HIV/AIDS swiftly took the lives of many DC Front Runners in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1988, the club laid an AIDS quilt panel on the National Mall in honor of its lost members. Several DC Front Runners came together that year and agreed to start planning a memorial grove of flowering trees to commemorate lost members of the club. In collaboration with the National Park Service, they chose a location along the Saturday morning running/walking route. Starting from the Taras Shevchenko statue, the DCFR Memorial Grove is located just over the second footbridge, on the right, just before the three-mile turn around, near the Calvert/Connecticut Avenue entrance to Rock Creek Parkway by the Taft Bridge.
The National Park Service had a few requirements: the trees had to be native to the area; the Park Service would choose and plant the trees, and the Club had to come up with a substantial monetary contribution and assist with watering the trees. The Club asked for and received donations from members and the families of members and the Grove was underway.
The DC Front Runners Memorial Grove was planted in 1988. The Club started with five trees in memory of the five members who had died before planting started. Although individual trees were not identified with individual members, the plan was to continue to plant trees with attractive flowers or fall foliage and thereby maintain the Grove.
By 1995, a full complement of trees and shrubs were established and thriving. Several more club members had died, some of causes other than AIDS, and DC Front Runners expanded the original concept of the Grove to memorialize all members who had died. At this time, fewer members were dying, the trees and shrubs were well rooted and healthy, and the grove was, if not neglected, at least allowed to continue on its own over the years.
On the Grove’s 20th Anniversary in 2008, the DC Front Runners made a renewed commitment to the Grove by restoring and replanting this tribute to our lost members. In collaboration with the National Park Service and Casey Trees, DC Front Runners planted ten new trees in the Grove and took care for them during the next two years until they were strong enough to grow on their own. The Club will make this commitment again in November 2018 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Memorial Grove.
Casey Trees, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to restoring the diminishing tree canopy of Washington, DC, donated ten trees as part of our Grove restoration project, together with enough mulch for planting. They also worked with the National Park Service to get the necessary permits, plan the schedule for delivering the trees, create a staging area, and take care of other logistical details. DCFR provided the labor to plant the trees and took care of them, watering and minimal weed-pulling, for the first two years after planting to assure that the trees develop a strong root system and can survive our dry summers without further assistance.
Many thanks to Casey Trees, the National Park Service, the District of Columbia Aquatics Club, and the DC Front Runners members, and alumni, who have generously donated their time, expertise, labor, supplies and/or financial contributions to restore our Memorial Grove.