Guest Column: A Proposal for Changes to Stead Park

by Borderstan.com October 1, 2012 at 2:00 pm 2,124 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.)

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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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  • M

    I have no strong opinion on this, esp since I don’t feel like I know all the facts. However, I strongly urge you to move the date of the meeting, or hold a second meeting in addition to this one. As you already know, the pres debate is competing with you, and you will miss out on 99% of the community input and interaction you are seeking. … unless that is the intent? Sorry but the cynical side of me won’t stay quiet.

  • Please note that the petition language was indeed changed to clarify what the Sports Leagues were asking for. As a former Board Member of FOSP, more transparency is needed and that communication with the broader community is considered and taken into account through proactive conversation and outreach. Except for the hard copy of bylaws, history, mission and board members that I hold from over a year ago, there is no easily accessible information that lets community members know who is making the decisions, how they are making them and why they are making them. I hope this indeed changes in the future and that the current FOSP Board takes into account the need for a diversified board that represents those that live in the community and use the Park regularly.

    I would personally like to thank Jeff and others for the work they have done and look forward to the input given on Wednesday and how that plays out in the final sketch. I also look forward to seeing many attend the meeting on Wednesday, because our community is capable of moving forward and that Stead will be all the more inclusive and useful for all.

    Please refer to the petition for the updated clarification: http://www.change.org/petitions/save-stead-park

  • Lebodome

    I am a bit new to this discussion, but if I am looking at this picture accurately, it appears that you want to change Stead Park into a massive dog walking park. The additions of trees and a path does look nice, but in effect by taking out the fields, you are shifting the major use from sports leagues to lounging and pet walking. Maybe you leave one really nice field and the rest for lounging. However this picture easily sets up a park where any organized sports activity is just a bothersome for everyone else, and will erode the leagues preferences to play there. Look forward to see where this goes…

  • DupontNewMom

    As a mother to a toddler living close to Stead Park, I really hope the changes get passed and this petition does not interfere. It seems a lot of people were duped into signing this petition without knowing the facts, and it actually sad that our children may not get to benefit from a water park & shaded areas/benches, because of Stonewall Sports self-interests. The field is plenty big & the sports teams would still have a lot of space to play. The proposed changes would be great for the community, especially for the children in which the grant was intended for.

    • dupontballer

      A lot more leagues than Stonewall Kickball use Stead Park for team sports. What would be your suggestion if that option disappears?

    • As a mother of two children who resides directly across from the Park and grew up before it had a decent, and now beautiful playground, I encourage seeking out the facts. This is not a Stonewall Sports self-interest petition, In fact, it represents the soccer and volleyball leagues as well and was under the advisement of an ANC commissioner and FOSP board member that the petition be created. My children thoroughly enjoy watching these sports teams and it saves me a ton of money from buying expensive tickets otherwise. They practice there and I hope one day can practice on regulation sized fields with other teams and leagues without fighting for time or permits. This current sketch would do just that.

      Additionally, because of the major issue with Stoddart Soccer’s decrease of permits for the thousands of children in DC to practice on open space, the issue of reduction of open green space is quite legitimate and of concern for all. Unfortunately the language and intent was not completely clear originally. However, after meeting with Martin on Sunday morning to discuss his cause and intent, we discussed more appropriate wording and clarity on recommendations that were made to FOSP and the board. This divisive pointing of fingers and accusations from all parties will not help us gain what is best for all community members in such a unique and vibrant community such as ours.

      It should be stated that the petitions are not opposed to the shaded trees or benches, rather the paved area behind the rec building that reduces the green space available for regulation sports such as soccer and kickball. The track is actually necessary for them to rotate around the fields during games. The Sports leaders actually understand and support that children’s teams have priority, however, this has never been an issue. Stonewall Sports as an organization has been a great supporter of our community and events such as 17th Street Festival and Community Clean Ups. They have donated their volunteer services to many events and have even paid for the mulching of many of our tree boxes to help clean up the neighborhood. I encourage you to share your thoughts with Jeff if you can not attend the meeting.

