The National Park Service now runs the Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, located along the banks of the Anacostia River. The park was built by the Shaw and Fowler families, who knew the value of preserving wetlands long before the government caught onto it. In it, they preserved waterlilies and lotus flowers, and kept pristine the original tidal marsh — now the only remaining tidal marsh in Washington, DC.
The park is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna once native to the area, but since destroyed by deforestation and development. It houses hundreds of species of birds, animals, flowers and plants.
In the 1900s, the wetlands in the area had been destroyed, because they were thought to be worthless, and by the 1990s, the Anacostia River had silted in, making it quite clear that the wetlands at least played a role in preventing that. So the local government worked with various agencies to dredge the river and rebuild the wetlands, some of which abut the Kenilworth Gardens.
Walter Shaw, a Civil War veteran, purchased the original plot of land in the 1880s, started planting waterlilies, then added more species over the years. In 1912, he opened it to the public. In 1921, when he died, his daughter, Helen Shaw Fowler, took over the park. By this time, the Anacostia River had begun to silt in, so the Army Corps of Engineers was called in to dredge it, and this endangered the park. Mrs. Fowler fought to keep it open, until Congress approved the purchase of the gardens for $15,000 in 1938 in order to preserve it.
Over time, more adjacent lands were added to the park. Now its total area is over 700 acres. One such stage took place in 1992-1993, when 32 acres of mudflats were restored to tidal marshes and added to the park’s domain.