Mayor Marion Barry's recently announced plan to have the District build a $2.3 million park on Georgetown's waterfront is "incomprehensible" because the city has no experience building a park of that size, a neighborhood group said yesterday.
Members of the Citizens Association of Georgetown also said at a press conference yesterday that the city should not undertake the project, on nine acres of city-owned land along the Potomac, at a time of fiscal crisis in the D.C. government.
"This whole project is wobbly," said Donald Shannon, president of the association, which wants the National Park Service to take over the disputed parcel along Georgetown's waterfront. "There's nothing that looks square about the whole thing."
The tract, located between K Street NW and the Potomac River, and between 31st Street and Key Bridge, is now used for parking city trucks and storing supplies. It is adjacent to a six-acre tract on which private developers plan to build a $154 million development, to be called Washington Harbor, with offices, shops and houses.
Barry last week announced that the city would develop the park because there is general agreement that the area is an eyesore and needs to be developed into a park. Barry said that the National Park Service has decided not to develop a park because it does not have the money.
Annette Samuels, Barry's spokeswoman, said yesterday that the city recreation department has experience building and operating parks. The National Park Service operated all the city's parks for many years until the early 1970s, when it transferred control of 126 recreation facilities to the city, she said. Since then, the city has built and operated a number of playgrounds and small parks, city officials said.
Shannon responded that the District fails adequately to maintain the park facilities it already runs.
Samuels said the group's criticism that the city lacks money to develop the park, because of the District government's budget crisis, is off base. Under Barry's proposal, the $2.3 million to develop the park would come from the city's capital budget, which is set aside for construction projects and renovation, and not from the city's operating budget, which is being squeezed by cutbacks.
Members of the association said they doubt Barry's contention that the National Park Service does not want to develop the site as a park, although they acknowledged that they had not checked to determine whether this was so.
A National Park Service spokesman could not be reached for comment.
One reason the citizens' association wants the National Park Service to operate the land is that once the Park Service takes control of it, association members say, the land could be developed only after a long, complex process.
But if the city develops a park on the land, members of the citizens' group say, the mayor later would be free to call for some other use for the land, with less bureaucratic red tape.