(Updated at 5:24 p.m.) D.C.’s General Services and Parks and Recreation departments will help bring a firetruck to an Adams Morgan playground tomorrow afternoon, but it won’t be Freddy.
The agencies are scheduled to host a “family fun day” in Walter Pierce Park Thursday from 4-8 p.m., according to an email from the Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services. The event will include free popcorn, a moon bounce, an inflatable slide and a working firetruck from D.C. Fire and EMS.
“We thought it would be a great idea to have a real firetruck with real D.C. Fire personnel,” said Gwen Crump, a DPR spokeswoman. “We’re going to have some snacks. It’s going to be a fun day.”
District officials will also use the party to update locals on the status of the plan to replace Freddy Da Firetruck, the beloved playground equipment that DGS mistakenly disposed of earlier this month. As detailed by the Washington Post, workers trashed Freddy after months of back-and-forth between frustrated locals and city officials.
Though it may seem like the city organized the event as a way to placate neighbors miffed by Freddy’s untimely death, DGS spokesman Kenny Diggs said he “wouldn’t characterize it as that.”
“The mayor’s office wanted to put this event together and DGS was more than willing to participate,” he explained. “We do apologize for the miscommunication of the firetruck incident. I wouldn’t characterize it as placating.”
Chanda Washington, a representative of the mayor’s office, explained the purpose of the event thusly:
“Clearly, we made a mistake in how we communicated to the community about the status of a popular piece of playground equipment,” Washington said. “We wanted to bring the kids out… have a little fun, and at the same time, give them an update of where we are about getting the equipment back.”
It looks like The Case of the Missing Firetruck is solved.
Officials with D.C.’s Department of General Services said the firetruck that disappeared from Walter Pierce Park’s playground last week wasn’t stolen. It was thrown away.
Kenneth Diggs, a spokesman for DGS, released the following statement on behalf of the DGS this afternoon:
The Department of General Services’ (DGS) Contract Services Unit responded to community requests to repair the broken equipment. It had been reported to DGS that children were being injured due to a broken plank on the fire truck. After evaluating the equipment, it was determined that the fire truck could not be repaired. In effort to err on the side of safety, the fire truck was disposed of by DGS to ensure there would be no further injury to children.
The decision to remove and dispose of the fire truck to protect children should have been communicated to community members who purchased the apparatus and to the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR).
DGS regrets both the lack of communication to the community – specifically to those who worked together to purchase the fire truck – and DPR of the removal and disposal of the play equipment.
DGS apologizes for the communication oversight and will replace the equipment with a new fire truck in the next six to eight weeks.
Mindy Moretti, one of the neighbors who helped kick off the campaign to find the playground vehicle known around Adams Morgan as “Freddy Da Firetruck,” said the whole process has been “absolutely maddening.”
“I am completely frustrated,” she said. “The miscommunication and lack of communication really does boggle the mind.”
Still, at least the neighborhood kids get a new firetruck out of the deal, Moretti said.
“I’m going to go out and hug it when it arrives… and I might even sleep it in the first night,” she said. “Might also try to organize some sort of welcome back party for it.”
“Freddie Da Firetruck” photo courtesy Mindy Moretti
Updated at 2:55 p.m.: A D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) spokeswoman sent us the following statement regarding the firetruck:
The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) was informed that there was a piece of playground equipment (the firetruck playground equipment) that could be hazardous. DPR’s Risk Management Department went to the site to inspect the equipment.
Upon arrival, they noticed the piece of equipment was not there. DPR researched internally to see if the equipment was removed and also reached out to our sister agency – Department of General Services (DGS) to see if they had removed the equipment. Neither DGS nor DPR removed the firetruck playground equipment. MPD has been notified.
Neither DPR nor DGS removes equipment without notifying the community.
DPR has contacted the vendor, which supplied the original beloved firetruck playground equipment. We are researching the cost and availability of firetruck playground equipment.
Read our original story below:
Who took the beloved firetruck equipment from Walter Pierce Park’s playground? It’s a question that’s currently perplexing locals in Adams Morgan.
The firetruck disappeared from a corner of the park sometime last week, according to neighbor Mindy Moretti:
Has anyone seen me? I went missing sometime last week (most likely Friday). I miss my home in Walter Pierce Park!!! pic.twitter.com/kv2GmKuLq4
— Mindy Moretti (@mindymoretti) August 23, 2016
The spot where the truck once sat was bare when a Borderstan reporter visited Walter Pierce earlier today.
