by Virginia Adams Marentette
Vice president, Friends of Forest Hills Playground
Two years of meetings and intense planning came to fruition in the past month as a major renovation of the beloved Forest Hills Playground began. Prior to the groundbreaking, the Forest Hills community came out in force for a pre-construction meeting June 4th, a few days before construction began.
The DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) hosted the meeting at the playground to provide neighbors an opportunity to meet the construction team and DPR/Department of General Services (DGS) liaisons, while receiving an overview of the new park design. Since that meeting, the project has been moving full steam ahead.
A month into the renovation, the KADCON construction team has made a lot of progress clearing the playground and surrounding area, taking down the old play structures, removing the old concrete pavement and wooden borders, and taking down trees that were deemed diseased or within “fall zones” of the soon-to-be-new play structures. The Friends of Forest Hills Playground, represented by President Alexandra Chalupa and Vice President Virginia Marentette, has been part of a small renovation task-force along with ANC Commissioner Sally Gresham, since the project started in the fall of 2012.
During these early weeks of renovation, the Friends of Forest Hills Playground listserv and Facebook page have been buzzing with questions about the renovation. Here are answers to some of the most common questions we’ve heard:
Why is the playground renovation taking place during the summer months rather than winter, which would be much more convenient for families?
Unfortunately, having the construction take place in the summer months could not be avoided. DC does not engage in any park construction when there is a possibility of the temperature dipping below 50 degrees and the project will take four months. Work such as concrete pouring, subgrades, subbase, erosion control, etc. are all temperature and moisture dependent. Daylight saving is also a big component of summer construction work.
How long is the playground renovation going to take and can we expect delays?
The renovation is scheduled to be completed by September 30, 2014. The general contractor on the project, KADCON Construction, has conducted fifteen renovation projects for the DC government, including a handful of playground renovations, and has yet to miss a targeted construction completion date. As noted above, the renovation is taking place during summer months because conditions are ideal. Therefore, we do not expect any weather related delays. Of course, unforeseen severe weather conditions could set the schedule back and require the construction team to work overtime or adjust the end date, but that seems unlikely at this point.
What hours does construction take place?
Construction work is authorized from 7:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m., Monday-Saturday. However, the crew has been keeping a 7:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Monday-Friday schedule, with no loud work taking place before 8:00 a.m. As the project is on track and the schedule does not require the need for overtime, the plan is for the work to continue taking place before 4:00 p.m. on weekdays.
What about the trees?
Throughout this entire process, which began in 2012, the Forest Hills Playground Renovation Task Force has made it very clear that trees are a priority and that the playground’s existing trees need to be saved as much as possible within the site’s constraints and the new playground’s final design. One reason the newly designed playground will not have a water feature is because we were unwilling to sacrifice the trees that would have to be felled to make it possible.
The task force has been impressed with the exhaustive measures that DPR and DGS have taken to ensure tree preservation. Keith Pitchford of Pitchford Associates has been hired as the arborist for the project. He has recommended certain trees be removed for various reasons, such as severe damage/disease, threat to public safety, and the priority playground and park activities requested by the community that might adversely affect existing tree roots during construction.
You can view the current tree plan at dgs.dc.gov/node/855952. The hope is that when the renovation is complete, the diseased trees will be gone and we will have more trees in the playground than we had before. There will still be plenty of shade and the new trees planted will be better suited for the site.
What happened to all the old playground equipment?
All of the old play structures, which were at least 12 years old, had to be discarded. The condition of the equipment was one of the major factors in our playground being selected for renovation. DPR has a strict policy of not reusing old playground equipment at other DC government run entities due to liability concerns. However, in some cases, if the equipment is deemed in good condition by the DC Office of Contracting and Procurement (OCP), it can be transferred to OCP for auction or other form of distribution to a private entity.
We were hoping to be able to find a new home for some of the smaller pieces that looked to be in good condition, but upon inspection, water logging and rot at the base of the equipment was discovered. This was likely due to all of the sand damage that buried the structures over the years. It was estimated that the firetruck was resting in about two feet deep of sand – something that our biannual community clean-up efforts couldn’t prevent over the years.
What happened to the engraved bricks and the plaque honoring the families who donated money to build the previous playground?
All are being carefully preserved.
The engraved bricks will be part of the entryway to the new playground. The best part is that they will no longer be covered with sand, so we’ll actually get to see them! The plaque will also have a new home within the new playground. We continue to be grateful to all the families who have helped build and care for the playground over the years and want to preserve and honor our rich neighborhood history.
Do you have recommendations for other nearby playgrounds?
Yes! Here is a good list of nearby playgrounds:
• Murch Elementary School – 4810 36th Street, NW (0.4 miles away)
• Hearst Recreation Center – 3950 37th Street, NW (1.3 miles away)
• Macomb Recreation Center – 3409 Macomb Street, NW (1.5 miles away)
• Chevy Chase Recreation Center – 5500 41st St NW (1.5 miles away)
• Friendship Recreation Center (also known as Turtle Park) – 4500 Van Ness Street, NW (1.6 miles away)
• Lafayette Recreation Center – 5900 33rd Street, NW (1.6 miles away)
If you want to get excited about how great our playground will be when construction is complete, visit the Macomb playground, off Reno Road. It has been recently renovated and many of the features found there will exist at our playground once the renovation is done.
What if I still have questions? How do I stay informed?
You can stop by the park anytime and view the announcements and designs on the bulletin board located at the playground’s main entrance on Chesapeake Street.
For the latest from DPR and the history of the project to date, visit dpr.dc.gov/page/play-dc-forest-hills-playground-renovation.
If you have concerns or need to report problems, please contact:
• Stacie West, DC Department of Parks and Recreation community planner, 202-256-3528, email@example.com
• Carolina Trujillo, DC Department of General Services project manager, 202-812-2979, firstname.lastname@example.org
When contacting Stacie or Carolina via e-mail, it is helpful to put “Forest Hills Playground” and a short description of the issue in the subject line.
To stay on top of all the latest news related to the playground, please join the Friends of Forest Hills listserv and “like” us on Facebook. To make sure that Facebook puts the playground updates in your feed, you should also click to “follow” us.
The Friends of Forest Hills Playground is always seeking new volunteers and board members. The only qualification is that you love our park! If you would like to get more involved or learn more, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us via our listserv or Facebook page. If you are on our listserv and Facebook page, you will be the first to hear about plans for the grand ribbon cutting this fall and plans for our biggest bash of the year, our annual Halloween party!