Category Archives: Schools, Parks, Recreation

Turkey Thicket And Brookland Middle School – So Many Questions, So Few Answers

Readers, it has been challenging to capture the various moving parts of this latest neighborhood kerfuffle succinctly, but I have tried.  The existing Brookland Elementary School building located at 1150 Michigan Avenue, NE has been shuttered since 2008, and will either be torn down or refurbished and reopened by summer 2014 as the Brookland Middle School. The overall budget for this project is $50 Million dollars. Last week, we attended a meeting where plans to create one campus of the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center and the new Brookland Middle School were discussed. The meeting was attended by over 70 very vocal Brookland and North Michigan Park residents. I went into the meeting hopeful that the community would realize a win-win scenario where the best features of this new school and our fully used recreation center could be leveraged in a way that benefits with whole community. I was apparently too optimistic. Here are birdseye views of the current buildings and the plans presented by the Department of General Services at the meeting.

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The meeting quickly devolved into a two-hour-long, tense series of exchanges between the community and representatives from the Departments of Parks and Recreation (DPR), General Services (DGS) and DC Public Schools (DCPS). The reason why, in short, is because the plan presented for the new school amounted to short-changing the future middle school kids and the loss of currently used community facilities. Here is what I found most frustrating about the meeting:

1) There were no substantive answers given to basic questions and concerns raised by the community. We were essentially told that important details that need to be thought out now would be resolved at some unspecified time in the future.

2) There was either a lack of community involvement in these plans, or where there was involvement, those stakeholders were completely blindsided by new plans. For example, the Ward 5 Council on Education and the Brookland School Improvement Team (SIT) have been working with the city for over a year on the plans for the new school. So you could imagine their surprise when the plans shown at the meeting were not the ones they have been working on, but a completely new concept they had not seen yet. We were told that the plans presented are not definite, but DPS, DGS and DCPS were not prepared to discuss other options at the meeting. The Request For Proposals (RFP), for the design of the new school states that “…outdoor spaces will be shared with the city recreation facility. Those spaces include a multi-purpose soccer field and tennis courts. In return, the community will have access to the middle school’s gymnasium during evenings and weekends.” Because the only gymnasium in the plan presented was the one currently belonging to Turkey Thicket, I am concluding that the gymnasium will change ownership and now belong to the school, and the community will lose this much-needed and heavily used amenity.

3) There were no definitive answers given about potential changes to plans to overhaul the Turkey Thicket Playground, which seemed imminent, and construction slated to begin in weeks. The RFP for this project has long been out, and Studio 39 was hired to develop concept plans, with expected delivery of the new playground by summer 2013. The new school plans presented showed the school sitting atop what would be the new playground and the elements of the playground overhaul in a different configuration on the property than what is currently planned.

As of now, there is a lot up in the air, a lot at stake, and few clear answers. Here are the biggest outstanding issues, as we see them, which were not addressed at the meeting:

  • School security requirements vs. community access. If the school and Turkey Thicket are to be one campus, how will the different populations served by the two interact, be restricted, etc?
  • Status of the Turkey Thicket playground overhaul. If the plan presented goes through, will we still get the same playground amenities as currently planned? Since the planning for the new middle school has been going on for a year and a half, why has there been no coordination between these two projects and RFPs? What will happen to the funding allocated for the playground overhaul as part of the Mayor’s PlayDC project? How will this playground, geared significantly towards toddlers, function in the same space with middle school students who are teenagers?
  • Accommodating the whole community. Brookland and the surrounding areas are growing quickly. As it stands now, Turkey Thicket fields and facilities are used not only by the general community, but also by charter schools and other groups. Since this amenity is used at or near capacity already, shouldn’t the plans accommodate growth and be a scaled upward not downward?
  • Parking and Traffic. The school, as planned, will serve 540 students. Traffic on 10th Street NE and Michigan Ave NE is pretty congested already in the mornings and afternoons. There has been no traffic study done because of the stage this project is in, fine, but there also hasn’t been any outreach to the neighbors that live on 10th Street where the proposed pick up and drop off points are. If an entirely new school is to be built why not have underground parking?

