Archive for the ‘Parks and Green spaces’ category

Community Discusses Future of 11th and Park Rd Dog Park

February 1, 2018

Commissioner Angelica Castañon getting the meeting started. Seated l. to r. John Henderson, Lori Robertson, and Eric Gronning.

Last night supporters of keeping the WMATA property as a permanent dog park met at Raymond Recreation Center to discuss recent news that Metro is considering selling the property and what that may mean for the community. The meeting was organized by newly elected ANC1A06 Commissioner Angelica Castañon. ANC1A Chair and Ward 1 Council candidate Kent Boese and ANC1A Secretary Zach Rybarczyk also attended.

Commissioner Castañon made opening remarks and introduced Councilmember Nadeau as the first speaker. Nadeau stated that she has been working with the residents and 11th and Bark to improve the site over the years, and that she met with the Mayor and has asked for funds to be included in the budget. She stated that she “wants to help, is helping” and has met with Councilmember and Metro Board member Jack Evans, who thinks that purchasing the property is doable. Nadeau was unable to stay for the entire meeting, but noted that John Hillegass from her office was in attendance and could answer any additional questions.

John Henderson of Green Spaces DC was the next to speak, gave an overview of what role Green Spaces DC plays in the community, and emphasized the importance of green spaces in Columbia Heights in particular. Using the boundaries of Spring Rd. (north), New Hampshire and Sherman aves. (east), Harvard (south), and 16th Street (west), Henderson noted the neighborhood only has 2.75 acres of green space, including the civic plaza. He also noted that the DPR master plan calls for 12.9 acres of green space per 1,000 people. This illustrated how important the dog park property is for the growing Columbia Heights community.

Patrick Flynn of Patrick’s Pet Care was the next speaker.  He related his experiences, beginning on 2010 when he moved to the neighborhood. As a former ANC1A Commissioner, he shared his efforts with Councilmember Jim Graham — who originally helped open the property to the community when he was on the WMATA Board — and the red tape and challenges that exist with WMATA’s ownership. He even offered to lease the property from WMATA for $5,000, which ultimately didn’t come to fruition.

Wrapping up the presentations were 11th and Bark Board Members Lori Robertson and Eric Gronning. They also shared their experiences with forming a non-profit and efforts to lease the property from WMATA. They began with DPR to see if the city could gain control and allow them to raise money for maintaining the property as a Park Partner, but this route closed when the Department of General Services balked as there was no precedent for the arrangement under consideration. They next focused on negotiating directly with WMATA, with discussion progressing to the point where drawings of what an official dog park would look like (see below).

(11th and Barks concept of what an improved dog park could look like.)

11th and Bark learned in December that WMATA was no longer interested in leasing the property, as they had an unsolicited offer to purchase the property. This is the event that lead to the current situation and meeting as residents are concerned about what this could mean for the community.

In a communication WMATA sent to Councilmember Nadeau and shared with ANC1A and 11th and Bark members just prior to the meeting, they had the following to say, in part:

When Metro receives an unsolicited offer for a property, it first determines if the offer is reasonable and also if the Authority has a long-term operating need for the property.  If there is no long-term operating need for the property and WMATA desires to sell the property, the next step is for Metro to send a letter of notification to the jurisdiction in which the property is located (in this case, the District of Columbia) to first give the local jurisdiction an opportunity to purchase the property at fair market value.  Federal Transit Administration (FTA) regulations require Metro to receive fair market value for any disposition of properties such as the one at 11th & Park.  If an offer is accepted by Metro, FTA must also concur with the disposition of the property.

During the community discussion following the overview presentation, Lori Robertson shared that they had met with Jack Evans in the past, and indicated that the property could be valued at $1M. Commissioner Boese shared that the property could be as much as $2M based on experts he had consulted — but that this shouldn’t be considered a lot of money when who looks at how much the District invests in other parks and green spaces in the District — especially if the 11th and Bark group is planning to take on the costs of improving and maintaining the site.

Boese also shared his advice on who the budget process works and the importance of testifying before the relevant Council budget oversight hearings. While it would be helpful to have funding identified in the Mayor’s budget, due to the nature of budget oversight hearings it will be important for the community to be involved and advocate for this cause regardless of whether funding is in the budget or not.

