by Kim Farmer, Kirsten Metzger Gilbert and Tracy Johnke
Friends of Forest Hills Playground
Forest Hills Park recently had a multitude of volunteers making much-needed improvements. We’d like to keep the momentum going and see more users of the park and playground volunteer at the many community-building events that Friends of Forest Hills Playground organizes.
In addition to the annual cleanups, we hold fundraisers, free summer concerts and the annual Halloween party. Jake’s American Grille hosted a brunch fundraiser for us in early April. The next fundraiser is Saturday, June 9th. Acacia Bistro is hosting a kid-friendly happy hour and donating 20 percent of sales to the playground. Join us from 3:30 to 6 p.m. on the outdoor patio. We’ll have crayons and coloring books for the kids… and any grownups who want to join in!
Tentative summer concert dates are June 23, July 28 and August 25 (moved from Fridays to Saturdays this year!). We plan to host a mini cleanup at the park this fall. Other events in planning stages are a movie night and yoga in the park.
A lot of our work is less visible. We handle the business affairs of the playground, such as government relations. We follow up on work requests and keep an eye on maintenance issues until the work is done. If you take a look around our area, you will note that the parks that do not have a Friends group are falling into disrepair. Plus, our group’s primary responsibility is to the playground, but there is no formal shepherd for the rest of the park, save for a few community members who voice their concerns.
We can’t do all of this alone. Friends of Forest Hills Playground has a dwindling board membership. Because of our own work and family responsibilities, we need the support of more volunteers and new board members, especially those whose children will be the park’s main beneficiaries in the next few years. Some of our kids are outgrowing the playground and we know you will still want summer concerts and a Halloween party! Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, we have a lot of people to thank – first and foremost, the 50 or so volunteers who came out on Saturday, April 21st for the largest Forest Hills Park cleanup in years.
Over the course of two hours, volunteers cleared away 72 bags of weeds and other organic waste, eight bags of trash and recycling, and several broken toys that had been dumped at the playground.
Mayor Bowser’s Ward 3 liaison Ian Maggard and ANC 3F Commissioner Naomi Rutenberg were among those tackling the park’s two rain gardens, as they were too choked with years of leaves and other debris to collect any stormwater. Serious erosion in the park, especially near the Brandywine entrance, points to uncontrolled runoff.
Erica Carlsson of DC Parks and Recreation led the removal of invasive English ivy from several trees, including one that is so overburdened with ivy that it is bending over the tennis courts.
ANC 3F Commissioner Bill Sittig and many other volunteers worked to clear trash and mounds of broken glass along the Brandywine Street treeline.
We found neighbor George Hofmann, who has been an outspoken advocate for park maintenance, hard at work at weed removal.
On the playground, several pounds of sand were painstakingly returned to the sandbox after being dragged about by children to other parts of the park.
And the smallest helpers had the most important job of all. Did you know that tiny bits of trash, such as bottle caps, can be almost worse for the environment than large? They jam sewers and pipes, and kids are especially good at spotting them.
This was a prime example of public, non-profit and private coming together. The Mayor’s office made Forest Hills Park the official Ward 3 site of the April 21st #TrashFreeDC Citywide Cleanup, with the mission of encouraging the public to pick up trash anywhere they see it, all year long: on their commutes, at their local parks, in their alleys and in their tree boxes. DPR provided the invasive species removal expertise. The DC Department of Public Works provided the rakes, brooms and shovels.
And Rock Creek Conservancy (RCC) provided outreach and visibility by making our event part of its annual Rock Creek Extreme Cleanup, plus provided gloves, trash bags, professional ivy removal tools, MORE rakes plus critical guidance for a successful cleanup.
RCC’s John Maleri came out to the park twice to review the problems we have here, including non-functional rain gardens that appeared to have no maintenance for several years, the invasive ivy bending our large trees, tiny trash bits and ground ivy that rats love to nest in.
ANC 3F commissioners past and present (including Pat Jakopchek, David Dickinson and Sally Gresham) get thanks for promoting this event at their meetings and on their website, and for supporting our efforts year-round.
Our thanks also go to the DC Department of General Services (DGS) for clearing a lot of the litter and sand and doing some masonry repairs a few days before the cleanup. It made a huge difference and freed up volunteers for the much-needed cleanup work along Brandywine Street. (They returned during the early May heat wave to clean and replenish the sandbox.)
All these helpers needed fuel, and we had plenty of that too, thanks to the cleanup’s sponsors.
The Erich Cabe Team, a local realtor, brought coffee, water and volunteers. Soapstone Market provided a hummus, pita and vegetable platter. And Sofitel Lafayette Square provided homemade croissants, and also brought an entire crew of volunteers, including their general manager.
Approximately one hundred hours of labor put in, yet there’s still so much that can be done, both to maintain this work and to have some fun!
The turnout for the cleanup was tremendous and an inspiring show of community support. We’re asking that you don’t stop now. This is the community’s park. Its tennis and basketball courts, picnic tables and baseball fields give us a great place to play, relax and socialize. It is also a major benefit to residents and property owners in the neighborhood when the park is kept safe and clean.
The responsibility falls on all of us to make this a great park – and keep it that way.
If you’d like to learn more about becoming a Friends of Forest Hills Playground volunteer, board member or donor, email them at email@example.com. Stay up-to-date on their activities by following them on Facebook and Twitter.