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Since the meeting, concerned citizens have been raising awareness wherever they can in order to get some answers, and hopefully, a new plan. We reached out to Tom Bridge, president of the Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association and here’s what he had to say:

“BNCA’s leadership is significantly concerned with the DGS/DPR/DCPS plan to co-locate the Brookland Middle School and Turkey Thicket Recreation Center. At this time, we are lacking the detail to make good judgments concerning this plan, and that by itself is concerning to us. Turkey Thicket is a multi-generational facility at the heart of the community, and plans to alter that space need to be detailed to the community before any progress is made toward a final plan.”

Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie made a statement on the Brookland listserv, here is an outtake

“I was dismayed by the recent announcement by the Department of General Services (DGS) to co-locate the new Brookland Middle School with the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center without community input. I share the outrage the Ward 5 Council on Education expressed regarding the lack of transparency and inclusion of stakeholders in this new design. While our community is in dire need of the proposed middle school, it should not come at the expense of another well used amenity.”

We couldn’t agree more. Two days after the community meeting CM McDuffie questioned the collocation plans at the Committee on Government Operations, agency performance oversight hearing for DGS. It is hoped that McDuffie’s involvement and the amount of public outcry will spur DGS to involve the community more fully and revisit earlier proposals that did not combine the two buildings. We are in touch with the Ward 5 Council on Education who will provide us with an update and next steps to pass along to you; but for now you can remain involved in the process by contacting our elected officials such as Councilmembers and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, support the Ward 5 Council on Education and the SIT, and engage with the Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association and the Michigan Park Citizens Association (MPCA).  This topic will be discussed at a MPCA meeting tomorrow evening, Tuesday, March 5th at 7:15 pm, at Bunkerhill Elementary School, located at 14th Street & Michigan Avenue NE.

Noyes Playground Construction Update – Groundbreaking Soon

We learned the latest on the Noyes Playground overhaul from Jackie Stanley of DC’s Department of General Services (DGS). A construction fence will go up next week, and construction will start 2 weeks later. Construction is expected to last 12 weeks, with a target completion date of June 1st. There will be a groundbreaking ceremony, but a date hasn’t been set yet.

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The park will have the following features:

  • Playground for all ages
  • Adult fitness equipment
  • Plaza/Community gathering space
  • Community garden
  • Walking path
  • Multipurpose field
  • Perimeter fencing
  • Ornamental playground fencing
  • Picnic tables
  • Landscaping
  • Grills
  • Service entrance
  • Litter receptacles
  • Community message board
  • Irrigation system

The budget for the project is $1 million dollars, the contract to construct the park came in at $725,000, leaving the remaining funds for contingency purposes. Of note, there has been some hand wringing over the center play area which will be artificial turf rather than natural grass. The Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association even weighed in on it with  letter to DGS, asking them to reconsider. DGS is going forward with the plans for the turf, citing studies that don’t find safety issues, and claiming that maintenance is easier. Ms. Stanley also noted that the city in general is moving away from grass and to artificial turf for high traffic playground areas. More information on this project is available here at DGS.gov.  Noyes Park is located at 10th and Franklin Street, NE.

Raise Your Voice – Make The Brookland Middle School And Turkey Thicket Play Nicely Together

Aquatic Center Brookland NE Washington DC
Turkey Thicket Swimming Pool

Can a great recreation center that serves the wider community and a great school coexist happily side by side? We certainly hope so. We have been following the overhaul of the Turkey Thicket playground over the last few months. With the city issuing a Request For Proposals (RFP) for the Turkey Thicket playground improvements on January 3rd, the project seemed imminent. However, adjacent to Turkey Thicket is the old Brookland Elementary School, that the DC Department of General Services (DSG) is going to tear down this year to build a new school – the Brookland Middle School. Right now, the DGS and DC Public Schools (DCPS) are in the concept phase for the design and construction of the school. As part of this exercise, they, along with the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), are considering creating a joint property out of Turkey Thicket and the school property. Clearly, Turkey Thicket has many assets: the swimming pool, 90′ diamond baseball field, basketball court, gymnasium, multipurpose rooms, playground, and tennis courts. All of these would be huge assets to attract students to the school. But what about the needs of the wider community? At this point, it is not entirely clear what the consequences of this joint property concept are. How would this concept affect the community’s access to this much-needed, and used, recreation center? How will this plan, if enacted, affect the plans in place for the playground overhaul? The middle school is supposed to house 300 – 600 students.  What is the plan to deal with parking and additional traffic? Bottom line: will this mean a loss of neighborhood amenities or a chance for us to get expanded and better facilities?

DGS, DCPS and DPR are seeking community feedback on this co-location idea at a meeting called by ANC Commissioner Jenese Jones (of the 5B05 SMD) on Tuesday February 26th, 6:30 at Turkey Thicket. This decision will have a large and lasting impact on the quality of life in our neighborhood and the attractiveness of Brookland to potential new neighbors, so I encourage folks to come out and discuss what the implications are. Perhaps I am too optimistic, but I see the potential for win-win here, but we all know that only squeaky wheels get (and in this case, keep) the grease. Turkey Thicket Recreation Center is located at 1100 Michigan Avenue, NE.

Woodridge Library Celebrates Black History Month With A Variety Of Programs

Woodridge Library. Image courtesy of DC Public Library.
Woodridge Library. Image courtesy of DC Public Library.

As usual, the Woodridge Library has a lot of activities going on that appeal to a wide array of people and ages. This month there is an extra emphasis on African-American history programs in celebration of Black History Month. Here is a rundown:

  • PC Basics, February 7th, 2:00 pm
  • Reading Notes: Violin Lessons with a Reading Flair, February 9th, 3:30 pm
  • The Smithsonian Presents Mission:Preservation, February 11th, 1:00 pm
  • Teen Trivia: African and African-American Who’s Who,  February 11th and 25th, 3:30 pm
  • Black History Month Film Festival, February 11th, 6:300 pm
  • I <3 Books, February 13, 4:00 pm
  • C.R. Gibbs African Culture and History Lecture Series – African Genesis: The Rise of Humanity in Africa, February 6th, 7:00 pm 
  • C.R. Gibbs African Culture and History Lecture Series – Black Miners: A Buried Legacy, February 13th, 7:00 pm
  • C.R. Gibbs African Culture and History Lecture Series – Great Black Women, February 20th, 7:00 pm
  • C.R. Gibbs African Culture and History Lecture Series – Let Your Motto Be Resistance: Great Slave Revolts, February 27th, 7:00 pm
  • Job Seekers Drop In Clinic, Every Tuesday, 10:00 am
  • Preschool Story Time, Every Tuesday, 10:30 am
  • Tales for Twos and Threes, Every Tuesday, 10:30 am
  • Senior Fitness Fridays, Every Friday 10:00 pm
  • Chess Instruction for Younger Children, Every Thursday at 10:15 am
  • Chess Instruction for Older Children, Every Wednesday at 6:30 pm
  • Chess Club, Every Monday at 5:30 pm (except Monday, February 18th)
  • Story Time With Crafts, Every Thursday, 10:30 am

Check the library’s website for the particulars (target age, etc.) of each activity. The library is located at 1801 Hamlin Street NE.

Turkey Thicket Playground Overhual Update – Moving From Community Input To Concept Plans

Mayor Gray has launched the largest playground improvement project in DC history, named Play DC. Our very own Turkey Thicket Recreation Center has one of the playgrounds slated for an overhaul. We have posted earlier about surveys and meetings where Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of General Services sought input from the community. Brooklanders definitely stepped up to the plate and gave tons of feed back. DPR is not collecting additional comments at this point, as they feel they got the input they needed from the community regarding concerns and desires for the renovation. Next, DPR will consult with playground experts to select appropriate equipment while staying true to the concept plan. The updated concept plans are posted below. Double click on the playground diagram to enlarge. The slide show contains the themes that will be utilized and sample playground equipment. There are still a lot of details to be worked out, for example, how the community garden will be managed. Many thanks to Debee Yamamoto of the Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association for keeping the community up to speed on the renovation.

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Woodridge Library Features Civil Rights Focused Programs And More This Month

Woodridge Library. Image courtesy of DC Public Library.
Woodridge Library. Image courtesy of DC Public Library.

As usual, the Woodridge Library has a lot of activities going on that appeal to a wide array of people and ages. This month there is an extra emphasis on Civil Rights programs. Here is a rundown:

  • Civil Rights Film Festival, January 14th, 6:30 pm
  • Job Seekers Walk In Clinic, January 15th, 10:00 am
  • African-American Teens & the Civil Rights Movement, January 16, 7:00 pm
  • Dr. Martin Luther King Story Time, January 17th, 10:30 am
  • Sewing With Samira – Beginning Sewing Class, January 26th, 9:30 am
  • Civil Rights Film Festival, January 28th, 6:30 pm
  • Make A Calligraphy Scroll, January 23rd, 4:00 pm
  • Make Marshmallow Snowman Popsicles, January 30th, 4:00 pm
  • Tales for Twos and Threes, Every Tuesday, 10:30 am
  • Chess Club, Every Thursday at 10:00 am, Every Monday at 5:30 pm
  • Story Time With Crafts, Every Thursday, 10:30 am

Check the library’s website for the particulars (target age, etc.) of each activity. The library is loacted at 1801 Hamlin Street NE.

Turkey Thickey Playground Renovation Plans Look Great! Still Time For Input Via Online Survey.

At a meeting on  Monday, December 17th, the DC Department of Parks and Recreation presented conceptual drawings provided by Studio 39 Architects for the Turkey Thicket playground renovation. As you can see below, a lot is packed into the overhaul. I am surprised by how awesome it is.

 Playground Renovation

The conceptual drawings and plans are based on the comments received thus far. Here is a rundown of the proposed renovation:

  • Replace and widen the walking track and add exercise stations along it
  • A new play park centered around a spray park (with no standing water)
  • Seating throughout the play area
  • A climbing feature, which will be a train track with a stationary train and tunnel. This area will have a mountain theme with berms and climbing stones throughout which will incorporate the hillside by adding a climbing feature on it.
  • A seat wall with a guard rail that will be musical–like a xylophone
  • A movie wall against the recreation center wall for outdoor movie nights
  • A large community garden

Here is a conceptual drawing of what the play area will look like:

Unfortunately for dog lovers, the plans are for the park to remain dog free. There is still time to give your input, so please respond to this survey and let DPR  know what you think. The deadline to respond has been extended to December 31st. We need a lot of interest generated for the overhaul so design elements aren’t stripped away when the rubber hits the road. Many thanks to Debee Yamamoto of the Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association for keeping the community up to speed on the renovation.

Turkey Thicket Playground Overhaul – Missed The Meeeting? Give Your Input Via On-line Survey By Saturday

Community Center Brookland NE Washington DC
Turkey Thicket Exterior Photo Courtesy of DC Dept. of Public Works

A couple of weeks ago we posted about a meeting to discuss the overhaul of the Turkey Thicket playground. If you weren’t able to attend Monday’s meeting, it isn’t too late to let your opinion be heard. There will be a follow up meeting on Monday, December 17th at 6:00 pm at the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center, 1100 Michigan Ave NE. You can also submit feedback through an online survey provided by the Departmet of Parks and Recreation. The survey will be closed on Saturday, December 1. For more information on the Play DC Project, the largest playground improvement project in DC history, contact PlayDC (at) dc (dot) gov or call (202) 391-9204.