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City Revises Guy Mason Playground Plan

By George AltshulerCurrent Correspondent

The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation has revised its plans to overhaul the playground at Guy Mason Recreation Center in response to community feedback.

The agency is preparing to spend $1.5 million on upgrades to the 3600 Calvert St. facility as part of its citywide “Play DC” initiative. Construction is scheduled to begin in early summer after the 25th annual Glover Park Day takes place on June 6.

But some concerns arose at a Dec. 18 presentation on the proposed renovation.

“They came into the first meeting ready to act, but they didn’t know the history of the park,” said David Messineo, president of the Friends of Guy Mason group.

In 2008, more than 100 volunteers built equipment at the playground to honor Lyles Parachini, a local boy who had died of leuke mia. A memorial tree, a small play house and a sandbox were important parts of the project to honor Parachini, and Messineo said that these features weren’t preserved in the original design, but will be in the final one.

Messineo and Lucie Leblois, president of the Guy Mason Cooperative Play Program, both noted that there isn’t currently a good entrance into the park on Wisconsin Avenue for people with strollers. Leblois said that in response to public comments, the new design will include a ramp that will resolve the issue. She echoed Messineo’s view that the Department of Parks and Recreation responded well to people’s concerns and brought better proposals to the second public meeting, held on Feb. 8.

“We love the playground, and a lot of people went into the first meeting very apprehensive about change,” she said. “Overall we were pleasantly surprised by what happened in the second meeting. They really listened.”

Some residents were also concerned that the original design didn’t use the park’s natural features well enough, according to Messineo. But he said that the parks department team, which attended the last Friends of Guy Mason monthly meeting, also incorporated this critique into the new design by planning to build slides on the park’s hills.

Guy Mason is one of eight playgrounds being renovated in the 2014 fiscal year as part of the Play DC program, after 32 others were done in 2013, according to parks department spokesperson John Stokes. Guy Mason was selected based on a scorecard that includes the age of the park, the park’s proximity to other playgrounds and the needs of the community, Stokes said.

Before renovating a playground, the agency always holds community meetings and works to adapt its designs to the needs of the neighborhood, he said. “If you go around the city, you’ll see that there are unique playgrounds based on what the citizens choose,” said Stokes.

Stokes said a survey the parks agency sent out to the community about the Guy Mason playground drew one of the largest participation totals the department has seen.

“I was pleasantly surprised by how many people were engaged in the process,” Leblois said. “This reinforces what kind of a community Glover Park is generally.”

The agency will unveil a final design for the playground at a public meeting at the Guy Mason Recreation Center at 6:30 p.m. March 12.

This article appears in the March 5 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.