Once upon a time, a group of nature lovers started some chatter around their love for Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. It was a deeply rooted love (pun intended) because they knew that this neighborhood national park was simply a gem tucked and hidden away for just a few to happen upon. But they wanted more. They wanted the nation’s only national park devoted to aquatic plant life to be the star that they saw it as, so they vowed to partner with the National Park Service to celebrate and preserve Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens through public engagement, programming and project support.
That was 20 years ago when Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens was just a glimmer in the eyes of these community members and park lovers. The result after becoming an official nonprofit partner to the park in 2007 alongside National Capital Parks-East: park cleanups, new signage, lotus and lily blooms, concerts in the park, and annual lotus water lily festivals.
We each experienced trauma and challenge this year – personally, professionally, and collectively as a nation – but our work continued in 2021. Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens was able to activate the park as a neighborhood resource, ensuring those who live nearby know of and enjoy the beauty, solace, and recreational opportunities the park provides – even during a pandemic. We made sure our park neighbors and visitors could rely on us as a place of respite, recreation and rejuvenation.
Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens fully committed to engaging its diversity, equity and inclusion muscle in 2021, in addition to building deep connections with and among park neighbors through conversations, improving our trails, designing signage, and enhancing our culturally enriching events, like the annual Lotus & Water Lily Festival, volunteer service, and youth camps. Further, Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens added a community engagement manager – a park neighbor – who is listening to residents to learn how we should be showing up for our community in an authentic and meaningful way.
National Capital Parks-East and Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are excited to make new friends and ensure park neighbors reclaim Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens as their neighborhood national park.
Learn more about our partnership and what we accomplished with your help this year in our 2021 annual report, Responding to Our Neighbors’ Needs.
Executive Director, Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens