by Alexandra Chalupa
President, Friends of Forest Hills Playground
The DC Play Team (Mayor Vincent Gray’s $32 million initiative to improve dozens of playgrounds throughout the District) and the Trust for Public Land are hosting a public design charette in an attempt to engage Forest Hills families and neighbors of all ages in the design process of the new space.
Sunday’s meeting will include fun activities aimed at soliciting ideas from all ages: children as young as two years old to senior citizens. It will be held at the Capital Memorial Church Fellowship Hall, located next to the playground at 3150 Chesapeake Street, NW.
Kent Whitehead, the senior project manager of the Trust for Public Land, is spearheading this project. He hosted a public meeting on April 10th to update the community with an overview of the renovation and explained how neighbors can help shape the design of the new space. At the meeting, Whitehead explained that the May 5th charette is an important way to help ensure that the finished product will reflect the needs of the Forest Hills neighborhood. He also said the space will be aesthetically appealing and provide unique features to be enjoyed by various generations, while also being more environmentally friendly.
The April meeting was attended by a couple dozen participants, including ANC Commissioners Sally Gresham (3F04) and Manolis Priniotakis (3F05), a senior representative from Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh’s office, and many of the board members of the Friends of Forest Hills Playground.
During the question-and-answer portion of the meeting, several Friends of Forest Hills board members expressed that they’re happy with the current wooden-equipment play structures, and are concerned that they will be replaced with metal structures which tend to get hot in the summer and may not be as visually appealing.They voiced their membership’s desire that the new space should also include a large sandbox, which is one of the main attractions of the current playground; but requested an improved version of that helps keep more sand inside the box. They also expressed the need for replacing the bark chips and the blacktop in the basketball area with a rubber-foam surface that’s more kid-friendly and less messy. Finally, they advocated for the preservation of the engraved bricks that are currently located at the main entrance of the playground – a memorial recognizing the contributions of neighbors who united years ago to help raise money for the renovation of what is the current playground.
Participants also discussed replacing the gazebo structure located near the tennis courts with a more inviting picnic area and possibly an amphitheater.
These ideas, along the results from a survey the DC Play Team conducted last November, are being reviewed by the TPL’s design team. But Sunday will be an opportunity for everyone to contribute their suggestions. From community gardens, rock-climbing structures, or game tables, the TPL team is interested in hearing all ideas from neighbors of how the future Forest Hills Playground can be redesigned to better meet the needs of the community.
At the conclusion of the April 10th meeting, Whitehead distributed “homework” – a workbook for participants to complete to help with brainstorming ideas prior to next Sunday’s charette. For those who missed that meeting and would like an electronic copy of the workbook, or who are unable to attend the charette but would like to share your ideas, please email Kent Whitehead at Kent.Whitehead@tpl.org.
Once the charette is completed, neighbors can expect to occasionally see teams of architects and surveyors visiting the playground over the next few weeks. The final design will be made public in a couple of months. After that, construction is expected to begin in late August and completed a couple months later, during which time the playground will be completely closed.
For additional background on the renovation of the Forest Hills Playground, please click here.