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Michigan Park Citizens Association
November 7, 2017
Turkey Thicket Recreational Center
President David Conrad opened the meeting at 7:42 PM with the pledge of allegiance.
Mr. Don Looney provided updates from the Federation of Citizens Association. The Federation will host a special meeting on November 15, 2017 to address the proposed comprehensive plan. Several knowledgeable citizen activists will speak.
Mr. Scott Einberger, Park Service employee and author of A History of Rock Creek Park: Wilderness and Washington D.C., 2014. spoke about the Fort Bunker Hill park and the circle parks in the district. Mr. Einberger’s description of the Bunker Hill recalled to the minds of many residents the activities once held there. Catholic University’s theater group held plays in the park during the summer, and the top of the park was a favored picnic area.
Mr. Ralph Bucksell spoke about the growing concerns of the damage to homes from heavy truck traffic. He noted that the 12th Street neighbors between Michigan Avenue and Shepherd hired a structural engineer to assess the impact of truck traffic on their homes. The engineer determined that trucks in excess of 1 1/4 tons are causing structural damage to the homes as they pass along 12th Street. 12th Street is not constructed for heavy vehicular traffic. Michigan Avenue and South Dakota are class A roads. South Dakota and Gallatin Streets are class B road. South Dakota, specifically, has a few feet of poured concrete which allows heavy trucks to pass over without causing damage to nearby structure. Planned construction in the neighborhood will necessarily require heavy truck traffic along 12th and 13th Streets, among others, and may damage current structures at the expense of building new structures.
Members discussed the traffic congestion on Shepherd Street caused by parents driving their children to Brookland Middle School. Mr. Steve Lowe suggested that school staff be posted outside of the school to regulate the drop-off and pick-up of students by their parents. However, the members acknowledged the desire of many parents to see their kids enter the building before departing to ensure their safety
Ms Marita Riddick made several announcements on behalf of Councilmember McDuffie. Mr. McDuffie’s staff releases a monthly one sheet leaflet with calendar events in 5th District.
President Conrad led members in a review the MPCA’s handling of the proposed EYA development of the Saint Joseph’s Property. Several strengths and failures of the Association’s efforts were raised. On the plus side, MPCA gained a voice in the Comprehensive Plan and proposals for zoning.
– Gained a voice in the comprehension plan
– Effectively engaged ANC John Feeley
– Fostered reasonable conversation
– Identified alternative to development through purchase of property by city for use as a park
– Tone and tenor of public conversation sometimes became acrimonious
– Failed to coordinate with adjacent civic organizations, must create a coalition
– The developer (EYA) took MPCA’s opening position as our final position
The term “Weather Underground” has taken a new meaning with the establishment of a weather monitoring system involving contributions by individuals who have been certified with the appropriate instruments. One such contributor resides in Michigan Park. See current and past neighborhood weather data collected by “Michigan Park KDCWASHI194″ at the following URL
Article by Scott Einberger.
Out west, public lands come in massive size. The large state of Nevada, for instance, is mostly public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service. In Michigan Park, public lands come in much smaller size. Nevertheless, they have significant stories. The neighborhood’s public lands include the square, city block-sized Fort Bunker Hill Park as well as the narrow green strip between Eastern Avenue NE and the Maryland boundary.
What is now known as Fort Bunker Hill Park was once an earthen fortress, built in the early years of the Civil War in order to defend Washington, DC from a Confederate attack. While the small, hilltop fort never saw action, it is safe to assume that many of its troops hotfooted it a couple of miles north to assist fellow soldiers during the Battle of Fort Stevens in July of 1864. Indeed, “Johnny Rebel” entered the District of Columbia, skirmishing and causing casualties during the Battle of Fort Stevens. After the war though, the majority of DC’s dozens of Civil War defenses were decommissioned, their materials going up for public auction, the land going fallow in most cases.
Before, during, and directly after the Civil War, there was an increase in urban pollution nationwide. To combat this, certain landscape architects and public officials began calling for and designing parks. These parks were away from the city yet in the city. New York City’s Central Park was established in the 1850s and DC’s very own Rock Creek Park was established in 1890. In this same decade, in the beginning of what became known as the City Beautiful movement, some District leaders began calling for a scenic fort-to-fort drive that would link the national capital’s ring of forts together from the Palisades neighborhood clear over to the Anacostia River’s terminus into the Potomac. As such, over the next several decades, as much as appropriations allowed, Uncle Sam began buying back the fort properties as well as narrow corridors in between them.
