Thursday, May 24, 2012

Existing Public Parks Finally Getting Some Love

(This post is an abbreviated version of the South by West article that will appear in June's Hill Rag.)

The Southwest Playground Project (SWPP) is projected to receive $250,000 in the District's FY2013 Budget to bridge the funding gap needed to build a playground adjacent to the Southwest Branch Library at 3rd and I Street SW. Budget funds are coming from Ward 6 Council Member Tommy Wells' Committee on Parks, Libraries, and Recreation. The SWPP, a project of the Near SE/SW Community Benefits Coordinating Council, already raised over $100,000 on its own to build the playground, but several infrastructure issues need to be addressed at the city-owned park, such as storm water drainage, broken concrete pathways, and the need for retaining walls. These infrastructure improvements added nearly $250,000 to the budget estimate made by DC-based Landscape Architecture Bureau, who has been hired to design the playground. With the additional funds from the District, design work can proceed and a land survey can be conducted. Since the fiscal year begins on October 1, 2012, the District funds cannot be used until after that date. The first vote on the budget was done earlier this month and final passage is expected on June 5.

There will be a park clean-up this Saturday from 10am - 12pm at the Library Park. SWPP will provide bags, gloves, and refreshments.  Bring shovels, rakes, and of course, your children.

Meanwhile, another $400,000 is reserved in the FY2013 Budget for improvements to Lansburg Park, the large underutilized park located to the east of Greenleaf Gardens along Delaware Avenue. District funds reserved for Lansburg will go towards restoring the overhead lights, as well as installing basketball court to replace the tennis courts that are currently in bad shape. The "Friends of Lansburg Park" group was formed recently to join DPR's Parks Partners program and to use SWNA's 501c3 status to do fundraising. The Friends group is working with the PAWS of Southwest, who is applying with DPR to build what would be the largest dog park in the city at Lansburg, as well as with a group who wants a community garden. An open house was held last month to solicit ideas for the future of Lansburg and a charrette is planned for sometime this summer.

In addition, at the Southwest Duck Pond's annual Volunteer Recognition Event and sign unveiling ceremony yesterday, Council Member Wells announced there will be funding set aside in the FY2013 Budget for improvements to that park. As mentioned previously, there was funding set aside in the FY2012 Budget for park improvements, but since then, the newly created Department of General Services has taken jurisdiction over capital improvements from DPR and nixed the funding appropriation.


me said...

Community Garden!!! Please let us know about a charette this summer!

Lawrence Impett said...

I like the proposed improvements but what's going on with the immediate - routine - maintenance of DC managed property in near SW?
Would it be asking too much for the Dept. of General Services to start mowing the grass at the Duck Pond and the sister park at Third and I Streets as well as the Maine Ave median strip???
I called Mr. Peters at DGS three times regarding the appalling condition of these properties but he has yet to return my calls.

Bob Craycraft, Executive Director, Waterfront Gateway Neighborhood Association said...

Your frustrations are understandable, Larry. DC residents are justifably irritated when paying comparable high rates of property, sales, and income taxes for municipal services and then have to personally get involved with basic maintenance and infrastructure problems they feel they have already "paid for" once.
Doubly frustrating is when one sees one District agency (DPR) keeping the grass beautifully mowed while an adjacent parcel maintained by another agency (DGS) has overgrown grass nearly 2' tall: See the 700 and 800 blocks of G Street SW for an example.
The only answer I can see is turning over much of what is now District maintenance to the local communities with a block grant funds transfer to contract private firms to handle the work.

Lawrence Impett said...

Thank you Bob,

Two comments - -

First, I'd like to hear what our councilman has to say regatding this issue.

Second, I hate to say it but it seems that all the city parks maintained by the National Park Service are in very good if not excellent condition. For example, NPS staff just finished edging the sidewalks over by the Titanic Memorial.

I lost track of why "we" decided to transfer maintenance of some of our city parks from the NPS to the DC government. In retrospect one has to wonder if this was a prudent move.


Bob Craycraft, Executive Director, Waterfront Gateway Neighborhood Association said...

I believe the District is always in favor of land being moved from federal to local control as it is symbolic of self-government.

Your point is well taken, however, when we demonstate that as a municipality we are unable to maintain basic civic services. In my view, it was a huge mistake moving the Library Park and Southwest Duck Pond from federal to District ownership without a Service Level Agreement (SLA) of what the District would provide in terms of tree pruning, park furniture maintenance, landscaping, fountain maintenance, etc.

The irony is that the beautiful new parks in Southeast and the planned new Waterfront Park are all public-private partnerships where the District has had to look to developers to build and manage it's park space, and that seems to be the only solution for the Southwest Duck Pond.

I feel DPR has a mixed vision of what they should be: A maintenance group to provide safe and attractive platforms for community recreation and leisure, or a social services agency with counselors and what they consider "free" lunch programs. These are, by the way, wonderful and much-needed services for our young people, but I question whether this is the role for DPR when the physical plants of many facilities are in such disrepair.

But that begs the questions of 1)Who is providing their direction and 2) Who will provide the social services if not DPR?

But to answer your basic question, maintenance of the Southwest parks on I Street moved in 2007 when ownership changed from federal to District. And then the spiral really started.

Lawrence Impett said...

Excellent points Bob.

Again, it seems odd that Councilman Wells - who oversees DC libraries, parks, recreation and "planning" - has yet to explain:

1) Why the city has allowed some parks to deteriorate to the point where not even the grass gets mowed or the trash picked up, and
2) His vision and action plan for improving DPR (including a more effective working relationship with the DGS).