Though it’s just a piece of playground equipment, the truck means a lot to the surrounding community, Moretti told us. Neighbors paid for and built the playground equipment in 2000, and since its installation, it’s been one of the park’s most popular attractions, she said.
“The firetruck is very much apart of our neighborhood,” Moretti added. “It was hugely popular.”
Since the truck’s disappearance, locals have scrambled to learn its whereabouts, even going so far as to jokingly photoshop its image on a milk carton.
Was the firetruck stolen? It’s possible, tweeted Jackie Stanley, outreach coordinator at the D.C. Department of General Services (DGS):
— Jackie Stanley (@JackieDGS) August 22, 2016
Despite Stanley’s tweet, D.C. Police told us today they haven’t yet received a call about the vanished vehicle.
Does Ward 1 D.C. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau know what happened to the truck? Apparently not. Though Moretti and Nadeau briefly chatted about the playground equipment today, Moretti said Nadeau didn’t have any information to share.
So, we asked Nadeau’s office. What happened? Could someone really have stolen it?
“We can’t confirm anything at this point but we’re working to get to the bottom of it and to ensure it gets returned,” a representative for the councilmember told us in response. “It’s a beloved part of the park and there are a lot of parents and kids who are interested in seeing it back in place.”
Still, Moretti said she thinks The Case of the Missing Firetruck is likely just a big miscommunication. After all, unless you’re one of Carmen Sandiego’s henchmen, it’s not an easy feat to swipe a heavy piece of playground equipment.
Even if a city agency took it in for repairs, though, a little notice would have been nice, Moretti said.
“We’re still unclear where it is, if it’s getting fixed, when it’s coming back,” she explained. “If people had just bothered to send an email, post a sign in the park, anything, that would have saved a lot of consternation, anger, angst, everything.”
And so, the mystery continues.
Borderstanians, I received this comment from Lisa of Borderstan in response to a posting on a mapping tool, the DC Citizen Atlas, which I highlighted here on this blog. I will let Lisa explain how you can find playspaces for kids using a mapping tool created by a DC-based non-profit, KaBOOM!
Any parents on this blog looking to find great places for kids to play? I live in Borderstan and thought I’d share a cool program with everyone: Its called the KaBOOM! Playspace Finder. I work for a DC based national non-profit called KaBOOM! We work to make sure kids nationwide have a great place to play within walking distance of their home… by empowering communities and corporations to take action and support and build playgrounds and recreation areas.
Essentially, KaBOOM! created Playspace Finder to be an online, user-generated national database of outdoor places for kids to play. It is also available as a widget for those of you with blogs.
The KaBOOM! Playspace Finder is an amazing online tool that allows people to enter, search, and rate playspaces in their communities. It is a free, searchable directory that helps parents, community members and kids to locate playgrounds, skate parks, sports fields, and even ice rinks across America. It can also be used to alert local communities about recreational areas that need a little help.
Right now, more than 10,000 playspaces have been entered on our website and we’re looking to really turn DC into a leader by making sure that we have all of DC’s playgrounds included (which we do not right now–please help us out with this) and also make sure that folks in DC are using this program as a resource, since we are based here.
Anyone can add a playspace to the KaBOOM! Playspace Finder. With step-by-step instructions and a Playspace Finder worksheet, its pretty easy for you to upload photos, include details about the playspace and submit your thoughts on the space’s overall “play value.” The KaBOOM! Playspace Finder is a great and easy way to get your kids outside to play, help visitors and new residents in your community locate nearby playgrounds, and create positive changes in the state of play in your neighborhood.
Ultimately, our hope is that we will use the data we collect in the Playspace Finder to help us audit the quality and quantity of, and access to, play nationwide. We’ve already seen it work in some communities–in Tucson, Arizona, for example, city leaders recognized, via their audit of playgrounds with the KaBOOM! Playspace Finder, a disparity in access to playgrounds across their community.
In order to address this deficit, the City formed an explicit partnership with the Tucson Unified School District whereby identified school playgrounds would remain open after school hours, on weekends and during summer months. The new program will begin with 12 elementary school playgrounds and the hope is that all of the school playgrounds will open as neighborhood parks in the future.
Please check out this great resource and pass it on!
P.S. – We also have a program set up for school-age kids who are looking for community service credit to work with us, and help us populate the KaBOOM! Playspace Finder. Visit our Web site to find out how to volunteer.