restore and protect the ecological integrity of the Anacostia River and its tributaries.