Residents of the Adams Morgan area, including Ward 1 City Council member David ClarK, celebrated the advent of spring and the purchase of Community Park West last weekend at a cleanup and community festival.
The festival was the first to be held at the community-run park near Adams Mill Road and Calvert Street NW, since Congress appropriated money for the city to purchase the former Shapiro tract last month.
About 150 people turned up throughout the afternoon to rake trash and pick up litter that had accumulated since the last clean-up more than a month age.
But it was not all work at the day-long event, and after the two-hour cleanup, it was time to play. Vendors sold Community Park West T-shirts, hotdogs and Latin food, while others sponsored games, rummage and plant sales and raffles.
Several people worked on a mural for the park that was donated by a local artists' group, El Centro de Arre. Other participants played horseshoes, played on the swings with their children or listened to the Latin and folk music.
Walter Pierce, director of the Ontario Lakers youth sports program and a community activist who had for 14 years fought to get Congress and the city to appropriate money for the parkland, sat on a picnic table in the middle of the park, eating a hotdog and surveying the cleanup.
"The people are involved at last," he said. "A lot of groups will have festivals here this summer. The Department of Recreation has promised new playground equipment so we won't have to wait for money to be appropriated."
Earlier this month, the owner and the city were not able to agree on a price for the 4.2 acres of land, and the city took possession by eminent domain. Clark said the case to determine a final price is still in the courts, but will not affect city ownership of the land.
Since 1964, community residents had installed their own playground equipment, maintained the grounds and supervised sports teams for area children.
A booth at the festival, set up by the Institute for Local Self Reliance, showed an aerial photo of the park and a small-scale layout of the area with moveable cardboard pieces representing proposed projects for the park, including a recycling center, hockey, softball and football fields, tennis courts, a wading pool, an amphitheater, garden plots and picnic and play areas.
"We're trying to present options for use of the park," said Tom Fox, a former employe of the National Park Service who works with the Institute. "We want to have the community get in the middle of the planning process."
Yolanda Jimenez and her parents, Maria and Fernando, sold Ecuadorian food to benefit the park. Their dinner of fritada (pork meat), salad, corn and fried bananas was selling for $2.50.
"We heard of the festival and my mother wanted to sell food to help," Yolanda said.
"This is a fascinating area. It's multi-ethnic and multi-income. I'm helping with the cleanup to get to know the neighborhood and its people," said David McKillop, a former foreign service officer who works at Meridian House, a cultural exchange center on 16th Street.
Edward Jackson, chairman of the Adams Morgan Organization Environmental Committee, also was helping with the cleanup. Every year the environmental committee plants trees in Adams Morgan and helps maintain Community Park West.
"We work with the Ontario Lakers, area garden clubs and the Christian Science Church," in beautification programs, he said.
Lynn Ditchfield and members of the Mintwood Tenants Association sponsored a game called "Help the People Knock the Speculators." For 25 cents players got an opportunity to knock over a stack of beer cans that were labeled with the names of local real estate developers.
D.C. Unite to Fight Back set up a booth to provide information on tenants' struggles, unemployment, evictions and the Bakke case. "We're here because we support the effort of the people to get the park," said Mary Marty Wolfson, a member of the group.
Community residents signed up for garden plots at the park and the Institute for Local Self Reliance handed out worksheets on how to care for street trees and window boxes.
The Institute has scheduled public meetings on May 4 and 9 for people in the area who would like to help plan the park. The meetings will be at 7:30 p.m. at the Filmore Day Care Center, Ontario Road and Ontario Place NW.