Some of the historic forts were enhanced during the Great Depression. FDR’s New Deal programs brought some relief to millions of unemployed citizens, and the Civilian Conservation Corps actually formalized Fort Bunker Hill into a park in the 1930s. They planted trees and flowers, laid out a system of trails, created picnicking grounds on the park’s highest promenade, installed water fountains, and perhaps most significantly, created a 250-seat outdoor amphitheater.[i]
Indeed, from the late 1930s to the late 1970s, Fort Bunker Hill Park was utilized during the summer seasons as a concert and theatrical venue. National Park Service rangers regularly conducted nature programs and youth camps in the park, while Catholic University’s drama department regularly performed plays. The music group Earth Wind and Fire, created in the early 1970s, also performed at the park.[ii]
As a child, Ralph Bucksell, a lifelong resident of Michigan Park, remembers attending summer camps at the park in the 1950s. “The majority of DC was segregated at the time, but the camps were integrated,” he notes. When segregation finally ended, Bucksell remembers the feeling of anger with certain businesses in the neighborhood that had excluded him due to his black skin tone. However, the small Fort Bunker Hill Park has remained a happy memory for him to this day.[iii]
While the park was thriving, the Fort Circle Drive plan ultimately faltered. Over-eagerly perhaps, the Washington Post wrote in 1937 that only one more mile was needed and the city would have a drive linking the forts that would be “one of the nation’s most scenic and historic.”[iv] But essentially only a couple miles of the road were ever built. Perhaps part of the Fort Circle Drive failure was due to the larger capital beltway construction.
Removing the roadway from its plans, in 1968, the National Park Service, as the caretakers of the properties, proposed for and began planning a 24-mile paved multi-use trail. A small section in Rock Creek Park paralleling Military Road was actually built as part of this plan. Unfortunately for bicycle lovers today however, just like the Fort Circle Drive, a Fort Circle Trail ringing around the capital was never really built.[v]
To this day, the green spaces that were initially purchased for the Fort Circle Drive remain partially forested and partially grass fields that seem to go largely unutilized. Should playgrounds be interspersed in these public spaces to invite more recreation? Should hundreds of additional trees be planted to create an open forest in order to beautify the areas and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere? Should a trail of sorts be constructed? Should the landscape be left as is? I’ve heard friends and bloggers propose some of these ideas.
Regarding Bunker Hill Park, the amphitheater and programming days are long gone. According to one local resident, the day the drama department pulled out of the park in the late 1970s, the park began a “long, slow process of deterioration.”[vi] With National Park Service staffing levels and appropriations decreasing, the decline perhaps continues to this day. Indeed, while mature trees now stand sentinel over the square park, invasive plant groundcover rules supreme in the understory, especially English ivy. Two dilapidating streetlights, water fountain remains, an earthen stage and a couple of stone steps leading up to it are remnants of Fort Bunker Hill Park’s heyday.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. A small, resilient family of white-tailed deer now actually live in this formal park-turned somewhat wild nature park. And a Student Conservation Association crew removed some invasive plants and improved trail conditions in the park a few summers ago.[vii]
Scott Einberger is an environmental historian, author, and former U.S. National Park Service interpretive park ranger. Learn more at www.publiclandslover.weebly.com.
[i] Lisa Pfueller Davidson and James A. Jacobs, Civilian Conservation Corps Activities in the National Capital Region of the National Park Service Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS DC-858) (Washington, DC: National Park Service, n.d.), 39, 41, 96-97; Brent McKee, “Fort Bunker Hill Park: Washington, DC,” Living New Deal, May 24, 2013, www.livingnewdeal.org.
[ii] National Park Service, Rapid Ethnographic Assessment of Park Users and Neighbors, Civil War Defenses of Washington (Washington, DC: Juarez and Associates, Inc., 1997), Rock Creek Park Interpretive Resource Files, 153.
[iii] Interview with Author, November 7, 2017.
[iv] October 10, 1937. Washington Post Online Archives.
