I never thought I’d be involved in a fight to save a city park, but here I am.
The Marines are progressing with plans to move and expand their facility in Washington, D.C. They are looking at one option of taking over Virginia Avenue Park where I happen to participate in a community garden.
(Sam Fromartz)Six years ago, the Virginia Avenue Community Garden, just a mile or so away from the US Capitol, was a deserted lot, with a broken playground, a ramshackle building, thriving drug activity, and not much else. But it was decent land, with full sun and lot of potential. So a few hardy gardeners on Capitol Hill took on the task of creating a community garden, working with the parks department, getting initial grants, trucking in compost and soil, and slowly turning the park into an urban oasis that now is home to 60 gardening families, a fruit orchard, a fig tree and blackberry brambles — all of it organic.
Needless to say, those families are not happy, nor are those who use this open space to run their dogs, walk, or bike. In large part, this park has become a wonderful community resource because of the garden. Over several years, gardeners have worked to restore the park, which was a previously run-down lot.
While I see the value of bringing more vibrant development to this area, it should not be at the expense of the community nor at the cost of open space in D.C. Indeed, this open space could serve as an anchor and attraction to new development.
If the Marines choose the park for their development, it will extend their barracks and facilities down 8th St. SE and nearly connect with the Navy Yard, making for a large nearly contiguous military facility on Capitol Hill South. As currently envisioned, the new development could approach nearly 1 million square feet.
As one person said to me, while sympathetic to the security needs of the Marines to move their current barracks, “I don’t want Quantico on Capitol Hill.”
To promote other options, the Save Virginia Avenue Park has a Facebook page and a petition, which we encourage people (especially DC residents) to sign, “friend,” and Tweet. We want a good neighbor in the Marines. We just don’t want to lose a park.