A Playground Update

I have not blogged much about the playground activities in quite a while. Primarily because I have been out of town for the last three weeks. And the week before that I was busy preparing for Lucy’s birthday party and finishing up other projects. One thing I did manage to complete during that time was an article for Calvary‘s newsletter. And since I have few waking hours to myself, I thought that it would be best to just include the article here. Especially since yesterday, we met with Jack Evans’ office. So I have officially met with everyone listed in this article.

Now I need to take time to transcribe my notes and ideas to Backpack, my online organization system. Funny! I totally forgot about using it until this week. The last time there was a flurry of activity on my account was the first week of June 2010. I think that June must be like my restart button each year.

Anyway, lots of ideas and activity going on around the playground. We just need land! So if you see me in strange places or looking distracted while walking down the street, I am searching high and low for any little pocket of space for a future slide – Lucy’s favorite.

In late March, Morgan Caruthers invited me to her office and asked what I was passionate about, as part of her involvement with the Washington Interfaith Network. I had little sleep the night before and I mumbled something about a lack of playground in the downtown DC area. Six weeks later, I have three meetings lined up with organizations and elected officials to see how we can meet the growing need of a safe, enclosed play space in the downtown area.

A week before I delivered Lucy in 2009, I sat with a group of expecting mothers as we listened to the mother of an 18-month-old first express her frustration. She pointed out that the first barrier to living with a baby downtown was not the issue of the schools, but the lack of playgrounds. There is no safe, enclosed space for free play located outside. The National Building Museum and Kogod Courtyard at the National Portrait Gallery allow for indoor play, but a place
for rugged outdoor exercise is lacking. And when my toddler doesn’t get enough exercise, she doesn’t sleep. Our tiny downtown condo doesn’t provide her with the adequate incidental exercise of climbing stairs or running out into the back yard. Granted I have gotten lots of exercise pushing her stroller from one monument to the next so that I can hover as she chases the ducks amongst the tourists. It would be so nice to have a small space where I can sit and relax while she climbs, slides, runs, explores and maybe even make new friends.

As part of the WIN program, we have identified three pieces of land as potential play spaces – the Carnegie Library located directly north of Calvary on 8th Street, the Chinatown Park (aka Reservation 72) located at 5th & I, and City Center just under development at the old convention center site. We have also held two community meetings, started a web site and set up several meetings. This week, I will be meeting with a representative from Jack Evans’ office, offices of the Chinatown Cultural Community Center, Terry Lynch of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations and Philippa Hughes of The Pink Line Project. We understand that land is a premium in Downtown DC, so we are open to creative partnerships and out-of-the-box thinking.

I ask directly for Calvary’s support in this endeavor. As we move into Calvary’s 150th year in Downtown DC, it is important to recognize the changing demographics in the area. For years, Calvary has served the local population in a countless number of ways. At this time, we can reach out to new families by encouraging them not to give up and flee to the suburbs. By championing this cause of outdoor play space, we can help support the physical and mental health of small families during a very physically demanding time in their lives – when their small child will run without fear as hard as they can.

How can you help?
1. Spread the word.
See a new family or pregnant mom. Tell her about downtowndckids.org and the growing community of families choosing to stay downtown.
2. Share ideas.
Know of any land, sidewalk, parking lot, rooftop, alley, new development, even empty store fronts where kids might be able to play? Let me know.
3. Show up.
As we meet with government representatives and developers, we will need people present to show that we want our voices heard.

A new play space will not only serve the families living downtown, but our youngest congregation members who visit Calvary each week. Plus all of the children who attend day care downtown while their parents work. Some government day cares have playgrounds, but many private organizations do not. And the millions of children who visit our city every year, who patiently contain themselves in their strollers, but need a free place to burn off their energy.

As the case for play is being built throughout the media each day, I am excited to be part of a WIN project that I hope will one day be recognized as model for how to effectively implement play in urban areas. Thanks for your support.

Learn more about the growing movement to create a play space in Downtown DC.

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1 Comment

  1. Natalie

    Great work Caroline! I am only sorry I couldn’t make it. If you have any literature I can leave at Nia’s pre-school (in Sept) let me know!

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