Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Urban Oasis

You might know that Teddy Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, was a huge nature buff, but did you know there is an island in the Potomac named after him? Roughly positioned between the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington, VA, and such well known DC landmarks as the Kennedy Center and Georgetown, Theodore Roosevelt Island is a wild yet tranquil memorial to one of this country's greatest leaders. And since it's within walking distance of chez moi, I finally decided to check it out for myself. My objective for going there was twofold: to explore an offshore nature preserve, and to avoid the cherry blossom crowds that were sure to be clogging up the mainland. I'm happy to report success.

As an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed hunting, was considered a great naturalist, and led scientific expeditions to Africa and South America, I'd like to think Roosevelt would have been pleased to see his island memorial. Other than an enormous stone pavilion featuring a larger-than-life statue of the man himself, most of the island has been largely left to its own devices. An elevated boardwalk lets you explore the swamp and marsh without trampling all over it, while rock and sand outcroppings offer lots of opportunities for getting close to the water's edge. Highlights of the visit included spotting a slithering snake and watching ducks play in the mud. Downing a sandwich and some crackers on a park bench was pretty fun too.

In addition to being the 26th president, an avid outdoorsman, a hunter, and a naturalist, Teddy Roosevelt was also a conservationist. Lucky for us, he managed to grant federal protection for approximately 230 million acres of land. That's equivalent to the size of all of the East coast states from Maine to Florida. Today, as we try to pass legislation and change habits that would protect the environment, we should look to Roosevelt for inspiration. A century ago, he recognized the need to enjoy nature while at the same time acting as its steward. A man who was ahead of his time? Possibly. A president who deserves an island preserve in the Potomac? Most definitely.


Zhu said...

Looks like a place I would enjoy! Never heard of it before though... will keep it in mind next time we travel to the US.

Tanya said...

@Zhu, you're not alone...I lived here for over a year before I heard about Theodore Roosevelt Island, and it's in walking distance of my house! Definitely not one of the better known DC attractions, but absolutely worth a visit.

annecychic said...

Tanya, this is one of my favorite places in the city. I love it on foot, I've taken my students there on field trips, and I often paddle around it when I'm kayaking. Without a doubt, Roosevelt Island is one of the most special places in DC.