      Please refer to the petition for the updated clarification: http://www.change.org/petitions/save-stead-park.

  • moreinfo

    This column is very helpful. However, I do not understand why Friends of Stead Park does not have a website with information. Who are the board members? How are they selected? How much control does the trust have over the park? How much control does the city have? I have searched in vain for more information. The link just takes me to Facebook? Is there a page there with info?

  • Freddy

    This is nothing but a weak attempt by Martin to rally his crew before the ANC election. Weak, very weak. The Friends have been at this for years, including all, and yet Martin and Lee and others STILL FIND A WAY to talk trash and tear it all down. Give me a break!

    This just in: this is not your park. It is not just for kick ball. It is not just for those in the neighborhood. It is a CITY park paid for by ALL city taxpayers.

    This will certainly shoot Martin in the foot and likely REDUCE support for his group from DPR and others. He deserves it.

    • ‘Freddy,’ if you want to hide behind words on a forum rather than have an honest dialogue in person or tomorrow evening where you are hidden behind a screen, then you are shooting yourself in the foot. I was asked to be on the board and resigned because of the lack of transparency on the board and the exclusivity of those thinking that they actually owned the park and no one else deserved to be involved in the decision. I have the archived emails and am more than happy to share. I actually have had very productive emails with Martin and Jeff regarding finding a solution for a broader community. What exactly have you done productive and positive for the neighborhood lately?

  • CJ

    I’ve been catching up on this issue. My question is, what clarification process is being undertaken for the 1000 signatures that were collected prior to the clarification of the petition language? As a resident who would have opposed the loss of the field for school children, but who supports the update of the field (and possibly the retention of the paved space behind the building), before I sign the new petition, I want to know that my signature counts, and that those which were incorrectly collected have been either corrected or thrown out.

    • jb

      People should take a walk by this field on a week day during business hours. It’s empty 9 times out of 10, which is a waste given the limited amount of public green space in the area. I live within blocks of Stead and have never been on that field even once. Until recently, I thought only sports teams were allowed to use it, because they are the only people I see on that field.

      • DCircler

        I fail to see why your lack of knowledge about it is relevant? Again, that seems to be the Stead Park trust’s fault. It is probably empty during the day because most people work during the day. I’d imagine most green space in the city is. And I don’t think any incremental amount of daytime use would set off the loss of use suffered by removing its functionality as a sports field. At the end of the day, they are proposing changing how it is has been used for the last 10 years I’ve lived in DC. There are plenty of places for people to take kids to have shade. Dupont Circle. Logan Circle. Meridian Hill park. The places available to play field sports in the city are limited. If there is a way to add trees without sacrificing the ability of using it for regulation sporting events, that’s great. But that doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment.

        • kc

          Most green spaces of the city are not empty during the day as the Stead Park field is–like Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Meridian Hill Park which are all full of people at most hours of the day. And a lot of people do not work during the day, like children (both school age and younger), the elderly and night shift workers (of which there are many in the city). Which is what this proposal is all about–making the park accessible to a more diverse segment of the population who could make use of it at different times of day, not just those who play league sports on occasional nights and weekends.

  • BuildIt

    Here’s a thought that would probably unite most everyone regarding the future of Stead Park. Sell it! Yep, sell it to a mega-developer. Let them build a 40-story apartment building — with a Hooter’s on the ground floor.

  • DCircler

    The continued de-diversification and de-gaying of Dupont Circle continues…it’s bad enough we are all required to suffer the agony of slow walking, loud talking girls who, ten years ago, would never have left Clarendon to bother living in the city. Now we have to deal with their kids and their nannies. And change our parks and recreational areas to satisfy them.

    No thanks. My signature can stay on the petition.

  • seems to me like it was the petition that got the designs publicly available. They weren’t readily available online weeks or months ago. If people were / are confused about the designed and signed the petition, it was becasue they worried about the loss of field space and until recently the illustration above wasn’t available. the friends of stead park have only themselves to blame for not being more public about their plans.


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