Garfield Park Upgrade Starts This Year Says Department of Parks and Recreation
by Larry Janezich and Hilary Russell
Posted January 21, 2022
According to Christopher Dyer, Community Engagement Manager for DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), “I know that Garfield Park is going to happen at some point this year.” At a January 11 meeting of ANC6B, Dyer was pressed on the status of the upgrade by Commissioner Jennifer Samolyk. He said a bid for improvement is being reviewed by the Office of Contracts and Procurement, adding, “Once we have a bid in place, I’m going to look forward to working with you and the Friends of Garfield Park to get feedback on the design.”
The much-needed renovation of Garfield Park (south of F Street SE, between 3rd and New Jersey Avenue) had been expected to begin in 2021, but as Dyer later confirmed by email, “The project received additional funding after the original  solicitation was released, so it needed to be re-bid. We anticipate this process will end shortly and a contractor will be selected to start the project soon after.” He added, “The general scope remains the same. The additional funding will allow for enhanced improvements to the playground and other areas already outlined in the scope.” Along with ADA-compliant access and egress, that will include improved lighting, drainage, and landscaping.
The issues troubling the park include cracked and pitted sidewalks, deteriorating tennis courts and benches, poor lighting and drainage, and a steep ramp-less walking route to H Street, SE, that’s difficult and hazardous to navigate for the more fragile members of the community and those with strollers or carriages.
Delayed renovation and official neglect reflect a long history of encroachments on Garfield Park by railroads, freeways, and the congressional power plant. The most recent, in 1969, lopped off a large chunk of Garfield Park – 95,470 square feet – to accommodate the construction of the Southeast-Southwest freeway. As the Historic American Buildings Survey reported, “Basketball courts were installed beneath the freeway in an attempt to mitigate the loss of parkland. …Second Street, which had always continued through the park, was closed to traffic and its roadbed broken up and sodding put down in its place.”
The District Department of Transport (DDOT) is now responsible for this lopped-off area under the freeway on the park’s southern edge. The basketball courts and a skateboard park built by users in about 2010 have been demolished, yielding to graffiti-covered concrete blocks, rubble from CSX tunnel construction, a slew of parked cars, and a homeless encampment. The sole vestiges of recreational infrastructure are the lines painted by pickle-ball players for two courts on the now closed section of Virginia Avenue under the freeway. In FY 2018, $1 million in funding for DDOT to improve the area was approved but the project appears to be stalled.
Friends of Garfield Park, a crucial neighborhood supporter and funder of park improvements for more than 20 years, urged in 2021 (among other things) that the renovation include replacing the basketball courts and skateboard park and spiffing up the pickle ball courts. These elements would add to the park’s appeal to a wide range of people who now can play tennis, beach volleyball, bocce, horseshoes, softball and baseball. Visitors can also enjoy climbing frames appropriate for adults, adolescents, children, and toddlers, and families can dine on the park’s picnic tables.
A few amenities do not appear to be in cards for the renovation: a dog park, more trash cans, an irrigation system, a splash feature, and a wading pool like one below.
Once a contractor is engaged and a project manager designated, DPR and or the Department of General Services will begin a series of community meetings to solicit stakeholders’ and resident input regarding the design elements of the park.