Renovations at Florida Ave Park in the works

At Monday’s BACA meeting, representatives of DC Department of Public Works presented a preview for the plans of the preview of plans for the new and improved Florida Ave. Park at 1st St NW.  There has been approved a $1.7 million renovation plan and the reps showed the diagrams of the new design, which include moving the basketball courts back, putting a horseshoe pit, adding another play area for kids, new tables.  Community members expressed a bunch of concerns with the park now and discussion ensued as to how to mitigate the problems within the new designs.  Please read the follow up letter from BACA’s Brett Abrams to DPW.

Dear Ms. Stanley:

Thank you very much for sending representatives to discuss the designs for the Florida Avenue Park to the Bates Area Civic Association (BACA) monthly meeting. The 40 residents in attendance had a great deal of interest in the project and offered constructive perspectives on the design and the neighborhood use.

We were very interested to hear about the length of the project plan and the expectation that construction will be completed in the summer of 2011. We appreciate the additions of three playgrounds, the horseshoe pit, and the low-level ballard-type lighting. It is fantastic to hear about a commitment to maintaining the trees through regular trimming. People applauded the lighting and tree trimming because there is a concern that the Southwest corner of the park  is poorly lit and maintaining the trees in trim state is vital to being able to observe the activities going on inside the park.

Our residents stressed several factors and received some interesting responses that we hope can be followed up on. Residents discussed how the fencing in the park is constantly being pulled apart by vandals and others trying to use the park at off hours. We stressed the need to have very reinforced fencing for the park in order to make the project a success. We were left with the understanding that the representatives understood the gravity of this situation and the need to make reinforced fencing a requirement during the bidding and thus the building process.

Several people noted the consistent presence of the drinkers at the entrance of the Park on the corner of Florida Avenue and First St. They pleaded that this entrance be maintained for the maintenance crew only, emphasizing the need to close off the entrance to foot traffic in order to make it more difficult for drinkers to go to the liquor store on the opposite corner and return to the Park to become drunk and disorderly.

Many of the drinkers congregate near and sit upon the back retaining wall. While we appreciate that it must remain in order to sustain the trees, residents suggested that a design factor or two be added to deter the drinkers from using the wall as a seating area. We heard about the potential solution of rocks on the ground but many of the attendees observed that the people will still sit on the wall. A group proposed a solution similar to the one at Steed Park, where a climbing wall has been fashioned. Mr. Wilson noted a possible increased cost if this is added to the design. BACA residents understand this, but note that  in response to an earlier question about cost overruns he stated that the “hard costs” have been coming in lower due to the current economic climate therefore the money needed could be available to make modifications to the wall.

Residents also applauded having the bike share near the park. However, while we are aware that this is DOT’s domain, we are wondering if some coordination between Parks and Recreation and DOT could occur so that the grassy area where the bikes are currently located will not turn into a quagmire of mud in a short period of time.

We appreciate all the efforts of the Department of Parks and Recreations. The good news about the Park will be shared with other residents on the BACA website. BACA will continue to communicate with your department during the project. Florida Avenue Park is an important asset and the neighbors look forward to putting the improved park to good use.

Brett Abrams

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