[v] See “The Fort Park System,” Chapter 3, in National Park Service, A Historic Resource Study: The Civil War Defenses of Washington, Part II;“Big Idea Intro and Fort Circle Parks,” CapitalSpace, http://docs.google.com/a/nps.gov.
[vi] Rapid Ethnographic Assessment.
[vii] See photos at “SCA DC & Baltimore” Facebook page.
Our sister neighborhood organization, Queens Chapel Civic Association, has invited neighbors to an educational forum on DC Statehood, Monday, November 20, 2017, UDC Community College, 5171 South Dakota Avenue NE, 6:30 to 8:30 pm. See attached flyer.
Michigan Park Citizens Association
3 October 2017
Turkey Thicket Recreational Center
President David Conrad opened the meeting and Mr. Paul Wood led the attendees in the pledge of the allegiance. No change was made to the treasurer’s report since last month.
CIRCLE PARKS. Mr. Scott Einberger, author of A History of Rock Creek Park: Wilderness and Washington, DC (2014), visit was postponed to November. Mr. Einberger has offered to speak about the history of the circle park of which Bunker Hill and Fort Totten are two.
WASHINGTON POST. Washington Post reported Audrey E. Hoffer interviewed President Conrad and ANC Representative John Feeley about the neighborhood for planned article.
FEDERATION NEWS. Ms. Elizabeth McGowan, MPCA representative to the D.C. Federation of Citizens Association, spoke of items of interest from the Federation’s September meeting. The Federation’s annual Christmas luncheon will be held at the Dacor Bacon House. An event leaflet is soon expected. River Terrace brought to the attention of the Federation their lack of access to public facilities due to the city’s requirement for civic organizations to pay for their own security while using public buildings. This problem caused our own association to move meetings from Bunker Hill Elementary to first Providence Hospital and now Turkey Thicket Recreational Center. As a result of River Terrace and the Federation’s advocacy, the Amendment Act of the Budget Support Act of 2017 would permanently drop this requirement for established neighborhood associations. This news is well received as the Michigan Park Citizens Association not only met at the Bunker Hill, 1400 Michigan Avenue NE, since the school opened around 1940, but also had strongly advocated for its construction.
BUNKER HILL. Also regarding Bunker Hill Elementary School, the association received a letter of thank and certificate from Principal Kara Kuchemba for the continued support of the students and school sponsored events.
HOWARD UNIVERSITY. President Conrad, recently in contact with Howard University, spoke about the planned development of the divinity school and property. The Urban Land Institute had conducted a study last year proposed a modest plan with new construction buffered from the neighborhood and a senior residence. However, there are as yet no specific plans. Howard has issued a request for proposals from developers and will select a master developer.
BAZZUTO. Mr. Bobby Bird, who has been the developer’s representative to the association, informed President Conrad that he will be leaving Bazzuto. The association will, therefore, receive a new representative from Bazzuto regarding the proposed development at the top of Varnum Street NE.
TRAFFIC. President Conrad asked Mr. Lionel Gaines, representative of Mayor Bowser, and Ms. Marita Riddick, representative of Councilmember McDuffie, how best to engage with DDOT regarding traffic concerns. They identified Tijon Jones and Colleen Willger are the Ward 5 planners.
Ms. Riddick emphasized the importance of logging concerns into the Mayor’s Call Center, 311, before calling Councilmember McDuffie’s office or any representative. Councilmember McDuffie and his staff may more effectively assist neighbors if there exists a record of a neighbor’s complaint. They will also look into complaints of tickets closed without resolution.
Ms. Riddick and Mr. Gains made various announcements and passed out related leaflets for neighbors.
Michigan Park Citizens Association
5 September 2017
Turkey Thicket Recreational Center
The meeting began at 6:33 p.m. with the Pledge of Allegiance. President David Conrad introduced the evening’s main speakers, Laura Popielski, Community Foodworks and Robert Oliver, Lamond-Riggs Library Friends.
Ms. Popielski emphasized three main points. Community Foodworks manages and overseas many of the local farmer markets, to include the Monroe Street Market, which will continue until early December. Community Foodworks markets Community Supported Agriculture whereby individuals may purchase through subscription a mix of produce from local farmers. Through this program, varied prices levels are offered. Lastly, Community Foodworks sponsors Food Pop-Ups to allow organizations to purchase wholesale from new and growing businesses. Additionally. Ms. Popielski emphasized various incentive programs for the purchase of food at farmer’s markets to include senior checks and food stamps. For more information, please see the organization’s website, http://www.community-foodworks.org.
