Greenbelt Park is a retreat from the pressures of city life and a refuge for native plants and animals just twelve miles from Washington, D.C.
Long before colonial settlers appeared here, trees and flowers covered these rolling hills and wildlife roamed the woodlands. Algonquin Indians hunted this land in competition with other smaller tribes.
A balance existed between the land and its plants, animals, and native people. Then the colonists arrived. Trees fell and forests gave way to farmland. Wildlife retreated to the frontier. For the next 150 years, people cleared the land, plowed the fields, and planted tobacco, corn, and other crops.
The rich fertile soil returned high yields. The people did not give back to the land as much as they took. The land wore out, producing less each season and farming ceased. The land was left bare and defenseless. Erosion caused many scars before nature could slow the process with new growth.
The land was abandoned by corn and tobacco farmers and was destined to become a housing project. A variety of occurrences left the project defunct; thus, the land became part of the National Agricultural Research Center.
Since the early 1900s, the land has been recovering. Today, the mixed pine and decidious forest testifies to the land’s ability to recover. The land of Greenbelt Park was acquired by the National Park Service in 1950.
There are variety of recreations available at Greenbelt Park, including picnicking, camping, backpacking, biking, bird watching, hiking, horseback riding, interpretive programs, nature walks, and wildlife viewing.
See map of the park.
We would like to thank Brent Steury, Biologist, National Capital Parks-East, at Greenbelt Park, for information for this page.
(This page was updated in November 2012.)