Posts about Fort Dupont
On Thursday, residents from all across the city asked the National Park Service to do better for DC, and praised the progress NPS has made this year, at a town hall meeting from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.
If you didn't get to attend, you'll have another chance to talk to park superintendents about DC parks at another event NPS is organizing on November 13.
At the town hall, Norton noted that the Park Service has very little money and the climate in Congress isn't likely to fund them any better anytime soon; if anything, there might be more cuts. That will exacerbate the huge maintenance backlog at the National Mall and many problems at smaller parks, like at Fort Dupont, where a reasident of Ward 7 said NPS hasn't fixed a deteriorating roadway for years.
But many other people brought up issues that won't require more federal money.
Danielle Pierce of Downtown DC Kids said that 6 months after NPS officials promised to help give the District jurisdiction over a small parcel so it could build a playground, and after Tommy Wells put money into the budget for such a playground, nothing has happened on the Park Service side.
The organizer of a youth sports league said that playing fields in Anacostia Park are in terrible shape. They'd be happy to fix the field themselves if they can become a partner for that park. Joe Sternlieb, the new head of the Georgetown BID, said they'd be happy to do more to remove graffiti at the C&O Canal but need NPS permission.
Rick Reinhard, Deputy Executive Director of the Downtown Business Improvement District, had a very cogent statement about the need for funding, its progress and challenges on partnerships, and its frustrations with rules that make it very difficult to program downtown parks.
In 1997, our buildings, our streets and sidewalks and our parks all were unexceptional-- a 3 to 4 on a scale of 1 to 10. Today, our buildings are an 8 or 9, our streets and sidewalks are a 6 or 7. Our parks are still a 3. Why? Mainly lack of investment. The NPS budget does not allow the [34 National Park Service parks and reservations in the one-square-mile Downtown BID] to be designed, built, maintained or programmed any of us would choose.You can read the complete statement.
NPS is handcuffed to run its urban parks using the same rules they use to run Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Everglades. The same regulations that work so well to protect moose, redwoods and crocodiles work much less effectively to promote playgrounds, concerts and family picnics.
Permits are required for small, what should be spontaneous events. Sponsorship banners are so limited as to be practically prohibited. Food service is limited to the National Mall concessionaire, who finds it not profitable enough to operate a small food cart in, say, McPherson Square, when it is selling thousands of hot dogs on the Mall.
When the Downtown BID worked with the Willard Intercontinental Hotel to promote a simple art fair in Pershing Park, NPS red tape strangled it. One example: artists could sell only art that was materially connected to the theme of the park, like portraits of General Pershing.
Sidewalk cafes are next to impossible to site legally on NPS-controlled Pennsylvania Avenue. So while the number of sidewalk cafes within the BID area has grown over the past 15 years from zero to 147
— with 4,400 seats — the number of sidewalk cafes on Pennsylvania Avenue — which should be one of America's greatest, liveliest streets — is only four.
Local NPS officials understand these problems and do not want to manage this way, but rules are rules.
If NPS is not appropriated enough money, and if NPS has inflexible rules, then the only way our parks ever will be what we deserve is through forging serious, meaningful partnerships.
We offer sincere compliments to Regional Director Steve Whitesell, Mall Superintendent Bob Vogel, Deputy Superintendents Steve Lorenzetti and Karen Cucurullo and their staffs. We have moved ahead on these important issues more in the past couple of years than we have in the decade before, because these men and women understand that these parks not only must respect history and serve our nation but also must be enjoyed day-to-day and serve our residents, workers and visitors.
The Downtown BID wholeheartedly endorses Secretary Salazar's call for a new way of managing NPS' urban space inventory, which includes all of Downtown DC's green spaces. Our hope is that our most recent experiences constitute a new way for DC to work with NPS going forward, and are not exceptions to the rule.
