By Felicia Couts, 25-year Resident of Southwest, Park Partner Project Manager
Just before Christmas 2020, construction fencing was erected at the 3rd & I Street Park to complete Phase II improvements to the park. Thanks to Councilmember Charles Allen, the additional $500,000 in funding needed to complete Phase II was budgeted in 2018 and the work was scheduled to be completed in tandem with the completion of the last stages of the new Southwest Library.
The work will include stormwater management, retaining walls, and new walkways, among other improvements. The Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) has advised that the rounded curved area in front of the playground is a design change pushed by the Department of Energy and Environment for a bioretention area that will contain indigenous plants. The ADA-compliant ramp from the Wesley Place side of the playground will become the primary access point.
It has taken many years to get to this point. In 2010, a group of neighbors dreamed together about how to improve the park space in front of the old Southwest Library, “the Library Park.” The space was dark at night and overgrown with trees which were in sore need of pruning or removal. The sidewalks were severely cracked and uneven, making it almost impassable by some with mobile disabilities, and the three land masses were eroding and contributing to flooding and a mosquito nuisance in the park whenever it rained. This park–also the sister park to the Southwest Duck Pond–had been severely ignored, and made the community feel unsafe.
In August 2014, with the foundational support of the SE/SW Community Benefits Coordinating Council (CBCC), DPR, and the tireless effort, support and donations of our residents, community leaders, and local businesses–including CBCC Founder Rev. Ruth Hamilton, the late ANC6D representative, Ron McBee, Station 4 Restaurant, and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel–a major transformation began: trees were pruned or removed and brand new playground equipment, new benches, and trash cans were purchased and installed. Since then, the playground at the 3rd & I Street Park has been used by countless children and their parents as a haven for laughter and as a meeting place for families in the community.
The playground, while a refreshing start, was not the end of the community’s plan for this site. The goal was always to re-active the entire park for the entire community, regardless of age. Therefore, DPR transferred the budgeted $500,000 using a Memorandum of Understanding to DC Public Library so that the work could occur seamlessly under one contract in conjunction with the new library. All work will be completed by Perkins & Will Architects and Turner Construction, and is set to be completed by the Spring of 2021.
Congratulations, Southwest! Together, we did it!