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Hillcrest residents turn tennis courts into gardens

Vacant for years, the tennis courts at the Fairfax Village condominium in Hillcrest were choked with weeds and litter. Last week, residents and volunteers came together to transform it into a community garden and gathering space.

Residents and volunteers prepare the site to build a raised garden bed. All photos by the author.

Hillcrest, located in Ward 7, is a quiet suburban neighborhood that the City Paper nicknamed "Lawn and Order." But the two tennis courts at Fairfax Village, located on Southern Avenue SE, have been derelict for the last decade. The courts are overgrown with trees and weeds and filled with litter.

The original plan was to sell the land to builder IDS Homes, who wanted to build single-family homes there, but the deal fell through. Neighbors, community leaders and ANC Commissioner Robert A. Jordan, had another idea: turn it into community space.

Plans for the community garden.

One court will be used for community events, such as outdoor movies. Thanks to a grant from the District Department of the Environment, the other court will be transformed into a community garden. The plans include two raised garden beds, a gazebo in the middle, and fruit trees on the perimeter.

Earlier this year, workers removed the tennis court's surface and crushed its subsurface concrete, which will be reused to build a retaining wall for the raised garden beds. Here's what the site looked like without the tennis court:

Last Saturday, we had a community day at the garden. Volunteers from Fairfax Village, the Anacostia Watershed Society, and Georgetown University toiled away to build the retaining wall, remove overgrowth from the stairs, and add mulch. Youth from the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) and Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) led many of the tasks.

Fairfax Village neighbors being trained to lead tasks.

SYEP and DYRS youth will continue to build the community garden throughout the summer, but we hope to have more community work days during the planting season. This community garden has been two years in the making, and we are excited to reap the rewards when it is complete.

For more photos, visit Life in the Village.

Veronica O. Davis, PE, has experience in planning transportation, urban areas, civil infrastructure, and communities. She co-owns Nspiregreen, LLC, an environmental consulting company in DC. She is also the co-founder of Black Women Bike DC, which strives to increase the number of Black women and girls biking for fun, health, wellness, and transportation. 


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Beautiful, I hope it's a lovely garden. The fig tree at my house is almost ready to harvest and I love scoping it out every day in anticipation. Everyone should have access to a garden.

by Alan B. on Aug 1, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

Love it! Very exciting.

Hillcrest is a beautiful neighborhood, regardless of what happens at Skyland.

by h st ll on Aug 1, 2013 9:28 pm • linkreport

I guess a garden is OK, but what's wrong with restoring the courts so people can use them?

by Chris S. on Aug 2, 2013 10:40 am • linkreport

Chris - The west tennis courts were left such that they didn't preclude use as tennis courts in the future. There are other courts within reasonable walking distance that people use.

by Veronica O. Davis (Ms V) on Aug 2, 2013 10:57 am • linkreport

Well done, volunteers! Extra points for doing this project during a DC summer.

by yup yup on Aug 2, 2013 11:23 am • linkreport

I see. That makes sense then.

by Chris S. on Aug 2, 2013 11:48 am • linkreport

Congratulations! It will require considerable work, but, as a community gardener myself, I am confident that it will be worth it. Be sure to tap into the network of community gardens so that you do not have to reinvent the wheel. Good luck!

by Rhetor Marcus on Aug 2, 2013 1:51 pm • linkreport

This is a great initiative that I hope to see as the centerpiece for next years Hillcrest Garden Tour.

by Marvin Bowser on Aug 4, 2013 9:24 am • linkreport

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