It’s that time of year again when, under normal circumstances, 1.5 million people from around the world visit the Tidal Basin to check out DC’s famous cherry blossoms.
However, due to the COVD-19 pandemic, the National Park Service has restricted the number of pedestrians and vehicles and allowed limited access to the Tidal Basin, East Potomac Park and West Potomac Park until April 12. This one of the most exciting times of the year for me when I incessantly check the National Mall website for the live feeds of the bloom and bud cams and monitor the Cherry Blossom Watch website to keep up with the weather forecast, updated peak times and photos of the progression of the blooms. As an avid fan of the blossoms, I am one of those early-risers who get up early to capture the blooms with my camera. The golden hour right before sunrise and sunset are great opportunities to capture the sun as it peers over the blossoms and the trees seem to come alive.
Since I am such a fan, I wanted to share a few virtual events happening this year to support the blossoms from afar:
Save the Tidal Basin Campaign
Two years ago, while visiting the cherry blossoms, there was an early morning formal kick-off of organizers that launched the campaign to #SavetheTidalBasin. Over the years, I had noticed the water rising above the level of the sidewalk along various parts of the walkways and heard that the Tidal Basin was becoming increasingly endangered with regular flooding twice a day. During that year, I captured a photo of a man sitting on a bench that appeared to be floating on top of the water. As beautiful as the photo was, it was apparent that an even bigger campaign was on the horizon called the Tidal Basin Ideas Lab.
Tidal Basin Ideas Lab
The Ideas Lab presented by American Express and led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Trust for the National Mall, and the National Park Service is intended to raise awareness, educate and engage the public and elevate the conversation regarding the future care of the Tidal Basin. The organizers of the Ideas Lab selected five landscape architecture firms to come up with proposals to address the ecological considerations at a regional scale and embrace the uncertainties of growth and change over time. Check out their amazing proposals here, watch their video and provide your feedback through their survey.
Cherry Tree Campaign
Since 1912, when the Mayor of Tokyo gifted cherry trees to the United States it has become a beloved cultural symbol and annual destination drawing in visitors from around the world to our nation’s capital. Due to the cost to maintain and care for the trees which exceed the federal budget allocation, the Endow a Cherry Tree Campaign was also launched with a goal of $3.5 million by the Trust for the National Mall and the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The trees require year-round tending in order to bloom and damage from the flooding, weather, and foot traffic pose an ongoing threat to the trees.
Both the Save the Tidal Basin and Endow a Cherry Tree campaigns have their obvious challenges with COVID 19 restrictions and adhering to social distancing regulations. However, to raise awareness of them both, organizers became innovative with the The Cherry Blossom Festival and held a virtual opening ceremony on March 20th. In addition, popular events such as the Pink Tie Party, Blossom Kite Festival have been designed for a virtual format, and are joined by favorites such as the Petal Porch Parade, and online gallery groups discussing Japanese art and much more.
As restrictions ease up, I have no doubt both fundraising campaigns will soon be in-person to spread awareness, educate and provide opportunities to help save our beloved cherry trees and Tidal Basin.
That being said, here are our three ways YOU can participate in raising awareness and funding until then:
- Visit the cherry blossoms (outside peak times), share your memories and raise awareness with hashtag #SaveTheTidalBasin. Post on your social media and submit them here.
- Sign the Save the Tidal Basin pledge, participate in their surveys and attend events.
- Donate to the Endow a Cherry Tree Campaign, create a fundraising team or become an ambassador.