Spring Spruce Up for Turtle Park

Volunteers Needed – Along with Birdhouses

Photo: Andrew Lightman

Turtle Park – the triangle of scrubby green and paltry bushes that is home to the adorable family of concrete turtles – at South Carolina and Independence avenues SE is facing a flourishing future. For too many years the tiny refuge in Eastern Market has been neglected. Once upon a time it got constant care and attention. But as age started getting the better of the loyal band of caregivers, it began a slow drift into its current rundown look. 

But TLC is about to be showered on Turtle Park thanks to the Capitol Hill Garden Club. It’s the force behind a Spring Clean Up on Saturday, April 9. Volunteers are needed for the four-hour effort, which will begin pruning, digging, planting, and sweeping at 9:00 a.m. You don’t have to pitch in for the whole time. An hour, half-an-hour, of your time will be more than welcome. Volunteers should, if possible, come equipped with any  gardening gear they have, like gloves, spades, forks, pruning shears.

For a dozen years or more the work force that kept Turtle Park looking good and welcoming was led and motivated by long-time Hill resident Muriel Martin-Wein. It was she who came up with the idea of “decorating” the park with birdhouses. At one time there were over 20 scattered among the trees. Of all sizes, designs, and hues they attracted a splendid array of birds and the delighted attention of children. But like the park itself, the birdhouses have decayed or fallen apart. Now Martin-Wein wants to revive the display and is asking neighborhood residents to help out. Anyone who would like to make or buy a birdhouse for the park should drop off their contribution, with a note saying who it’s from, on the porch of her home at 601 Independence Ave. SE. “The birdhouses serve such a wonderful purpose,” she explained. “They look so colorful and attractive, dotted around the trees. The children have such fun racing around checking them all out and seeing how much the birds love them.”

As for the Garden Club’s involvement, Martin-Wein is over-the-moon. “I am thrilled the park is going to get the attention it deserves. It’s quite a while since any work was done on it and it’s in terrible shape.”

An early start on the park’s recovery occurred recently when membes of the Capitol Hill Business Improvement District (BID) descended one day and did an initial cleanup. Again it was Martin-Wein who was responsible. Dismayed at all the leaves and rubbish that had accumulated, she contacted the BID and asked for help. The Boyz in Blue, as they’re best known, responded willingly. “I’m so grateful for the great job they did,” she said. “And I hope the community will turn out to help the Garden Club and donate birdhouses so our lovely Turtle Park can be, once more, a delight to spend time in.”

For more information about the cleanup call Garden Club member Vera at 202-546-2534. Or go to the website: capitolhillgardenclub.org.

Wondering where to find a birdhouse? The Hill Center, at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, has a permanent display of handcrafted designs. Made from reclaimed wood by Virginia artist Gordon Ritchie, they’re all for sale. Prices for the unique and often funky designs range from $75 to $95.