by Yuliya Panfil
On Monday the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) presented next steps for a $2 million renovation of Petworth Park, located at at 8th and Taylor Street, as well as the results of a survey asking residents about changes they would like to see to the popular outdoor space. The park renovation will take place this fall and winter, following a request for proposal (RFP) and design period which kicks off imminently.
The DPR survey, which garnered 672 responses, was posted online and also available in hard copy at Petworth Park. Others weighed in via email and during in-person consultations and meetings held by DPR, including the one held Monday. The survey results will be available on the DPR website.
“I’m trying to hear from you to make this the best playground we can for this community,” said DPR's project manager, Peter Nohrden at the meeting.
So, what did most respondents care about? Shade, benches, and swings. Three quarters of survey respondents identified shade structures as an amenity Petworth Park should provide more of; two thirds asked for more trees; and sixty percent asked for more benches. Three quarters of respondents identified swings as the piece of equipment they would like to see added to the playground portion of the park.
What didn’t residents care as much about? Basketball courts and the recreation center. Only 18 percent and 15 percent of respondents said they used the basketball courts and recreation center, respectively. That’s compared to 82 percent who said they use the playground, and 78 percent who said they use the lawn, which is popular in summertime for events like the Petworth Jazz Project. Several residents at Monday’s meeting voiced support for converting at one of the two basketball courts into a multi-use court that could accommodate sports like soccer, tennis and polo.
The results may not come as a surprise, given the demographics of respondents: more than 70 percent of responses came from adults ages 35 to 49, and most respondents had children between the ages of 2 and 7. Teenagers, who are likely the heaviest users of the basketball courts, accounted for only one percent of survey respondents. DPR and residents brainstormed at the meeting about ways to get more input from teens, ahead of playground construction.
DPR previously stated that the basketball courts were part of the planned renovations, and will continue to be, regardless of the results of the survey.
The survey also addressed suggested themes for the splash park and playground. Residents prefer a “naturalistic” themed playground with a rubber floor surface, and a “pet-themed” splash park. Residents also voiced support for a climbing wall in the playground, and ground water jets for the splash park.
Nohrden said survey results and other comments received will guide how the $2 million budget is spent. He explained that while the budget line item is specifically earmarked for the playground, splash park, and basketball courts, any unused funds can be used for other improvements, like upgrading the recreation center.
“If we don’t spend all the money on the playground, we will definitely look at what can be done to the building, that’s not so expensive, he said. "Like new windows, or painting the outside.”
It is unlikely that the park footprint or the rec center will be expanded.
DPR will continue gathering feedback as it puts out an RFP for a design and build firm. Once that firm is on board, DPR will hold another community meeting to present layout and design ideas, and to gather comments. DPR hopes to secure all approvals over the summer and begin construction in the fall. A shiny new park should be ready for residents’ use by Spring 2019.
In the meantime, anyone with comments, questions or suggestions should contact the Friends of Petworth Park, a group of local residents that is working with DPR to coordinate improvements. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.