Posted tagged ‘parks and green spaces’

Is There Room in Smaller Parks for Functional Public Sculpture?

April 17, 2015

Over the years, I’ve given a lot of thought to D.C.’s parks, playgrounds, and green spaces. Perhaps this is partially due to how little accessible green space we currently have in Park View. As vast amounts of land just aren’t going to become available anytime soon, its easier to think about how current parkland could be improved to increase their value to the community without decreasing their usefulness.

The Park View Recreation Center is an obvious site where — though it is greatly improved — there is still room for additional improvement. Fortunately, the small field house is currently being renovated which should add much needed space for community meetings, birthday parties, or any other community event without impacting the Rec Center’s programs.

With regards to our smaller park areas, amenities should be in scale with their sites, add beauty to the community, and enhance or encourage activities that already exist. For an example, just over a year ago I suggested that the small park area at Kenyon and Georgia Avenue would be an ideal place for Washington’s original von Steuben memorial (either the original or a replica). The site is part of what was once Schuetzen Park, the original site of the memorial. It is also a small site well suited to a small public sculpture.

The Fountain of Three Graces in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

The Fountain of Three Graces in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

In the same spirit, a small work of art would also be well suited to the small triangle park at Rock Creek Church Road and Park Place (aka Reserve 321-A). Having observed people use this park for years, I’ve seen two primary activities there — young adults playing catch and dog owners playing with their companions or just taking them for a walk. Keeping this in mind, a sculpture on the site would need to be small, out of the way, and ideally useful. One idea could be a small fountain.

In thinking about fountain types, I think the Fountain of Three Graces in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, offers a good example of the characteristics that such a fountain in our area could embrace. Its relatively simple, it has no front or back being instead in the round, the water catch basins are at ground level, and it includes lighting to illuminate the fountain at night. Why I’m particularly drawn to the fountain idea, and one with ground level catch basins, goes back to all the dog owners I see using the park. If it is possible to install such an amenity, it would be nice if the fountain could double as a place where dogs could get a drink of water, especially in the hot summer weather.

Many of our smaller parks serve a variety of needs, but at most have infrastructure limited to sidewalks and street lights. This seems like a missed opportunity, and one that should be fully developed with community input. Whether a fountain here, or a sculpture there, or something entirely different, D.C. needs a master plan for parks and public spaces beyond what is strictly maintained by the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Design and placement aside, the image below shows how such a fountain could look:

Park Place Fountain(Overall concept of what a fountain could look like in our smaller parks.)

 

Improvements in Progress at Bruce Monroe Park

July 25, 2014
One of the two new water fountains at the Bruce Monroe Park.

One of the two new water fountains at the Bruce Monroe Park.

The long awaited improvements to the Bruce Monroe Park originally announcement in April 2013 are finally underway. $200,000 was programmed to improve the park in 2013 by including two new water fountains and a shade structure — including seating, large enough to accommodate gatherings and programming.

It has taken a lot of effort and advocacy, but the improvements are finally underway with the goal of being completed by July 30th. To date, the two (2) water fountains have been installed, the shade structure is almost complete and eight (8) of the benches will be installed on July 25th (today) if all goes well.

The photo below shows the shade structure nearing completion.

Bruce Monroe shade structure(New shade structure at Bruce Monroe Park)

The plan below shows the location of the shade structure, the two water fountains, and the proposed location of the benches.

Bruce Monroe Improvement map

Small Improvements Headed for the Bruce-Monroe “Park” Site

June 13, 2014
Detail from general concept drawing showing approximate design for shade structure.

Detail from general concept drawing showing approximate design for shade structure.

While it was first announced in April 2013 that $200,000 of improvements would be made at the Bruce-Monroe Park at Georgia Avenue and Irving Street, NW, … when the promised delivery date of December 2013 came and went there concern arose in the neighborhood that this project would not be completed. Residents in partnership with ANC1B, the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force, and eventually ANC1A began working together to get the shade structure, two drinking fountains, and additional seating installed that the money was programmed to provide.

Finally, it looks like the project is moving forward again. A week ago a general contractor was selected for the project and the shade structure, benches and water fountains have been ordered. Currently, the projected completion date is scheduled for the end of July/beginning of August.

 

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.

 

 

Are You Looking for an Easter Activity for the Kids This Weekend? Then This Might Fit the Bill.

April 17, 2014

Here’s something fun to do with the kids this weekend if you don’t already have Easter plans.
Easter Meridian Hill Girard Park

DC Water’s Green Infrastruction Project at Irving Street Progressing Well

February 3, 2014

Bioretention Locations

In reviewing the work DC Water is doing in the area bordered by Kenyon Street, Irving Street, Park Place, and Michigan Avenue, it looks like a fair amount of progress has been made. As posted earlier, the work began on November 25th and will continue through the end of April 2014, weather permitting.

The project is part of DC Water’s Clean Rivers Project, a 13 mile system of tunnels and diversion sewers throughout D.C. that will help mitigate flooding. The bioretention cells at Irving are part of DC Water’s medium-term flood mitigation efforts in the Bloomingdale neighborhood.  The photos below show the scope of the project.

Bioretention project(View of DC Water’s bioretention project from the Michigan Avenue overpass, looking north.)

Bioretention pit(View of bioretention pit at Irving and Park Place.)

Bioretention pit(Work on the bioretention cell at Wangari Gardens.)


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