Guest Column: A Proposal for Changes to Stead Park

by Borderstan.com October 1, 2012 at 2:00 pm 2,344 16 Comments

"Stead Park"

Illustration of proposed changes to Stead Park field on the 1600 block of P Street NW. (Courtesy Friends of Stead Park.)

Borderstan welcomes guest columns on variety of subjects with differing viewpoints; email us at borderstan[AT]gmail.com. 

The following column is in response to an article we ran last week: Petition Protests Possible Cut in Active Space at Stead Park Field. The Stead Park Recreation Center and field are a 1.5-acre facility at 1625 P Street NW. While run by the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, it is “partially funded by a private trust created by Washington architect Robert Stead. The park is named for Stead’s wife, Mary Force Stead,” according to Wikipedia. The organization that works with the trust is Friends of Stead Park.

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From Jeff Garigliano, treasurer of Friends of Stead Park. You can reach him at jeff.garigliano[AT]gmail.com.

I’m the treasurer for the Friends of Stead Park — a local organization with 10 board members — and I’d like to clear up some confusion about proposed changes to the park.

For the past nine months, our organization has been working on an upgrade to the field at Stead Park. As many people in the neighborhood know, that field desperately needs some love. The grass is patchy at best, and the fence (16-feet high, falling over in spots) cuts the field off from the rest of the park. The site looks like a minimum security prison. Because of these factors, it usually sits empty on weekdays. Adult sports leagues use the field many weeknights and weekends, but there’s not much there for anyone else — no shade, no place to sit.

Friends of Stead Park is hosting a public meeting to present its proposal this Wednesday night, October 3, at 7 p.m. at the DC Jewish Community Center, 16th and Q Streets NW.

To address these issues, we spent several months in early 2012 reaching out to neighborhood groups, including parent listservs, the PTAs at Ross and Garrison, day care centers that use the playground, 17th Street businesses, and leaders of the sports leagues. In these conversations, we always asked the same question — what would you like to see in an upgraded field?

The process led to a wish list of items, including a new synthetic field, benches, shade trees, better lights, a walking track, and a “spray ground” for kids on hot days. An architect helped us assemble those elements into a proposed design (shown in the adjacent sketch). To make room for everything, the design would take some space from the perimeters of the athletic field, though we’ve tried to preserve as much room as possible.

Before we could present this design to the public, a member of the sports leagues began circulating a petition against it. The petition has already garnered a lot of signatures, but it’s not an accurate description of the changes we’re proposing. Among other things, it initially that the new design would keep “local schools from using the field.” That’s simply not true. (The petition was recently reworded to remove this line, after more than 1,000 people signed it, but we’d still like to get our side of of the story out.)

Our whole goal in this process is to get more people to use the field at Stead Park– not only organized sports teams but school classes on weekdays, older people, parents, nannies, teens, and everyone else. In short, we want a field that’s a more integral part of the neighborhood.

Within the Friends of Stead Park, we’re excited about this design, but it’s not a finished product. Instead, we’d like everyone in the community to see it and offer suggestions, criticisms, and improvements. To that end, we’re holding a public meeting this Wednesday night, October 3, at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center, 16th and Q Streets NW.

I realize that some people can’t make it that night, so I’d ask anyone with an opinion on the design to contact me directly at jeff.garigliano[AT]gmail.com.

As everyone in the neighborhood knows, great parks are scarce in this area. Stead is a local gem — it dates back to the 1940s, and it’s supported by a private trust that allows us to fund some improvements without relying entirely on the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

In other words, we have a rare opportunity now to create something truly special. To succeed, however, we need an open and honest conversation in which everyone knows the facts and everyone gets to weigh in. Our only goal is creating the best possible park for the entire community.

Thanks, and we hope to see you Wednesday night.

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