Boese and Castañon also plan to draft a resolution supporting the purchase of the property which will be considered at the February 14, 2018, meeting of ANC1A.

The meeting closed with an overview on the ways neighbors can get involved and advocate for the park, as well as commitments to organized and Earth Day clean up of the dog park and a repeat of the Marty Paws event this year.

Meeting on Columbia Heights Dog Park Scheduled for Wednesday

January 29, 2018

Last week, it was learned that the Metro property at 11th and Park Rd, NW — which has been used as an unofficial dog park for years — was one of several properties WMATA would be considering to sell. This has caused great concern among neighbors who regularly use the site. In response to concerns expressed to WMATA and Councilmembers, Metro has postponed their discussion on the 11th and Park site, though still plans to consider it.

Newly elected ANC1A06 Commissioner Angelica Castañon has scheduled a meeting on Wednesday night beginning at 7 pm for the community to discuss the future of the property and potential solutions. The meeting will be at the Raymond Recreation Center.

Flyer with details below.

Artificial Turf or Natural Grass — What is Your Opinion on What’s Best for DC Athletic Fields

January 25, 2018

Last fall, the start of the school year was greeted with the unwelcome news that several of DC’s artificial turf athletic fields were considered unsafe and would need to be closed for repair or replacement. In our area, two fields that came under scrutiny were the fields at Harriet Tubman Elementary School and at the Park View Recreation Center. Fortunately, both of those fields were able to be used after some repairs, but the underlying condition remains.

The conversations that resulted from the field safety issue is ongoing, and many advocates of safe athletic fields would like to see the District discontinue using crumb rubber artificial fields.

Now, the Department  of General Services has created an online survey to allow neighbors to express their opinions on the issue. The online survey will be open until January 31st! (Take Survey here).

According to DGS:

This quick survey is an important way for us to get … feedback from DC residents and users of our playing fields on experiences with fields owned and operated by the District government, including public parks and schools. We’re also interested in your perspective on the type of materials used for field surfaces, and how any major changes to fields are communicated to the community.

Respondents to this survey have the option of submitting contact information for further engagement on this topic, but you also have the option to remain anonymous. Responses to this survey will help inform improvements to District policy on managing and maintaining fields.

DMPED Signs Bruce Monroe Redevelopment Land Disposition Agreement

October 11, 2017

Here is some news from the October New Communities Initiative E-Newsletter that I thought people should be aware of. Last month, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) signed the Bruce Monroe Land Disposition Agreement (LDA).

Additionally, the newsletter stated that the community design process for the new park on the Bruce Monroe site will be co-lead by the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and the Department of General Services (DGS), which will kick off later this year.

(Rendering of approved building and park at the Bruce Monroe property.)

Park Morton Redevelopment Effort Clears Significant Hurdle, Receives Council Approval

December 21, 2016

bruce-monroe-site(Rendering of the Bruce Monroe site from the southeast showing park and building locations as proposed in Zoning Case 16-11.)

Yesterday, the Council of the District of Columbia voted unanimously at their Committee of the Whole meeting (watch meeting) to place the Bruce Monroe surplus and disposition resolutions on the consent agenda for their final Legislative Meeting of 2016, at which they were approved later in the day. Prior to the vote, Councilmembers Nadeau, Grosso, Bonds, and May each spoke about the importance of the project and stated their support.

Particularly noteworthy were the comments from Councilmembers Grosso and May. Councilmember Grosso acknowledged having received many emails and calls both supporting and opposing the plan to use the Bruce Monroe site as part of the Park Morton development, but stated strongly that he would be supporting the effort that would allow the District to fulfill its promise to the Park Morton residents. He also noted on a personal level that he grew up in the neighborhood and in his youth the site resembled a jail in the middle of the community with a fence around it, and not a park. Councilmember May, for her part, stated that while she rarely spoke on issues located outside her ward she would be voting in support. She also stated that she was familiar with the needs of the Park Morton residents and that whether in Ward 8 or any other Ward of the city all residents deserve quality housing and a safe place to live.

