D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday he will spend $25 million in capital improvement funds to renovate many of the District's parks and recreation centers, part of his short-term response to residents' concerns at last year's Citizen Summit about the state of those facilities.
"One of the major messages of the summit was to improve recreation," Williams (D) said at a news conference yesterday. "We heard this message loud and clear, and are aligning our efforts in the short and long term to provide the improved services residents want."
Three major issues emerged during the summit about the city's recreation system: dissatisfaction with the general state of facilities, frustration with the pace of improvements, and a need for greater neighborhood input.
Banneker Recreation Center in Ward 1 and the John F. Kennedy Recreation Center in Ward 2 were mentioned by Williams during the summit in November. Renovations to Banneker include demolishing existing structures; grading the ball field; installing dugouts, a backstop and irrigation system; paving the parking lot; and erecting fencing throughout the site.
Work at the Kennedy playground is slated to start in the spring, and renovations are underway across the city at other community centers.
"All of this is a down payment," the mayor said. "It is our good-faith effort to show that we are listening, and I have a serious commitment to empowering and supporting neighborhoods."
Williams said he will host a neighborhood action forum Jan. 27 at which he will provide details about how his administration has incorporated comments from the summit into his long-range citywide strategic plan.
The mayor was joined yesterday by council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) at the news conference at Banneker Field in Northwest's LeDroit Park. Williams said several recreational initiatives were in place, including:
* Work underway at Bald Eagle Community Center in Ward 8, where a gymnasium is being added, along with expanded indoor space to accommodate a greater mix of activities.
* Construction of the McKinley-Langley Community Center in Ward 5, which replaces a razed facility that restricted community-based programming for years.
* Modernization of the Chevy Chase Community Center in Ward 3, which is one of the city's most heavily used recreation facilities.
* Expansion of the Fort Stevens Recreation Center in Ward 4 to create more space for senior citizen and youth services.
Williams also said residents may register their concerns with the administration on a regular basis.
"Residents can go to a recreation center or just go online and fill out a survey rating our recreation facilities. We will tabulate the results and use it to track our progress so residents can hold us accountable for measurable improvement," Williams said.
The November summit was the mayor's most ambitious attempt to incorporate the views of his constituents into his agenda after being criticized for not reaching out beyond his political base. Nearly 3,000 people from all corners of the District turned out to tell the mayor how to rebuild their neighborhoods.
From specific concerns to general complaints, in conversations and through electronic polling, residents from across the city sat for more than six hours and registered their opinions.
Neighborhood revitalization was ranked the most important issue, followed by a desire to have the city invest in children.
The summit's primary goal was to have residents help set an agenda that in turn would be addressed by city agencies.
Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) has announced a $25 million effort to improve D.C. parks. Parks he has slated for improvements:
Ward 1: Banneker Recreation Center, 2500 Georgia Ave. NW.
Ward 2: John F. Kennedy Recreation Center, Seventh and P streets NW.
Ward 3: Chevy Chase Community Center, 5601 Connecticut Ave. NW.
Ward 4: Fort Stevens Recreation Center, 13th and Seventh streets NW.
Ward 5: McKinley-Langley Community Center, Lincoln Road and S Street NW.
Ward 8: Bald Eagle Community Center, Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Joliet Street SW.
CAPTION: "One of the major messages of the summit was to improve recreation," Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) says.