District of Columbia Public Schools is transferring the care and maintenance of Duke Ellington Field to the Department of Parks and Recreation, according to a Nov. 21 email from DPR Chief of External Affairs Tommie Jones obtained by The Hoya.
In the midst of ongoing questions about the lack of public recreation space in Northwest Washington, D.C., DPR will hold a community meeting Nov. 25 at 6 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Georgetown Church at 3240 O St. NW to gauge the community’s needs for Ellington Field, according to Jones.
The meeting will discuss the transfer process and answer questions, Jones wrote in the email to the Parent Teacher Organizations of Hardy Middle School, School Without Walls High School and Duke Ellington School of the Arts.
Ellington Field’s transfer allows DPR to expand its use, especially for local schools, according to a Nov. 14 email from DPR Director Delano Hunter to Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E obtained by The Hoya.
“The activation of the Ellington Field will result in increased community access to this facility for their neighborhood recreational needs while simultaneously providing local schools, such as Duke Ellington School for the Arts, Hardy Middle School, and School Without Walls, with a location to host after-school athletic activities,” Hunter wrote.
The transfer of the field, which is located on Reservoir Road between 38th and 39th streets, was first announced at a July meeting of ANC 2E, which represents Georgetown, Hillandale and Burleith, according to The Northwest Courier. Commissioners and community members expressed frustration at the lack of transparency in the process at the time, having first learned of the transfer during the meeting.
There are few public recreation fields in Northwest D.C. Jelleff Field, across the street from Hardy Middle School, has been the subject of controversy since August after DPR extended a 2009 contract granting the Maret School near-exclusive access to the field.
Hardy does not have access to Jelleff Field during prime after-school hours due to the DPR deal with Maret, a private school in Ward 3. In exchange for field access, Maret will provide continued funding for field improvements and maintenance. The deal prompted outcry from local parents who argue that access to the public field should not be restricted.
Hunter was expected to testify at an Oct. 21 hearing on the Jelleff Field contract that creating a field at Duke Ellington would be a potential solution to the lack of space, according to The Washington Post.
Adjoining Jelleff Field is the Jelleff Recreation Center, which some community members say also requires changes to meet neighborhood needs.
Renovations to the Jelleff Rec Center building are planned and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) has budgeted $7 million as of fiscal year 2020 intended to bring Jelleff Rec Center into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Renovations to Jelleff Rec Center are long overdue, according to ANC 2E Commissioner Kishan Putta.
“There is not a single thing you can do in the building without climbing or descending stairs. It’s the least accessible building I’ve ever seen,” he said in an interview with The Hoya. “It’s old, it’s inaccessible and it’s crying out for renovation and revitalization.”
However, there is concern about whether or not the budgeted funding will be enough.
The city will not approve the next budget until June 2020, so no further money has been budgeted yet, according to Martin Welles (LAW ’09), vice president of the Parent Teacher Organization at Hardy Middle School.
“This is enough for refurbishment but not a full-scale renovation,” he wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Welles emphasized that the budgeting process should take into account the neighborhood’s specific needs for Jelleff.
“There’s a tremendous need for an indoor swimming pool that can serve competition swim teams and recreation,” he said in an interview with The Hoya. “Comprehensive planning needs to occur for the needs of the community.”
Over 400 local residents responded to a survey conducted by ANC 2E that gauged the community’s needs. The new recreation center will be developed and designed according to the community’s feedback, according to ANC 2E Commissioner Elizabeth Miller.
“It was clear from the survey that we should be thinking more broadly about exercise, fitness, and community programming as a way to serve the most residents and make Jelleff as vibrant as possible,” Miller wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I look forward to a robust community engagement process on the renovation and how to make Jelleff Recreation Center the heartbeat of Georgetown and Burleith.”