The Council’s  approval of both the Bruce Monroe surplus and disposition resolutions supports the effort for the site to be used as the “Build First” site in the District’s effort to replace the Park Morton Housing Complex with a new mixed-income community without displacing Park Morton families from the community. The Zoning Commission is scheduled to take action on the related Park Morton Planned Unit Development cases on January 30, 2017, following two hearings held earlier this month (brief overview of zoning hearings here).

Prior to the Council action, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1A voted in early 2016 to support the surplus and disposition of the Bruce Monroe site for the Park Morton effort with the condition that the District include a large, permanent park as part of the redevelopment effort. The District Government has recognized this condition and 1.02 acres of the site will be redeveloped as a permanent park with programming to be determined with input from the community. A 6,700 sq. ft. central green is also planned for Morton Street as part of the redevelopment project. Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1A will also continue to explore opportunities to improve, create, and expand public access to park spaces in the Columbia Heights, Park View, and Pleasant Plains neighborhoods as it considers future development and engages in the Comprehensive Plan amendment process.

In addition to preserving 147 public housing units and establishing new permanent park spaces, the Park Morton redevelopment effort will increase area housing for seniors and families at all income levels. The project will also have a significant and long-lasting positive impact on lower Georgia Avenue. In addition to increasing area housing options, it will also improve public safety and encourage development along the corridor. By aligning new roads and reknitting the development on Morton Street into the surrounding community, blind alleys and the Morton Street cul-de-sac will be removed – a configuration that is not conducive to public safety. And by removing the uncertainty on whether the redevelopment of Park Morton will move forward, the District will encourage developers who own property on Georgia Avenue to move forward with their respective projects.

New Flowers at Civic Plaza Continue to Be Thorny Issue

September 6, 2016
Columbia Heights Civic Plaza with new plants.

Columbia Heights Civic Plaza with new plants.

Within the last week, the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza has received new plantings for the second time since the spring. However, this effort to beautify the plaza is not welcomed by many. Those taking issue with the new plants aren’t necessarily against the plants, but rather that the efforts in June and now both occurred without any notice to the community and that converting the areas around the fountain from grass to flower beds have negatively impacted the usefulness of the plaza.

The negative impact of the plants on the plaza has been particularly felt by the weekly farmers market, which uses the entire plaza. More on a daily level, when the areas were grass people would sit on the area while watching children play in the fountain.

What is particularly disappointing is that members of the farmers market, community, ANC1A, and Department of Parks and Recreation all sat down to discuss how the plaza is managed and functions since the areas have become plant beds on August 10th. While there was an understanding that changing anything during the current season wouldn’t make sense, there seemed to also be an understanding that the plantings would need to be revisited as they have changed how the plaza functions. Despite this meeting, more plants have been added to the beds further impacting the usefulness of the area.

It seems that either DPR of the Department of General Services, or perhaps some other agency, didn’t get the message that their efforts to beautify the plaza are not all that welcomed, and have caused tensions and angry words between those using the plaza and those attempting to protect plants that were never intended to be part of the tightly designed space.

In short, someone in our government messed up, and is continuing to spend money and labor to entrench the error.
IMG_1409(Section of the former lawn terrace recently planted with new flowers.)

Wangari Gardens Spring Kickoff Well Attended

April 5, 2016

IMG_0343Wangari Gardens held their 2016 Spring Kickoff event on Sunday April 3rd and it was a success by any measure. The garden contains 108 individual garden plots. One thing I learned on my visit was that in addition dedicated garden plots (which are inside the fence) there is also a community garden area, a community orchard, and vines have been planted along the fence which produce berries. These community areas are available to anyone who visits the gardens — meaning that if you go to the gardens and there is fruit on the tree, you are welcome to pick it. The eastern end of the garden also includes an apiary which I really like. (Learn more about Wangari Gardens here).

The open house included food, kite flying, and a tour of the garden for new gardeners and anyone who wanted to learn more about how it is organized in general. It was a beautiful day to learn more about one of our area community gardens and chat with neighbors and friends.

Wangari gardens

(From left to right, Ms. Juanita, Commissioner Boese, Wangari Gardens outreach coordinator Lan Nguyen.)

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