The founders of the Forest Hills Citizens Association would have felt right at home at the association’s 2015 meeting. It was held at the same place as their first meeting in 1929: The Methodist Home, which was rebranded last year as Forest Hills of DC. At the meeting last Thursday, FHCA President Denise Warner spoke of the association’s history and evolution. Here are highlights of her talk.
In 1929, a group of Forest Hills neighbors met here, at The Methodist Home, as later quoted by Mrs. Leslie Boudinot Wright, to “combat the neglect which was turning Connecticut Avenue into a Coney Island thoroughfare.”
The first leaders are described as “mostly older men, several retired from the military, and one woman, Mrs. Wright.” Mrs. Wright helped to found our public schools of Murch, Deal and Wilson. She “persistently lobbied” the Department of the Interior to designate a lot for the Forest Hills Playground and was successful in that the National Capitol Parks and Planning Commission acquired land for the playground in 1942.
As we examine the past 40 years, it is a testament to the strength of our Citizens Association and others across the city that they remain a force for protection of the citizens’ interests with DC and federal governmental entities. The DC Federation of Citizens Associations meets regularly in public assembly to hear from governmental representatives on topical issues.
Moving quickly to 1976, the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) throughout the District of Columbia were established to represent the closest official ties to the neighborhoods. Legislated through the Home Rule Charter, Section 736, ANCs were created to ensure input from the neighborhood on issues directly affected by government action. This includes but is not limited to: traffic, parking, recreation, street improvements, safety, zoning and economic development – important initiatives taken on by Mrs. Wright and her fellow Forest Hills citizens some 86 years ago.
While at first glance, one could imagine that the development of the ANC structure could signal the decline of Citizens Associations, this has not been the case. For example, our neighborhood will forever be grateful to George Clark, past president of the FHCA, for leading the initiative to establish the Forest Hills Tree and Slope overlay to protect our trees from being cut down and slopes from erosion and removal, approved in 2007.
The FHCA has been further strengthened over the past 15 years through the work of Gary Stevens, founder of the Forest Hills Neighborhood Alliance. In the year 2000, Gary created the Alliance as a non-profit dedicated to preserving and sharing the culture and history of Forest Hills. Significant projects include preservation of the Owl’s Nest, Forest Hills History Day in 2004, publication of the Forest Hills history book in 2006 and the “Art on Call” callbox project in 2009.
In 2011 the FHCA, a 501(c)4, adopted the Alliance as a project, specifically its nonprofit 501(c)3. This merger has proved to further strengthen neighborhood initiatives.
In 2012 Marlene Berlin founded the web-based e-magazine, the Forest Hills Connection as a project of the Alliance. The Connection provides the “color” of our dynamic community. Funds raised on behalf of the Connection are tax deductible.
At this point most of our fundraising has supported the Connection, highlighted by the Arts Studio Walk last spring. We are in the process of planning another event this spring. The Alliance is the major supporter of the Connection – its tax-exempt status stimulates ongoing donations to keep the Connection in business.
Mostly recently, the FHCA and the Chevy Chase Citizens Association co-hosted 2014 election forums for DC Attorney General (moderated by Walter Smith of DC Appleseed) and DC Council-at–Large candidates. These forums were so well-attended that both organizations have pledged to host forums during the next election season.
It is our special strength that the FHCA and the Alliance are positioned to support and facilitate creative endeavors which lead to positive, community-based change. Thank you for attending this evening and for your continued energy and support.
The next assembly of the Federation of Citizens Associations is tomorrow, January 27th. The topics are zoning and public safety, with Zoning Commission Chair Anthony Hood and MPD Chief Cathy Lanier. The public is invited. It will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at One Judiciary Square, 441 4th Street, NW, Room 1107. (Judiciary Square Metro)