Dec. 18th note: We’ve just learned that DPR has changed its plans for the public meeting tonight, described below as a presentation of three options for the playground renovation. Instead, DPR tells the Friends of Forest Hills Playground that the meeting will instead focus on DC Play’s partnership with TPL.org on the project. Another public meeting will be held early next year, date TBA.
by Alexandra Chalupa
President, Friends of Forest Hills Playground (FoFHP)
Several of our FoFHP Board Members and other community leaders attended Tuesday night’s DPR meeting to discuss the District’s plans for “Play DC,” Mayor Vincent Gray’s program to renovate 32 parks around the city, including Forest Hills Playground. The meeting was incredibly productive and we have some exciting news to report back.
DPR is looking to renovate our entire Forest Hills park (playground, tennis courts, picnic area, baseball diamond and surrounding area) with a goal of having renovations completed by end of summer 2013. While it is unclear right now what those renovations will look like, the meeting at Eaton School was focused on getting ideas, recommendations, and general feedback from the community. Those of us at the meeting discussed ideas directly with the very helpful DPR team, including the Director of Play DC, the representatives responsible for working on Forest Hills renovations, and the playground engineers who will help created the design plans. DPR came prepared with a full blown map of the park area along with several books and poster-boards full of images of sample ideas for park improvements that we could select from. Each community participant was asked to “vote” for our favorite 10 ideas.
Our Recommendations On What To Keep
We discussed the components of the playground that we believe are important to our neighborhood to preserve in some form: the sandbox, tennis courts, baseball diamond, picnic area, as well as ensuring we preserve the engraved bricks/stones that honor those families who helped build the playground through efforts years ago. We also recommended that we keep our current wooden play equipment structures, since they’re of high quality and don’t get as hot as the newer metal/plastic versions being used by some parks. When asked about the trees in the playground area, we were assured they will remain (the trees were donated by the Hillwood Museum years ago).
Our Recommendations on What to Change
We also discussed areas where we would like to see improvements. We were informed that items that require ongoing maintenance were off the table, so our suggestions for DPR to install bathrooms or a community center are not options at this time. However, ideas that we did present that are being considered include some of the following:
- Renovating the tennis courts, including adding a “hitting wall” and installing lighting
- Adding a basketball court with lighting somewhere outside of the playground area
- Reworking the part of the playground where the basketball area is currently, and making that an area with “sprinkler” structures or some other fun equipment
- Getting rid of the bark-chips and replacing all of the playground flooring with a rubber foundation
- Preserving the current high-quality wooden playground structures, but fixing them where/if needed
- Redoing the sandbox in a way that traps more sand inside so that it doesn’t make as big of a mess around the playground
- Adding a “rock climbing” wall
- Adding more swings
- Redoing the picnic area by the tennis courts, including adding “game tables” for adults/seniors to enjoy, like chess/checkers, etc.
- Adding an amphitheater in the hilly area by the tennis courts/outside of baseball diamond so that we can host concerts, classes and “movie nights”
- Replacing the current fence/gate around playground with elegant black fencing
- Making everything have a “nature” theme so that it fits into the neighborhood and lives up to the “Forest Hills” name
- Developing an edible garden section
- Redoing the walkways outside of the playground, including the path that leads from the playground to the tennis courts
Make Your Voice Heard
The above are some of the individual and collective ideas we presented. We ask that you take a moment to either reinforce the above or to provide your own ideas for improvements to the entire area by completing the following DPR survey: surveymonkey.com/s/playdc. You have until Sunday, December 2nd to complete the survey before DPR completes its review of community feedback and starts moving forward on drafting plans.
Please remember, while bathrooms, a community center, or pool are not options, the sky is the limit when it comes to improvement ideas that don’t require regular maintenance. DPR is willing to entertain any and all feedback – from a skateboarding park to an outdoor movie theater, so feel free to get creative and think outside of the box. While we should always keep our expectations small, we should think and ask big!
The Next Steps: SAVE THE DATE – December 18th at 6:00 p.m.
After the December 2nd deadline for community submissions, DPR will move forward on drafting plans for the park, working with its team of engineers and designers to come up with three different designs. On Tuesday, December 18th from 6:00-7:30 p.m., DPR will host a second meeting to present us with these three plans and ask us to vote in-person for our favorite.
The plan with the most votes will be the one they will move forward on, with the goal of having renovations completed by the end of the summer 2013. We encourage everyone to attend that meeting so that you can help shape our neighborhood’s park, and the Mayor’s Office encourages children’s participation too, so feel free to bring your kids. If you have any questions, you can get more info by contacting PlayDC@dc.gov or call 202-391-9204. Here’s the info for that important meeting:
Play DC Meeting to Discuss Forest Hills Playground Plans
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Eaton Elementary School
3301 Lowell Street, NW