The long awaited reopening of the park at 11th and Monroe Streets, NW, finally happened on Friday, February 17, 2012, at 2:00 p.m. An official ribbon cutting is tentatively scheduled for March 3rd. Additional details on that are still coming. The groundbreaking for the park’s renovation occurred on August 15, putting the duration of the work at six months from start to finish.
Planning for the current iteration of the park, commonly referred to as Trolley Turnaround Park (though the original trolley design is actually a trolley loop) was in the works well before it was presented to ANC 1A in April 2010. The surrounding community has been particularly vigilant in seeing this project through. Much of this attention has to do with how long the project has taken to complete and the past renovations, upkeep, and oversight of the property.
An indication of just how important this park is to the community occurred on January 28, 2012, when the park appeared to be complete but a contractor neglected to lock the gates. The park was full of parents and their children. Upon notification, DPR immediately locked the park gates. Indeed, the work was complete, but the site had not yet been inspected by DPR’s safety officer to ensure that play equipment and areas were installed properly and safely. That early taste of the new park lead to frustrated emails on the Columbia Heights listserv over the following weeks.
Some on the community concern over the park’s renovations has more to do with the park’s history than with the current project. Efforts to improve the property can be found as far back as 1990, when the neighbors organized to clean the property and the ANC considered names for the park. As the property deteriorated, the park was again reclaimed around 1998 with play equipment and a maintenance agreement signed by DPR. Again, the property deteriorated and complaints of broken glass, dog and human feces, and broken bottles increased until the park was again renovated in 2002 after neighbors enlisted Councilmember Graham’s support.
And now, ten years later, the park has again been renovated to improve its ability to serve the community, update the play area, and address concerns with its access. While time will tell if this is a more permanent solution than past efforts, it is clear that this renovation is far more interesting than what has gone before. The design incorporates many references to the park’s original use by streetcars and uses those elements to provide an education component.
Some of the historical details included in the design are different colored bricks showing where the original streetcar rails were located, the inclusion of medallions on the surrounding fence inspired by Capitol Transit Company tokens, and a historical photograph of the Silver Sightseer located at the Monroe Street entrance. In addition to this, there is an outright educational panel located just inside the 11th Street entrance. A copy of that panel is below.