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A view of cherry blossoms around the tidal basin and Jefferson Memorial. | Courtesy of National Park Service.

Peak Cherry Blossom Bloom Dates Announced

The National Park Service has set the date for the expected peak blooming of D.C.’s famed cherry blossoms: March 31 to April 3.

Peak-bloom dates are defined as when at least 70 percent of the Yoshino cherry blossoms are forecast to bloom. It’s only an estimate though, as Yoshino cherry trees are temperamental and respond to weather and atmospheric changes.

Warm, calm weather can lengthen the time of blooms, while heavy rain or wind can bring an abrupt halt to the flowers. The park service has been predicting the Cherry blossom peak for about 20 years, but does not know exactly when it started forecasting, nor has it kept records of how accurate those forecasts have been.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival will be held this year from March 20 to April 17, kicking off with the Pink Tie Party on March 18. Other events include the official opening ceremony, the Blossom Kite Festival and the ever-popular National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade.

D.C.’s New Streetcar Unveiled

D.C.’s new (rather, seven years in the making) streetcar, the H/Benning line, carried its first passengers Saturday, Feb. 27. But the long awaited opening was met with doubt and concern about the new transit system by many Washingtonians.

According to the Washington Post, the streetcar took 26 minutes to travel the 2.4-mile line — but walking the same route only takes 27 minutes.

National Zoo Kid’s Farm Temporarily Closed Due to E. Coli

The National Zoo’s Kid’s Farm was forced to temporarily shut after some of the petting zoo animals were found to be infected with E. coli bacteria. National Zoo officials say the exhibit will be closed for at least three weeks until veterinarians monitoring the quarantined animals give the all-clear to reopen.

The culprits were four goats and a cow, all of which tested positive for the bacteria during a routine screening on Feb. 18.

NEAR Act Passed

The D.C. Council is trying a new approach to crime, shifting efforts to prevention with legislation passed March 1 called the NEAR Act.

The Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Amendment Act of 2016 creates new offices that target the root cause of crime and sets long-term goals.

A new Office of Violence Prevention and Health Equity is designed to help the city develop a public health strategy to combat the spread of violence throughout the District by looking at risk-assessment tools, therapy and service coordination.

Another new body, the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, will identify higher-risk individuals, particularly teenagers and young adults, for a program involving life planning, therapy and mentorship.

The Community Crime Prevention Team Program focuses on connecting the homeless and those suffering from mental health issues with support services.

Finally, the NEAR Act requires the Metropolitan Police Department to provide yearly training on the prevention of profiling, improving community policing and the use of force. The goal of these programs is to improve MPD relations with the community.

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