From Leslie Jones. She writes about urban motherhood every two weeks in her column TWBP (There Will Be Poo). You can email her at leslie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @ThereWillBePoo.
As a parent living in Borderstan, I am very interested in having improved play spaces for our community’s children. I know I’m not alone. One of the sacrifices we make living in such an urban area is the general absence of private backyards big enough to run around in. Our parks and play spaces are wonderful places to meet as a community and enjoy being outside. I enjoy taking Baby on walks around Borderstan, and we often go to Stead Park because it is close to where we live, but I’m always looking for new places for her to run around and play. Harrison Recreation Center, located on V Street NW, between 13th and 14th streets, is one I’ve been meaning to check out and I was excited to hear that it is due to get some updates.
“Washington Gas will sponsor an open house at the Harrison Recreation Center this Saturday, November 17th, from 11:30-1:30pm. There will be light refreshments and activities for the kids, and it will provide a wonderful opportunity for the community to see the recent renovations that have been completed. The event is rain or shine.”
The Friends of Harrison Recreation Center held a meeting at the Source on Thursday, November 8, 2012, to get input from the community about playspace renovations for the center. Harrison Recreation Center (HRC) has been identified as one of 32 play spaces that will be renovated by the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) this fiscal year, with a total budget of $30 million to be divided among them.
Manisha Modi ([email protected]), the chair of the Friends of Harrison, a committee within the U Street Neighborhood Association, led the meeting. Manisha shared a conceptual design that the Friends of HRC had developed as part of a long-term vision of how to make HRC a neighborhood asset. She also described recently completed improvements to Harrison, which were paid for by Washington Gas. These included repaving the basketball courts and infrastructure improvements in the building, such as a new HVAC system, a new water heater, new cabinets and appliances in the kitchen, landscaping and interior and exterior painting. Manisha then facilitated a discussion to create a community wish list to be presented to the DPR for consideration during the playspace renovation process.
DPR’s current plan is focused on renovating the play spaces at the Harrison Recreation Center, but the Friends of HRC’s long-term goals include expanding what the Harrison Recreation Center can offer, which might include expansion of the existing building. The plans for improving the play spaces will not reduce the size of the sports field. The DPR representative and Friends of Harrison committee members were all quick to express their awareness of how important the sports field is to the community, and to ensure that it will be in no way diminished by these projected renovations.
Brian Card ([email protected]), president of the U Street Neighborhood Association, discussed some of the work they have been doing to help Harrison. The association has sponsored a movie series for the past three summers, as a means to raise community and local business awareness and to raise funds for the Friends of HRC. Brian said that the U Street Businesses “have been great partners in these events in providing funds or other services – such as the DJ that (the restaurant) Marvin has provided as part of the event.”
Norman Williams, the site manager at Harrison Recreation Center, said that the center is ready for transformation and open to ideas from the community. Mr. Williams has been recognized by local residents for his efforts to improve HRC.
Brent Sisco ([email protected]), a landscape architect and representative of DPR, said that all of the 32 play spaces will receive the same standard amenities: lighting, seating, fences, trash receptacles, and signs. He pointed out the HRC was one of the higher priorities and would likely get more improvements. DPR will take into account the community’s input in deciding what renovations will be made, and has provided an email address for this purpose: [email protected] The DPR has set a January 1, 2013 deadline for the completion and submission of the community plans. Construction would then begin between March 1st and March 15th, with a projected completion date of June or July. This timeline and the project budget are for the outside play spaces only.
Some of the ideas floated at the meeting were:
- separate area for small children
- creative activity equipment
- better lighting
- picnic spaces
- all weather play space surface (recycled rubber safety surface)
- water fountains
- multi-use water feature
- increased security
The first DPR meeting will be held at Banneker Community Center, at 2500 Georgia Avenue NW, on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 6pm. DPR will facilitate a discussion about what the community wants for HRC. The landscape architecture firm working with the Department of Parks and Recreation, Lewis Scully Gionet (LSG) Landscape Architecture, will be in attendance to hear the community’s ideas. Examples of completed play space projects will be presented at this meeting, along with the budgets for each, in order to give the community some idea of the possibilities.
Another meeting will be held on Wednesday, December 19th, again at 6pm, location TBA. At this meeting LSG Landscape Architecture will present design concepts based on the November 28th meeting , and get feedback from the community.
Parents are encouraged to bring their children to the meetings, and DPR would like to get the younger stakeholder’s views on what should be included in the plans for the rec center.
It is important for everyone to have access to safe and creative play spaces. These spaces need to be improved and maintained; they are an investment for and in our community. It’s reassuring that so many talented people are working together on this project. I look forward to getting involved in this process, and I encourage my fellow Borderstanians to attend the upcoming meetings and make their voices heard.