President, Green Spaces for DC
The CapitalSpace Plan, issued in 2010, documents the first comprehensive examination of parkland undertaken for the District in over 40 years. Preparation of the Plan was a collaborative effort led by the National Capital Planning Commission. It included D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, the National Park Service, DC Office of Planning and DC Department of Transportation. It is both a comprehensive assessment of parks and open space in the District of Columbia and a call to action. Despite an abundance of park land in the District of Columbia, the CapitalSpace Plan finds the quality and capacity of our green spaces is declining in the face of growing and changing need.
The plan, which is available for viewing and download at www.NCPC.gov, proposes multiple actions that are categorized in six areas: 1) transforming small parks, 2) enhancing center city parks, 3) improving playfields, 4) enhancing natural areas, 5) improving public school yards and 6) linking the Fort Circle Parks.
Unfortunately, despite the many good ideas in the CapitalSpace Plan, it is weak on implementation. Furthermore, no department of the District of Columbia has yet come forward to champion its implementation. By default, the administrator of the CapitalSpace Plan is a federal agency, the National Capital Planning Commission.
Within District government, the Department of Parks and Recreation is the logical agency to advocate for CapitalSpace implementation. DPR, however, has suffered budget cuts in recent years that now restrict their focus to day-to-day operations.
Hopefully, this is about to change. The Department has recently made the commitment to prepare a parks and recreation master plan. The master plan is one of the most important documents for a parks and recreation agency and the DC park system has never had a master plan. The master plan is the agency’s blueprint. It sets level of service standards, develops strategies to address current gaps in service and builds capacity to realize a longer-range vision.
The 2010 CapitalSpace Plan and the District of Columbia Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2006, together provide a strong foundation upon which to build a master plan. The Comprehensive Plan has an excellent parks and recreation element that articulates a vision and goals for parks, recreation, trails and open space. The CapitalSpace Plan reinforces the Comprehensive Plan by discussing ways to improve coordination among the other agencies that manage parks and open space in the District — primarily National Park Service, District of Columbia Department of Transportation and DC Public Schools.
Green Spaces for DC (GSDC) is a new 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is working to improve advocacy for parks and green spaces in the District. GSDC recommends Implementation of CapitalSpace. We will be working to assure that the new parks and recreation master plan will become a tool to fulfill many of the great ideas in the CapitalSpace Plan.
John Henderson, president and executive director of Green Spaces for DC, is a District of Columbia resident with over 23 years of experience in parks and recreation, including twelve years with the Chicago Park District and eleven with The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. John is certified as a parks and recreation executive, city planner, public participation practitioner, arbitrator and mediator. Read more about him at greenspaces4dc.org.