Posted tagged ‘DPR’

New Soofa Bench Placed at Columbia Heights Civic Plaza

October 18, 2016

Soofa Bench(Soofa Bench on the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza)

If you have been on the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza in the last week, you may have noticed that DPR has placed a new Soofa bench in the center of the space. While the bench is kind of cool, the placement of the bench and the overall lack of a community process leading to its installation leave a lot to be desired. The bench is right in the middle of the plaza, where it will disrupt pedestrian movement through the plaza, particularly during the farmers market days and other public events.

But in looking at the bench itself, it is a good idea that I hope we’ll start to see in locations better suited to its design and service. The Soofa Bench is a solar-powered bench that charges phones and monitors its environment. I could see these benches being really useful in spaces like the 11th and Park Road dog park and at many of our parks and playgrounds.

Spring Storms Damage Columbia Heights Fountain, Repairs Will Be Expensive

June 13, 2016

Splashing in spray parks and fountains was probably the last thing on anyone’s mind when a record breaking 15 straight days of rain began on April 27th. Now, its lasting effects are still impacting residents living in Columbia Heights. The spring rains damaged the fountain at the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza and estimates to repair it have come in as high as $70,000.

(The fountain in operation on Friday, June 10th.)

The record breaking rain that Washingtonians experienced in May also caused havoc with the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza’s fountain when one of the storms flooded the system’s control box. While the city has been able to get the system back up and running, it is not opperating property and the low water pressure is causing some nozzles to shoot water and others to barely have a trickle. Currently, the Department of Parks and Recreation is working with the Department of General Services to procure another control box, however early estimates have been in the neighborhood of $70,000.

While getting the fountain back up to expected operating conditions will be challenging, other improvements to the plaza were completed last week that many should appreciate. The grassy areas to the east of the fountain — which mostly contained dead grass — were replaced with flowers and  shrubs. Ph samples were taken of the soil to ensure that plants were planted correctly.

Below are a few photos of the plants being installed and one after completion.

Plaza plantings

Plaza plantings 2

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Where do you take your dog to walk, run, socialized with other dogs, and just have a good time being a dog?

October 13, 2015
The area at Bruce Monroe Park closed to dogs recently.

The area at Bruce Monroe Park closed to dogs recently.

Last week, dogs were barred from the fenced in area of Bruce Monroe Park near the community garden and the gates were locked.  According to the Department of Parks and Recreation, the area was chained off because it was not a legitimate dog park and is, instead, officially designated as a stormwater management area for the community garden. Borderstan has a good overview of the story and members of the community who want access restored have started a Facebook page called “Save The Bruce Monroe Community Park Dog Run.”

ANC 1A10 Commissioner Rashida Brown is working to schedule a community meeting to sort this out, and I certainly support her efforts. While the short term outcome may indeed be to restore access to the fenced in area, that won’t solve the problem in the long-term.

This all leads me to ask, whether at Bruce Monroe Park or elsewhere — Where do you take your dog to walk, run, socialized with other dogs, and just have a good time being a dog? I’ve seen dogs playing at Wangari Gardens, at the triangle park at Rock Creek Church Road and Park Place, and at the unofficial dog park at 11th Street and Park Road. However, with no official dog parks in the northeastern corner of Ward 1, what spaces have you found that provide a safe environment for your dog to exercise and play with other dogs?

 

DPR’s Former Headquarters Could Be a Vibrant Hub of Community Activity

April 24, 2014

In reviewing DPR’s recently released Play DC Vision Framework Document, I began to reflect upon the former DPR Headquarters property located at 3149 Sixteenth Street, NW, and the adjoining park to the north. The DPR Website refers to the playground as the 16th Street Playground, although historically it was known as either the Powell Recreation Center or the Johnson-Powell Playground after the two schools that were once located on the neighboring properties. Both schools are now long gone and been replaced by the Columbia Heights Education Campus to the south.

But, back to the parkland and building. DPR moved from the 16th Street property t0 their present U Street location in 2012 leaving the building empty. The neighboring park was last renovated in 2011 and seems well used and popular when I walk past it. However, both properties appear to fall far short of their potential and a review of the Vision Framework doesn’t seem to give them any particular importance (although that could change between now and the final master plan).

16th Street DPR headquarters(Map showing location of former DPR headquarters)

The landmark building, listed on the National Register in 1986, is large and could accommodate any number of functions — from office space on the upper floors for non-profits, to gallery space for rotating art, photography, and history exhibits, to being one of the few publicly accessible meeting spaces in Ward 1.

The parkland is relatively large, and while the playground and tennis courts are popular, the baseball diamond and large grassy area in the back are lesser used. They were completely empty last time I visited, but I’m betting the Columbia Heights Education Campus makes good use of them. I’ve begun to wonder if outdoor lighting and an upgrade would make the baseball diamond a more attractive amenity for both the nearby Bell Multicultural High School and the greater community. I also wonder if there is enough room for some additional uses if the playground and building site were better integrated. Perhaps there would be room for a community garden or some other recreational amenity that is otherwise lacking in the surrounding community.

The Chateauesque Embassy Building No. 10, former headquarters of DPR.

The Chateauesque Embassy Building No. 10, former headquarters of DPR.

While identifying programming and building community consensus may seem like the most obvious hurdles to improving the property, they aren’t the only ones. The properties are among the many in the District of Columbia that are still technically owned by the Federal Government, but whose jurisdiction & maintenance has been transferred to the District of Columbia. A significant aspect of this duel scenario is that the Federal Government transferred day-to-day operations of the properties to D.C. with a restriction that the properties must be used for or support recreation purposes.