At the meeting, NPS regional head Steve Whitesell announced that the agency was planning its own town hall as well to hear from even more residents. That event will be Tuesday, November 13, 6:30-8:30 pm at the African-American Civil War Museum, 1925 Vermont Avenue NW, right by the east entrance to the U Street Metro.
5 area park superintendents will be there to talk with residents: Bob Vogel of National Mall and Memorial Parks (the Mall plus most nearby small parks), Alex Romero of National Capital Parks-East (generally everything east of the Capitol and also east of the Anacostia), Tara Morrison from Rock Creek (which includes small parks outside the L'Enfant city in Northwest), the C&O Canal's Kevin Brandt, and Ann Bowman Smith who works with the White House to manage "President's Park," the White House itself and surrounding grounds.
This is an important opportunity to bring important issues directly to the people in charge. NPS isn't going to make parks safer to walk and bike, or enjoyable for sitting and eating, or more active for daytime and evening activities, unless people personally ask them to. The more residents ask for these things, the more we will get them. Mark your calendars!
DDOT will not be holding a Feet in the Street walking and cycling event on K Street because DC's Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency won't allow a special event with any cross traffic.
Cities around the world, from Bogotá to Paris, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Baltimore, Miami, Portland, Chicago, Kansas City and Las Cruces, New Mexico, have held similar events, variously called Ciclovia, Summer Streets, Sunday Streets, Sunday Parkways, and more.
All involve closing a lengthy segment of a street to traffic, except at major intersections, for walkers, runners, rollerbladers, cyclists and more to enjoy the outdoors, get exercise, and have fun in a way that's often not possible in cities where most public space is dedicated to motor vehicles most of the time. Often "stations" along the way provide exercise classes, bicycle seminars, health information, and more.
Last year, DDOT tried one in Fort Dupont Park to great acclaim from surrounding neighborhoods, but the true spirit of the event involves closing a street through numerous neighborhoods as opposed to using a park drive. In April, DDOT decided to try hosting the event on K Street from 7th Street to Georgetown and the Capital Crescent Trail. 7th, 14th and 17th Streets would have remained open so that cars, trucks and buses could travel between the areas north and south of the route, and the route would have run under Washington Circle allowing traffic to cross there as well.
Unfortunately, they ran into a virtual concrete bollard in the form of DC's Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA). According to DDOT's Anna McLaughlin, HSEMA does not allow any areas open to traffic inside an area closed off for a special event, and DDOT did not want to create an enormous barrier across the entire city. MPD and FEMS, which participate in planning for special events through a special task force, were unwilling to budge. It's not clear if this is an official written policy or just general practice at the agency.
This policy makes no sense. This has been done in exactly this way in cities everywhere. Even Arlington allowed cross traffic at some signalized intersections for Bike DC. We have trails which act as roads closed to motor vehicles, but which periodically cross regular streets with (or sometimes without) traffic signals.
Pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicles interact all the time at intersections every day. We even have special electrical light-based devices at the corners to guide the orderly interaction of traffic in the various directions. If it were really dangerous for cars to take turns with pedestrians, then every intersection in the city would require concrete barriers walling off the sidewalks from the roads and skybridges or tunnels to cross. It's crazy.
Sure, complete separation greatly reduces the possibility of anything happening. Some have speculated that this rule stems from an incident a few years ago where a driver on drugs drove through a barrier into a special event and killed people. However, it's not possible to completely reduce every risk. Bicycling down a street with no cars and only two signalized intersections with cross traffic is surely safer than bicycling down a regular street with cars and cross traffic at every intersection, and people do that every day, almost always safely.Park(ing) Day, which turns parking spaces into temporary parks for a few hours. In other cities, organizers have done this simply by placing some temporary turf and a bench on a parking space, often with permission. Here, DDOT public space officials wanted concrete barriers on all three sides, barrels and flags at the corners, 2-foot empty spaces inside the barriers, 22-foot clear zones on either side along the curbs.
