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Kissena Corridor Park

Rachel Carson Playground

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This playground, like the school across the street, honors the environmentalist author Rachel Carson (1907-1964). Born on May 27, 1907, in Springdale, Pennsylvania, Rachel Louise Carson took an early interest in nature and biology. In 1929, she graduated magna cum laude with an English degree from Pennsylvania College, now Chatham College, and went on to earn her Master’s degree in zoology from John Hopkins University in 1932. Carson began working for the United State Bureau of Fisheries as a radio show writer. She passed the Civil Service exam in 1936, the first woman ever to do so, and became a junior biologist. Carson wrote articles for the Baltimore Sun and the Atlantic Monthly, taught for the University of Maryland near her home in Silver Spring, and continued her own studies during the summers at the Marine Biological Laboratories in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Carson published her first book, Under the Sea-Wind, in 1941. In 1946, she became an information specialist with the Fish and Wildlife Service, where she was promoted to chief editor of publications in 1949. Carson’s second book, The Sea Around Us, received the National Book Award and the John Burroughs Medal in 1951. It also remained on the best-seller list for 86 weeks, selling over 200,000 copies in the first year. After the success of her book, Carson resigned from government service to commit herself to writing.

In 1957 Carson purchased a house on the Sheepscot River near West Southport along the coast of Maine and studied marine life for her third book, The Edge of the Sea. Around this time people began to notice the detrimental effects of an insect killing pesticide known as DDT. Carson examined the results of DDT on wildlife and questioned the use of the insecticide. Her results, despite opposition from chemical companies, were published in Silent Spring in 1962. The title of her fourth book came from observing that during the usually vibrant springtime, “only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh” that were exposed to DDT.

Segments of Silent Spring were published as a three-part series for The New Yorker magazine in June of 1962 and later that year Houghton Mifflin published the complete volume. The response was tremendous. President John F. Kennedy (1917-1962) called for further investigation into DDT and many states banned the pesticide outright. In 1963 Carson testified before Congress about the dangers of DDT and other pesticides. Rachel Carson died of breast cancer on April 14, 1964, in her home in Silver Spring, Maryland. The federal government banned DDT with the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972.

Rachel Carson Playground is located between Juniper and Geranium Avenues on Colden Street. The playground was acquired as part of the larger Kissena Corridor Park in 1946 and was formerly named “Playground for All Children,” following a $351,000 project in 1978 that made it accessible to children regardless of physical ability.

In 1999, Council Member Julia Harrison provided the funding for a $421,395 renovation. The playground includes the Rachel Carson Ballfields, four handball courts, a basketball court, and a baseball diamond with chain link backstop, dugouts, and drinking fountains. In addition, the playground includes play equipment with safety surfacing, benches, a picnic area with tables, and a trellis. Rachel Carson Playground also features a flagpole with a yardarm, around which there are cement blocks with depictions of sea creatures, and the titles of Carson’s three books before Silent Spring to commemorate her life’s passion. The adjacent Silent Springs Playground is a tribute to her most influential work and now holds swings for tots and kids, benches, a game table, play equipment with safety surfacing, a spray shower, and a basketball court.

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