Neighbors turned out in force for a community planting day on April 30 at the newly renovated French Street Park. The pocket park is located at the corner of 10th and French Streets NW, between R and S Streets NW. The five-year effort to renovate the park involved city agencies, contractors and many dedicated residents from the area.
The concepts for the renovation revolved around creating a monarch butterfly waystation and improving the green infrastructure. The French Street Park attracts the butterflies through plants — Russian Sage, Sedum, Yarrow and Bee Balm to name a few.
Scot Rogerson, executive director of Friends of French Street Park, could not have been happier with the results; as he gave me a tour, neighborhood children rode their Razor scooters around the park.
Decline and Renewal
Once the site of six rowhouses, the corner became a park after the homes were demolished in the 1970s. The original park created at that time, like many in the city, had lots of concrete. By early in the 2000s the corner was fenced off after drug dealers became the most frequent visitors.
Rogerson recalled that momentum for the renovation picked up steam in 2006, and mentioned the Advisory Neighborhood Commission and Commissioner Alex Padro (2C01) as being instrumental in the effort to secure funding for the project.
The money for the renovation came from a Neighborhood Investment Fund grant through the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development during the Fenty administration. After requesting and reviewing bids, the groundbreaking for the renovation was held in 2009.
Waystation for Monarch Butterflies
The concepts for the renovation revolved around creating a monarch butterfly waystation and improving the green infrastructure. Monarchs migrate from North America to Mexico during the winter and have suffered massive loss of habitat due to development in North America. The French Street Park attracts the butterflies through plants — Russian Sage, Sedum, Yarrow and Bee Balm to name a few. Permeable surfaces and expanded green areas, which replaced the expanses of concrete, mitigate the effects of stormwater runoff.
The design of the planting bed and picnic areas is an oval, with a small lawn area and a row of mature trees providing the borders to form the rectangle. No detail was overlooked in the upgrade of the park. Picnic tables, new lighting, fencing and a water supply were also incorporated into the design. Of particular note are the decorative panels on the iron fencing — the scroll work was inspired by the iron stair risers from the steps of the historic row houses in the Shaw and Logan Circle neighborhoods.
Area Has Parks for Everyone
The area is quickly becoming known for a number of community parks. At 11th and Rhode Island Streets NW is the newly renovated Shaw Skate Park. Just north of that at 11th and R Streets NW is the Shaw Dog Park. A children’s playground is on Westminster Street NW between 9th and 10th Streets. The new Tenth Street Community Park located on 10th Street NW between L and M Streets rounds out the list.
The French Street Park follows many of the same rules as other D.C. parks — dawn to dusk hours, and pet friendly, but on a leash and remember to pick up. Many of the maintenance and security tasks will be handled by a team of dedicated resident volunteers.
There are just a few more details to finish up before the contractor turns the property over to the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation. Once down, the ribbon-cutting and official opening will be scheduled.