New Francis Field Master Plan Changes Explained
DPR and Fine Arts Commission Must Approve
Posted January 2, 2019.
Why is a new plan necessary?
With the construction of the official Francis Dog Park on the north field in 2015, and construction at the 2501 M Street building at the south of the field beginning in 2016, the 2009 master plan (see existing article on this site) became out-of-date and inaccurate.
The 2009 plan, which was under development for two years during the administration of Mayor Adrian Fenty, was stated to "guide the use of Francis Field for the next 10-15 years."
The first phase of the 2009 plan was implemented in 2010, funded by $150,000 in private funds ordered by the D.C. Zoning Commission as a neighborhood amenity.
Friends of Francis Field (FFF) was a party in that zoning case.(See the Zoning Case article on this website).
In April 2016, FFF compared a photograph of the existing conditions to the 2009 architectural plan. It is shown at left with red arrows.
The 2016 photo shows the usual, bare-dirt playing field that has existed for many years with insufficient maintenance by the contractors hired and paid by the DC government.
The 2009 plan does not show the dog park at the north. Many of the trees indicated on the plan had never been added, and new landscaping was being designed for the south field restoration when the 2501 M Street construction was finished.
After planting 43 new trees in May 2017 and completing an experimental (and successful) greening project that began in June 2017 under a partnership agreement with the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), the field was green with natural grasses and native species, as shown in the May 2018 photograph below. This was accomplished with private funding by FFF, using a different landscape contractor.
Another agreement was reached between FFF and DPR in March 2018 to prepare an updated and revised "master landscape plan" for the field.
A new master plan will record changes already made in the field, as well as to provide a plan for several other improvements, which are illustrated, with the new plan, below.
The text of that one-page agreement is included on this website in PDF format.
The FFF Revised Master Plan
Shown at right, below, is the revised landscape plan that FFF is recommending to replace and update the 2009 master plan which CFA approved in September 2009.
FFF believes that these changes are not controversial. They improve the field but do not change it in any major way.
Mostly, they record major changes that have already been made—the dog park for example—or minor additions that will be added, such as an entry sign that says "Francis Field."
A larger view of the plan in PDF format is on this website. The labels can be read easily on that version.
The plan is completely funded by FFF, and paid for with private funds. As the agreement states, it must be approved by DPR, and then submitted to the federal U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) for architectural and aesthetic review.
The National Park Service (NPS) which owns about half of the athletic field area (see NPS map on this website), will review and comment on the plan as part of the CFA review process.
As of this posting, DPR has not reviewed or approved this proposed FFF plan. Before that submission (and public posting on this website) FFF will be seeking comments from its members, and other stakeholders.
The FFF Board of Directors reviewed a draft of the plan at its October 4, 2018, meeting, appointed a committee to manage the project to completion, and authorized the hiring of a professional landscape architect to draw the proposed plan, and alternatives that might be considered.
The FFF landscape plan committee approved the design shown, and its elements, on November 30.
After review by DPR, FFF is preparing to present the plan to the Foggy Bottom/West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC-2A) at its January 16, 2019, public meeting at the West End Library, at 2301 L Street NW, which begins at 7:00 pm.
What's different in the plan?
First of all, some elements that have been added, or not marked on the 2009 plan, have been indicated in type, if not pictorially. These are to update the actual facilities and infrastructure of Francis Field that exist today.
New elements that were added in 2017 at FFF request include two field hydrants, which restored "city water" to the field, and repaired the existing drinking fountain. The water line to the drinking fountain, which was run from the Francis Swimming Pool in 2010, was disconnected during the construction of the dog park in 2015 by contractors working for the D.C. Department of Government Services (DGS). The water line was used for a water fountain inside the new dog park and left the drinking fountain near 25th Street dry.
FFF arranged in August 2017 with DGS to restore the drinking fountain line, and also the inoperable field hydrant at the south of the field, which has not worked since at least 2007. The old hydrant was removed and a new one placed in a better location. In this process, a second new field hydrant was installed at the north of the field.
Like the drinking fountain These hydrants are also connected from the water line in the Francis Swimming Pool pump building.
They have been helpful and essential for watering the trees planted in May 2017, and in providing temporary irrigation for the grass planting plans. Like the drinking fountain (a Zoning Case item procured by FFF in the 2007 case, the hydrants are permanent fixtures that should be recorded in the plan and preserved in working order as part of the field's landscape architecture and infrastructure.
Some elements that existed in 2009 were not marked on the first master plan.
One of these is the gate into Rock Creek Park on the west side of the field. A portion of the fence near this gate was damaged several years ago.
Under FFF's 2017 special use permit with Rock Creek Park and NPS that allowed us to restore grass on the NPS section of the field, FFF also repaired this damage with private funds as part of our NPS donation agreement.
This gate is a permanent fixture of Francis Field, and is now added to the revised master plan drawing.
Our partnership agreement allows the "removal of obsolete elements." One of these that is planned is the removal of the valves that were once connected to the irrigation system that George Washington University put on the field in 1991, and abandoned two years later.
At that time, the system drew water from the water main under 25th Street. The old Francis Swimming Pool, constructed in 1929, was still in place then. A new pool and pump house were constructed in 1992. If any new irrigation system were to be installed in the future, the water source would become the swimming pool lines in the pump house.
Several years ago, scrap salvagers illegally removed the brass pipe connector on this valve, and the concrete footing is now coming out of the ground as well. This is a non-functional eyesore and tripping hazard. This area of the field will benefit from the removal of this element.
Signage is an element to be added. An entrance sign near the 25th Street sidewalk will be added that will say "Francis Field."
While we would prefer something like the "Rose Park" sign in Georgetown, DPR may require that we use their new green-and-white standard markers, as shown in the photograph at top of the "Volta Park Recreation Center.
Another addition is up to 11 new trees for the rear field area. These were suggested and requested by the Urban Forestry Division of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT).
Since there is already a landscaping plan for the south field that has been approved by the CFA, FFF has asked our landscape architect to specify the tree species and locations, in cooperation with DDOT.
A large-size plan of the new tree planting is on this website in PDF format.
The new tree-planting plan will be a revision of the existing rear-field landscape plan that was submitted to CFA in October 2015, and approved. That 2015 plan is shown below.
A second 2015 landscape plan of smaller bushes will also be implemented in this rear-field. It is shown below.
These two 2015 drawings will be updated and modified for submission to CFA for review.
01. District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation, Francis Field: Park Improvements, January 8, 2009. PDF format.