Posts about Outdoor Play
We received this letter from Chinatown resident Caroline Armijo:
Since March, I have been on a quest to find space for a playground in downtown DC. I have been living in Chinatown for six years and now have a two-year-old daughter.
I was warned that the lack of playgrounds, not the dismal schools, is the primary reason that young families move away from downtown. I did not understand the full impact until this spring when my daughter was in full-force running mode.
Long story short, my husband walks to work and we drive to playgrounds. Furthermore, my daughter gets her exercise in museums, at the library and church
— all places I would want to my child to act in a more reverent fashion. Not the case. But what can you do? We live in a 1000-square foot apartment with no outdoor space. Toddlers need to run.
One of the great mysteries is dealing with the [National Park Service]. Numerous people have told me that NPS does not support playgrounds on the parks they control. However all of the parks in Capitol Hill are parks maintained by the NPS and they all have playgrounds. How did this happen? Did Congress intervene?NPS playgrounds rare and hard-won
The almost 7,000 acres of national park land in the District contain a grand total of 11 playgrounds. If you include playgrounds on the 800 acres operated by the DC parks department, Washington's total reaches 71. This compares with 129 playgrounds in Baltimore, 162 in San Francisco and 504 in Chicago.Frustration felt citywide
Each of the 11 playgrounds on national park land has a political history akin to the passage of some major piece of legislation. The newest one, which opened last winter on Capitol Hill, took a group of Lincoln Park mothers six years of campaigning and resulted in an unfenced tot lot rather than the adventure playground they had hoped for.
It's not just a problem for small children: Even counting the wide open spaces and recreational facilities of Anacostia Park, the Park Service provides only 18 soccer fields in the whole city, compared with, for instance, 75 on a smaller land base in Seattle.
Steve Coleman, of Washington Parks and People, says the challenges of getting NPS to accommodate children goes beyond downtown. He wrote in an email:
Yes, the parks on Capitol Hill tend to have playgrounds. Residents have generally only gotten their concerns addressed through massive community effort. Stanton Park neighbors, for example, had to campaign for years just to make simple safety upgrades to their play area.Park Service spokesperson Bill Line did not respond to multiple emails sent over the course of 2 weeks asking for comment on Ms. Armijo's question.
For some, the wait is even longer. At Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park, the Park Service approved, ordered, and began to install several play areas in the 1930's, then halted work because of budget cuts for World War II, never to be re-started. As a result, thousands of families living in the densest area of the city have faced the same dilemma as Chinatown residents of whether to give up on the neighborhood because of lack of adequate play facilities.
The Park Service has built some beautiful playgrounds in DC. But sadly, NPS has shown a tendency to build and care for play areas in some more affluent neighborhoods such as Montrose Park in Georgetown while providing far less care or support for the families living in many less affluent areas.
The Park Service's enabling legislation cites its mission as preserving the nation's natural and cultural resources unimpaired for the education, inspiration, and enjoyment of this and future generations. Many dedicated people in the Park Service work hard every day to advance this mission for all, despite budget shortfalls.
There are signs that Park Service leaders may want to finally address the under-investment and shortcomings of inner-city DC parks management. Yet in many under-served parts of the capital, the reality is that the enjoyment of this generation of children has been all too often left by the wayside.
On the calendar: WMATA capital budget, Christopher Leinberger, outdoor play, Met Branch Trail, Daniel Burnham
There are a lot of big events coming up in the next few days.
In brief: There's a WMATA hearing on the capital budget tonight. Tomorrow we're hosting a live chat with Christopher Leinberger, and in the evening, there's Montgomery County panel on building urban spaces that allow children to play. Saturday is a party for the Met Branch Trail. And next Wednesday, watch a new documentary on the Mall about Daniel Burnham.
WMATA capital hearing: Tonight at 5:30, WMATA is holding a hearing on the capital budget. Normally, these hearings happen in tandem with TPB hearings and almost nobody attends, but this time, WMATA decided to have a separate hearing.
I had hoped to figure out what to say and also write about it, but to be honest, I just didn't find the time. Unfortunately, that means I didn't tell you ahead of time or decide what to say. WashCycle points out that many ped and bike projects are cut. On the other hand, replacing aging equipment does need to be the top priority.
The hearing starts at 5:30 at WMATA HQ, 600 5th St, NW. You can also submit written testimony until Monday.
Live chat with Christopher Leinberger: Tomorrow, Christopher Leinberger will join us for a live chat at 1:00 pm. Leinberger is the author of The Option of Urbanism and a leading advocate for walkable urbanism and changes to public policy to allow and encourage more of it.
Lately, he has been discussing value capture, the funding of public transit through taxes that capture some of the increased value transit brings to the land around the stations.
Please join us tomorrow at 1:00. In the meantime, please submit questions for Mr. Leinberger in the comments.
ReThink Health: The final ReThink Montgomery discussion will focus on health, and specifically children's health. Urban and suburban developments alike often lack good spaces for children to play.
Joan Almon of the Alliance for Childhood will discuss "the vital role of play and how planners can design and build spaces that make it easy for children to be active." The event is at 7:30 pm at Montgomery Park and Planning's auditorium, 8787 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring, near Silver Spring Metro.
Meet the Met (Branch Trail): On Saturday, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is holding a party on the Metropolitan Branch Trail, a partially-completed walking and biking trail along the CSX and Red Line tracks from Union Station to Silver Spring.
Currently, the trail is complete from L Street, NE (just north of Union Station) to Franklin Street in Brookland. The party is on the newest segment past the Rhode Island Avenue Metro, which you can reach through the parking lot of the large shopping center at 700 Rhode Island Avenue, NE, just across the tracks from the Metro station.
Daniel Burnham: Finally, next Wednesday is a screening of Make No Little Plans: Daniel Burnham and the American City, a documentary about the architect who designed Union Station and the Postal Square building next door. Burnham was also one of the members of the McMillan Commission which redesigned the National Mall in 1901. His influence also carries far beyond Washington, DC.
The documentary takes its title from his most famous quote (which he may or may not have actually said): "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will not themselves be realized." Here's a trailer:
Photos at top, clockwise from upper left: WMATA hearing by thisisbossi on Flickr; Christopher Leinberger from his site; Met Branch Trail sign by TrailVoice on Flickr; and Joan Almon from ReThink Montgomery.
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