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Washington Smart Growth Alliance Identifies Civil War Forts as a Top Conservation Priority

Fort Stevens played a pivotal role in defending Washington, D.C. during a Confederate attack in July of 1864. It is one of nine Civil War installations under the stewardship of Rock Creek Park. The only time a presiding president came under enemy fire during a time of war occurred on July 12, 1864 at the Battle of Fort Stevens in northern Washington, D.C. Photos courtesy of the National Capital Planning Commission.


A circle of forts and earthworks erected during the Civil War to defend the capital has been named a 2008 regional conservation priority by the Washington Smart Growth Alliance (WSGA).

The Fort Circle Parks, located in the upper northeast and in the southeastern portion of D.C., across the Anacostia River, was envisioned (McMillan plan) back in 1902 as part of a regional park system connected by a drive or greenway. A 1964 plan called for a drive connecting the forts.

The connections were not implemented, but the idea has received renewed attention as part of CapitalSpace, a joint parks initiative undertaken by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), the National Park Service and the District of Columbia.

"As part of the CapitalSpace project, the partners aim to link the parks through a system of walkable, bikeable, greened streets and trails that also connect to the surrounding communities and waterfronts, and to local, regional and national trail systems," said Marcel Acosta, NCPC executive director. Acosta said the goal is to increase awareness about the forts' cultural and historic significance and enhance access.

Many fortifications that remain are deteriorated and lack interpretive and educational materials.

The newly formed Alliance to Preserve the Civil War Defenses of Washington is seeking funding to help preserve and maintain the forts, to enhance the visitor experience and improve pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular connections between the forts.

A report released by the Smart Growth Alliance (SGA) projects that by 2030, the capital region population will increase by two million people. "The prospect of this growth raises serious questions about the patterns of land use and development in this region," said Sam Black, SGA president.

SGA aims to promote the overall sustainability of the region by encouraging smart growth alternatives that can be more affordable for citizens in the short term and more sustainable over the long term, unlike typical suburban growth.

"We focus on preserving green space, capital projects that will benefit the natural environment, and restoration of blighted parcels, places or resources," explains Lee Epstein, lands program director at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and chairman of SGA's conservation jury.

For more information on the Fort Circle Parks and the CapitalSpace initiative, visit For more information on the SGA, visit

The National Capital Planning Commission is the federal government's central planning agency for D.C. and the surrounding counties in Maryland and Virginia. The Commission provides overall planning guidance for federal land and buildings in the region. It also reviews the design of federal projects and memorials, oversees long-range planning for future development and monitors capital investment by federal agencies.

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November 13, 2019, 7:14 pm PDT

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