In other words, to separate people sitting in the park from cars, they required enormous barricades and empty spaces, even though people come far nearer cars every day when sitting at a bus stop and have no such protections. But these security decisions aren't about reason, they're about the approving official eliminating every possible risk no matter how ridiculous and regardless of everyday practice.
If HSEMA, MPD, and FEMS hold firm to this rule, there can't ever be a Summer Streets outside a park. They should try visiting another city to see how workable this really is, or perhaps just try visiting a street corner to see that those work as well. Meanwhile, DDOT will again hold this year's Summer Streets in Fort Dupont.
Photos by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.
Tomorrow, Saturday, is Feet in the Street, DC's first foray into the Ciclovia/Summer Streets/Sunday Streets phenomenon, where cities around the world close down streets in densely populated areas to create linear festivals. People walk, bike, and rollerblade through their city in ways not possible normally. Stops along the way provide entertainment, education, refreshment, and more.
After Petworth neighbors panned an initial proposal to run an event on Kansas Avenue, DC officials settled on Fort Dupont Park. While this misses the point a bit, it's a first step toward trying this out in DC. If this is successful, it will help build the case for such an event through more neighborhoods next year. Hopefully it won't rain too much.
- Guided nature hikes
- Invasive plant removal outings
- Free 2-hour bike rentals
- Healthy food workshops
- Community garden tours
- Bike rides and bike classes
- Fitness classes, workouts, and blood sugar/pressure testing
- In-line skating, boxing, and tennis
- Musical performance
Benning Road is the closest Metro station, and Texas Avenue is a good bike route for the 10-minute ride to the park. Minnesota Avenue, Potomac Avenue, and Anacostia stations are also within biking distance. The U and V buses serve the park. There is also parking in a lot near Randle Circle, and the park road accessing the lot will not be closed to traffic.
The DC Bicycle Advisory Council met on Wednesday, and DDOT revealed lots of interesting news, which WashCycle kindly wrote up in great detail. Some of the highlights:
South Capitol bike trail: DDOT hired Toole Design to investigate the possibility of closing one lane along South Capitol Street, to convert to a bike trail. If Maryland continues the trail it would enable cyclists to reach the new Wilson Bridge bike lane and Alexandria.
Pennsylvania Ave bike lane: DDOT is talking to NPS about adding a bike lane to Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. The designs for Capitol Hill Town Square also proposed a bike lane on Pennyslvania Avenue, SE. No word whether NPS is being at all accommodating about this idea.
Summer Streets in Fort Dupont: Since Petworth turned down the idea, DDOT will instead organize a Summer Streets event in Fort Dupont Park, in River East. That's a great idea, and River East should have a Summer Streets every year. Apparently, unlike some of his or her colleagues, "NPS's new lead in the area is eager to find ways to get people into the parks." In addition to closing streets, NPS will offer rental bikes and possibly free pedicabs.
DDOT "is hoping to do more locations next year." Better yet, let's do one spanning most of the city and multiple quadrants. How about all of Pennsylvania Avenue, or the length of North Capitol and South Capitol with a nice scenic ride past the Capitol?
SmartBike: We recently discussed how DDOT is considering dumping Clear Channel for SmartBike. They're still talking to Clear Channel, though I also heard confirmation from another source that Clear Channel is just not interested in SmartBike amid a general downturn in their business. DDOT is also looking at Montreal's Bixi, which uses solar powered stations. Those are quicker to install because PEPCO isn't involved, and easier to reposition if needed. However, the bikes are heaver and "the stations are less streamlined." DDOT also has "some sort of regional agreement" with Arlington, which is applying for federal funding for bike sharing.
Legislation: The BAC plans to focus on Complete Streets legislation and laws allowing people to bring bicycles into their office buildings. They also discussed whether the planned bicycle-mounted enforcement squad would primarily target cyclists and pedestrians and give insufficient attention to dangerous driver behavior.
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