This poses less of a problem for the outdoor spaces, but it does restrict what the building can be used for. This, no doubt, has played a role in the building’s current vacant status. The building is also in need of significant repair and upgrades — and I would imagine that restoring a building it doesn’t own or currently use is low on the District’s list of priorities.

Yet, I think that if the community were able to come up with a good plan and vision for both the building and the parkland, funding of that vision could be found — and perhaps some of that funding could come from the Federal Government. A good example of this is a short distance to the south, where after successful outreach Meridian Hill Park is in the midst of improvements from the National Park Service.

Powell Playground(View of the playground area from the parking lot (south) at the former DPR headquarters)

Parks & Recreation Master Plan Process Progressing Well

April 22, 2014

Play DC Project Phasing
Hopefully, people have been following the Play DC initiative. Play DC is the District of Columbia’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan Initiative (Web site here).  The initiative completed the Vision Framework Document in March, leaving both the Implementation Strategy and Master Plan outstanding (see process map above).

According to the Play DC Web site, the strategic plan’s goal is to:

  1. Establish a clear understanding of the current conditions of all District parks, recreation centers, and outdoor facilities;
  2. Assess the current programs available at all parks and recreation centers;
  3. Identify challenges and service gaps;
  4. Develop and propose solutions that are:
    1. Phased for implementation over the next 10 years
    2. Based on sound and detailed analysis that is inclusive and responsive to District residents
    3. Grounded in community input and industry best practices that improve public services and reduce costs
    4. Improving the District’s ability to protect and preserve historic resources
    5. Progressing citywide goals identified in Mayor Gray’s ONE CITY Action Plan, including economic strength and diversification, education and workforce preparation, sustainability and quality of life.

The Play DC Vision Framework does a good job of outlining the District’s goals for the future of its parks, and for capturing how our parks currently stack up against those goals. For example, a few of the identified targets of our parks system are:

  • That every resident will be able to access a meaningful greenspace within a 1/2 mile (10 minute walk) of home;
  • Every neighborhood cluster will have access to at least 4 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents;
  • Every resident will be able to access a DPR Neighborhood Center within 1 mile of home;
  • Every resident will have access to an indoor pool within 2 miles, an outdoor pool within 1.5 miles, and a splash pad within 1 mile;
  • 100% of DPR parks will be accessible by foot, and 90% will  be accessible by bicycle; and,
  • Increase natural features on DPR properties, such as trees, gardens, or wetlands, by 40%.

It will be interesting to see how these targets and details are represented in the Implementation Strategy and Master Plan when they are completed. For example, the image below is a map that shows how recreation centers stack up. A quick review of the map shows that the Park View Recreation Center (for example) is among those that is considered substandard in both size and maintenance (though the Park View community is not within an area in need of additional recreation center space).

Recreation Center Vision

While the Park View area may not need additional recreation center space, another map in the Vision Framework does include the community — along with much of Ward 1, Ward 5, and southern Ward 4 — within a large area in need of more parkland.

Both the Play DC Web site and its Resources page are worth a look to see where we might be headed with the District’s greenspaces over the next decade.

 

 

Photos from Park View Recreation’s Ribbon Cutting

March 26, 2013

DSC_1750As I announced last week, Park View Recreation Center hosted a ribbon cutting on Saturday,  March 23rd, to celebrate the completion of renovations in the main building. Mayor Gray, Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham, Director Aguirre, and ANC Commissioner Boese were among the speakers at the event. Ward 4 Councilmember Bowser also stopped by briefly near the end of the event.

Video of the event was taken and will be released after editing. I’ll be sure to post it when its available. In the mean time, enjoy these photos from the event. (I’d like to thank the Mayor’s office for sharing many of these photographs with me).

Mayor Gray addressing the community

Mayor Gray addressing the community

Commissioner Boese addressing the community, with Councilmember Graham and Mayor Gray, and DPR Director Aguirre in the background.

Commissioner Boese addressing the community, with Councilmember Graham, Mayor Gray, and DPR Director Aguirre in the background.

Cutting the ribbon.

Cutting the ribbon.

Mayor Gray and Park View site manager Craig Hughes.

Mayor Gray and Park View site manager Craig Hughes.

Mayor Gray inspecting new computers in the community room.

Mayor Gray inspecting new computers in the community room.

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Councilmember Orange Proposes Smoke Free Playgrounds

February 21, 2013

Yesterday, I received several press releases from Councilmember Vincent Orange. I thought the one below was a little more interesting than most.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            Contact: James D. Brown

February 20, 2013                                                                               202-724-8174

jbrown@dccouncil.us

 

 

ORANGE INTRODUCED BILL TO ENSURE SMOKE FREE PLAYGROUNDS AND PLAY AREAS

No Smoking Within 25 Feet of a Playground or Play Area

(Washington, DC) – Councilmember Vincent Orange, (At-Large, D), introduced legislation to prohibit smoking within 25 feet of a playground or play area located on a public or private education facility or on a District of Columbia Park and Recreation Center.

“The purpose of the Smoking Restriction Amendment Act of 2103 is to protect the health, comfort, and environment of children. The bill addresses the concerns of District residents who have smelled cigarette smoke on playgrounds and play areas as well as witness adults smoking in these areas. Children should be afforded a safe and healthy environment in which to play,” said Councilmember Orange.

In addition, the “No Smoking” signs provision of the Smoking Restriction Act of 1979 shall be amended to require the owner, manager, or person in charge of the playground area to conspicuously post at minimum four signs at the 25-foot boundary of the playground or play area on the property. The sign shall state “smoking is not permitted on the playground or play area”.

Residential home owners or tenants who reside within 25 feet of a playground or play area will not be subjected to the smoking restriction.

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