Parks and Waterfronts

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More widely known for its formal arrangement of streets and public squares, the L’Enfant Plan was, at its core, a landscape design. L'Enfant's placement of canals, parks, major public buildings, and a port reflected the area’s historic uses and natural features. Over the next century, as development resulted in surface grading and the elimination of waterways, traces of the original landscape gradually disappeared.

The McMillan Plan provided a comprehensive plan for the city’s park system. It called for a necklace of connected parks and green spaces, and laid out ambitious plans for recreation centers to build the physical and moral strength of the city’s inhabitants. But by the 1930s, increasing costs of land acquisition and tightening public finances prevented the full realization of these goals.

Today, parks and open spaces comprise 20 percent of the District’s land area. NCPC has joined forces with the National Park Service and the District of Columbia to launch CapitalSpace, a comprehensive effort to create a high-quality and unified park system in Washington, DC.