Mr. Robert Oliver, President of the newly revitalized Lamond-Riggs Library Friends, spoke about the planned renovation of the library. This renovation will be a complete tear-down and reconstruction on the current site. Mr. Oliver and members of the Friends want to ensure the immediate community has input into the developmental plans for the new library. Toward that end, Mr. Oliver is visiting the affected neighborhood associations. The Friends established an on-survey survey to solicit input. The survey will be closed after September 20, 2017, so Mr. Oliver will forward the URL for immediate posting on the MPCA’s website. A paper copy of the survey was also handed out to members, though on-line submission is much preferred.
President Conrad reviewed the many planned developments along 12th Street and Varnum Streets NE. These include the EYA development of the Saint Josephs Seminary grounds; the Bozzuto development of the Providence Hospital property at the top of Varnum Street; the planned expansion of Munda Verde Public Charter School into the vacant building, 4401 8th Street NE; and the transition of Providence Hospital into a mixed use “health village,” recently reported in the Washington Business Journal. No details are yet available about the future of the hospital, but Providence Hospital is closing obstetrics and behavioral health, the two most expensive departments. In the background of these developments is the re-writing of the city’s comprehensive plan. Mr. Steve Lowe gave an update on Mundo Verde. The school board approved the school’s plans to establish a second campus at the site; however, as David noted, the planned renovation to accommodate a larger student body would still have to meet zoning requirements. Mr. Lowe also noted that the school’s parents were not in favor of opening a second campus because they believed the school did not have the resources for such growth. Their opposition only delayed the date of the school’s expansion plans.
Ms. Beulah Sutherland read the treasurer’s report into the minutes.
Bunker Hill Elementary will host a back-to-school night on September 13, 6-7 p.m.
Mr. Lorenzo Wheatley noted a difficulty in the lights at the intersection of Michigan/13th Street/Taylor St. When turning left from Michigan onto 13th Street, there is no room or space to turn on a green light, after the green arrow light ends. He recommended a red arrow light to preclude left hand turns on green only. Mr. Bucksell noted that the Brookland Livability Study had included this intersection and recommended improvements, to include HAWK signals for pedestrians, though no action has been taken.
Mr. Lionel Gaines from the Mayor’s office and Mr. Cyril Crocker, filling in for Marita Riddick, from Councilmember McDuffie’s office, made various announcements.
The meeting ended at 8:25 p.m.
Help us spread the word to EVERY NEIGHBORHOOD IN THE DISTRICT about this daylong celebration of District residents’ urban agricultural, artistic, and culinary talents. Admission is FREE, and all DC residents are invited to join us. Just like at any other state fair, the Fair has contests, educational demos, music, food, drink, and lots of fun!
DC STATE FAIR
Sunday, September 24th 2017
11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
4th & M Streets, SW (Metro)
This year’s contests range from best pie, heaviest vegetable, and tastiest tomato to best homemade ice cream, best honey, best mumbo sauce, and best home brew and best wine, as well as kids photography and cupcake, jams and jellies, pickles, and more.
New to the contest roster for 2017 are Best Kids’ Cupcake, Best Pupusa, watermelon seed spitting, whisker wars, and double-dutch! There is absolutely something for everyone, which is why folks continue to show up.
Not only that, everyone in the family is allowed, even Fido and Felicia. Yes, we have a pet parade and live dog contests too!
Do YOUR neighbors have what it takes to bring home a blue ribbon from this year’s Fair? Please share this message with your ANC and neighborhood listservs and encourage DC residents to come check out all the Fair has to offer.
The new school year is here and every day is a new opportunity for our students to learn and grow. We all have a role to play in ensuring students get to school, ready to learn, and understand that #EveryDayCounts. Go to attendance.dc.govto learn more.
Following is an on-line survey sponsored by Lamond-Riggs Library Friends. This survey is part of a coordinated neighborhood effort led by the friends group to convey to city officials neighborhood input about the pending remodeling. A complete renovation of the library is planned. Just cut and paste the URL into your web-browser.
September 20th is the deadline for survey processing.