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Council commitee funds Stead Park upgrades

Parents from around DC who throng Dupont Circle's Stead Park can rejoice: Yesterday, after months of community advocacy, a DC Council committee voted to fund upgrades that will expand play space, install a jogging track, and better utilize the large playing field.

Photo by afagen on Flickr.

Stead Park has an endowment from the Stead Family, which will help maintain the transformational renovations, but the project requires city funds. Mayor Gray originally included $1.6 million in capital funds in his budget, but not until Fiscal Year 2015, which starts in October of 2014.

Residents asked the Council to approve the funding and move it up to FY 2014. Marion Barry (ward 8), the chairman of the Committee on Workforce and Community Affairs, was very supportive; yesterday, his committee voted 5-0 to put the funding in FY 2014, which will allow the construction happen over the next year.

The committee report says,

While the Committee applauds the Mayor for funding this initiative, the community and advocates of Stead Park are ready now for the much needed project... In order to not slow down the major progress of advocates, the committee recommends that 1.6 million of funding be moved into the FY14 budget so that the project can begin in the next fiscal year.
While playground is packed, field often goes unused

Stead Park, on P Street between 16th and 17th, has some playgrounds for children, a basketball court, and a large playing field. A few wonderful sports teams and after-school programs use the field loyally and lovingly, and know how rare such space is in this part of the city.

However, the field currently doesn't get much use during the rest of the day. It's also in bad shape. Holes and dirt patches mar the surface, and large puddles make it unusable after heavy rain.

Photo by tedeytan on Flickr.

Meanwhile, Stead's extremely popular playground draws parents from Mount Pleasant, Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, U Street, Shaw, Logan, and Dupont. Friends of Stead Park, whose board I serve on, has been gathering community input since last year. Because the playing field is so underused, many residents without children that we've spoken to didn't even know the acre of greenspace exists behind the playground.

On Sunday, the field hosted a rare community event: a Jewish Music Festival organized by the nearby JCC. But even though the field was bustling, the playground was still very crowded with visitors from all over. Over 20 strollers and dozens of kids and parents were trying not to bump into each other as they crammed among the jungle gyms.

The playground was renovated 6 years ago and is very popular, while the field has sadly been neglected. Many of the parents we spoke to said that while they want to stay in the city and raise their kids here, they worry that there currently is not enough multi-use space or outdoors options for recreation and community building located nearby.

Project will provide fitness, recreation, and entertainment for all ages

With the city assistance, Friends of Stead Park plans to renovate the field with a smoother surface, better drainage, and artificial turf that will hold up better with use. A jogging track with trees and benches around the edge will give people another way to use the field during the day, while it will remain large enough for the organized sports leagues that use it in the evening.

A small part of the field space will become a kiddie splash park. A performance stage behind the existing building will allow the field to host more concerts, films, and cultural programming.

Plans for the park.

Parents and community members are excited to let their kids run around the field safely and reduce congestion on the playground. They are happy that more concerts, films, and cultural programming will come to the performance stage. They were relieved that there will finally be trees, shade, and seating, and places for children to splash on hot days. They are excited to be able to go for a jog without having to battle with street traffic.

Friends of Stead Park told the committee that we are glad the city is upgrading playgrounds, including the Harrison playground on V Street. That is necessary since the number of adults and children is growing so rapidly. Stead's playground is already quite nice and doesn't have much room to expand, but this great piece of green space is crying out for better and more use.

Starting the project this year will go a long way toward encouraging families to stay in the city and to be actively engaged, as community members said recently and during public meetings last year.

We would like to thank Councilmember Barry and the other members of the committee for voting to accelerate the funding. We ask that the full Council retain this relatively low-cost, high-value project in the FY2014 budget when it votes on May 22, so we can move forward this year to start improving the field and provide some much-needed space and options for our families and our community.

Kishan Putta is a Dupont Circle ANC Commissioner who is also an avid District cyclist and health reform advocate. He has lived on 16th Street for several years with his wife Divya. He is also an active board member of Friends of Stead Park. You can find out more and contact him at


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no shout out to jack evans here? he is the one that got the ball rolling on this in the first place. he found the $ in the budget and got gray to go along. barry gets credit? is this the twilight zone?

by ruffnready on May 9, 2013 10:47 am • linkreport

How exciting. Parks and third spaces add so much. Am I correct that Stead also has a summer film festival?

by Katherine Mereand-Sinha on May 9, 2013 11:20 am • linkreport

In addition to the five committee members (Graham, Wells, Alexander, McDuffie, Barry), thank you to Mayor Gray and parks director Jesus Aguirre for your support. And, yes, our deepest appreciation goes to our Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans for his long history of dedication to Stead Park -- and his excellent staff. Last, not least, thanks to our community for the strong support and input throughout this process -- Mr. Barry's report says it all: "the community and advocates of Stead Park are ready NOW [my emphasis] for the much needed project... In order to not slow down the major progress of advocates..." We deeply appreciate your help in improving our community.

by Kishan Putta on May 9, 2013 12:09 pm • linkreport

Interesting to hear that parents are bringing kids from as far away as Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, and Mt. Pleasant to play at Stead. Certainly there are closer playgrounds to them (Kalorama, Girard, whatever that one on Adams Mill Road across from Ontario Place is called), so Stead must be even more special than I realized.

by iaom on May 9, 2013 12:24 pm • linkreport

This is great news. I played touch football on this field as a kid (when there were very few kids in the neighborhood), and it's amazing that it has taken so long to get the field in proper shape.

I have taken *my* kids to the much improved playground part, but there is still a lot more potential here.

by 20816 on May 9, 2013 10:22 pm • linkreport

What project got pushed back to move the Stead project up? Just curious, not critical.

by Susie Cambria on May 10, 2013 9:27 am • linkreport

So glad to hear this. Indeed, great news for our growing community!!!! And thank you to Kishan for all his efforts on our behalf.

by Catherine on May 10, 2013 9:14 pm • linkreport

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