D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, responding to opposition from Georgetown citizens groups, told the City Council he will not object to the council dropping his proposal for the city to develop a $2.3 million park on the controversial Georgetown waterfront.
Barry said he remains committed to cleaning up the decaying waterfront area, which begins at 31st Street NW and extends west to Key Bridge, but is not opposed to the council replacing the park plan with other construction projects that have solid citizen support.
Council Chairman David A. Clarke said yesterday that elimination of the park proposal from the coming fiscal year's construction budget was virtually a foregone conclusion even before Barry acted. "The mayor is coming late to what he already saw was going to be done," Clarke said, adding that the head of the council committee that reviewed the plan had joined the citizens groups in opposing it.
"The mayor jumped to provide Georgetown with a park before he touched the right bases," Clarke said, and ended up getting "chastised" by community officials.
Leaders of the neighborhood groups had expressed surprise that Barry wanted the city to develop a park on the waterfront because they had expected the city to turn the land over to the National Park Service, which manages the rest of the park land along the Potomac River.
The citizens groups want a park on the city-owned site, but they contend that the park service would do a better job than the city in developing it. They also say they believe that park service ownership of the nearly nine-acre site offers the best protection against further commercial development along the waterfront.
The city property is adjacent to a six-acre, $154 million private commercial and residential development on the waterfront previously approved by the city over the strong opposition of the neighborhood organizations.
Donald Shannon, president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, yesterday called on the mayor to turn over the city property to the National Park Service as soon as possible.
However, Barry, in a letter to Clarke disclosing his decision to back off from the plan, said there are no funds in the National Park Service's budget to develop the site and "there is no prospect" that the service will get the funds in the near future. Barry said the service's lack of funds is why he wanted the city to step in.
Annette Samuels, Barry's press secretary, said the mayor would not be willing to turn over the site to the park service without receiving a commitment that the federal government could develop the park.
A National Park Service spokesperson said yesterday that federal officials would not comment because they had not received a formal request from the city.
The decision on what projects will replace the park request will be made by the council when it considers the entire $111 million proposed 1984 construction budget.