New Interim DPR Director Named with Other Departmental Changes
Posted: May 16, 2023.
Administrative changes in Mayor Muriel Bowser's government include an Interim Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR).
Thennie Freeman was named to that post on April 7, to replace Delano Hunter, the former DPR director, who was named Acting Director of the Department of General Services on March 31.
Freeman is relatively new to DPR, and joined the department only in "late 2022" according to the Mayor's announcement, as Deputy Director of Recreation Services. She holds bachelor and master of arts degrees from the University of the District of Columbia, and has worked for the district government since 2008, first in the school department, and then, for eleven years, in the Department of Employment Services, where she was director of youth programs.
She will be the third head of DPR since Mayor Bowser took office in January 2015. Keith Anderson, her first DPR director, was made director of DGS in December 2018. He was named Interim Deputy Major for Planning and Development on March 17 of this year to replace John Falcicchio, who resigned that position unexpectedly.
Ms. Freeman is the ninth head of DPR since Friends of Francis Field was founded in October 2007. Since then, the average length of service in that position has been 20.3 months. Director Hunter served 43 months.
FFF Asks NPS to Deny Transfer of Francis Field Land to D.C. Jurisdiction
Posted: May 16, 2023.
Thirty days after the District government and the National Park Service (NPS) announced that they were considering a transfer of jurisdiction of Francis Field parkland, the Friends of Francis Field (FFF) sent NPS a letter in opposition to the proposed transfer.
A copy of that March 23 letter is on this website in PDF format.
The NPS land in question is shown in green in the diagram at right. The striped area is the portion of Francis Field over which the District government has current jurisdiction.
The NPS portion of Francis Field is part of U.S. Reservation 360, which is also known as the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway—and is now a historic district in addition to being a part of Rock Creek Park, a unit of the National Park System.
We provided proof in our letter that the strip of NPS land which is now a part of Francis Field was acquired under an Act of Congress in 1913, for the purpose of landscape architecture and the prevention of dumping trash into Rock Creek.
The landscape architect was Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., who described the parkway concept in some detail in the well-known "McMillan Plan" of 1902. The park-like roadway was part of the dignified architecture designed for the National Capital, the National Mall, and the connection of Rock Creek Park to Potomac Park on the river.
Several federal laws regulating National Park land prohibit its use for purposes other than that for which it was acquired or set aside. One of these laws is the 1978 act which states that the management of NPS units "shall not be exercised in derogation of the values and purposes for which the System units have been established, except as directly and specifically provided by Congress."
DPR is on record as planning a full-size, regulation soccer pitch on Francis Field, along with an expanded dog park.
Transferring land purchased for the landscaping of the National Capital to be used for either of those purposes is not what Congress intended or stated in the Act that created the parkway.
FFF has no objection to an expanded dog park on the section of the field under current DPR jurisdiction; but we must object to replacing Olmsted's landscape architecture with a competitive sports arena.
The natural turf field is large enough to accommodate elementary and middle-school field sports, but a full-size soccer pitch for adult competition is contrary to—and would be a derogation of—the park values of the Olmsted architecture for which the land was acquired.
Several legal and regulatory steps will be required for the proposed transfer of jurisdiction to occur, including:
- NPS internal review of the D.C. government proposal
- Approval by the National Capital Planning Commission
- Legislation by the Council of the District of Columbia
- Review of that District legislation by the U.S. Congress
- Review of any resulting plans by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts
DPR and DGS are not conservation or historic preservation agencies, and they have different purposes and values than NPS does. Preserving Francis Field's park values and leaving it in as natural a state as possible is our goal.
FFF hopes that this apparently "illegal" transfer of jurisdiction will be stopped in the NPS internal review. FFF is gathering additional documentation regarding the stewardship of the field for submission to the National Capital Planning Commission if that should become necessary.
New Tree for Rebecca Coder Park from DDOT Urban Forestry Division
Posted: May 16, 2023.
Official Park Dedication Planned for Late Fall
We have a new tree in the Rebecca Coder Park section of Francis Field. This was provided by the Urban Forestry Division of the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) which looks after the health of our trees and works according to the architectural plan for the field.
Brad Kerchof, the chair of the FFF landscaping committee, reports that this new Fringe Tree is a replacement for another tree in that spot that had died; and that he sent out a thank-you note to Matt Lehtonen, the DDOT urban forester who works with us.
We also have approval from DPR now for the location of the Rebecca Coder memorial plaque which the legislation approved. The plaque is fabricated, but we need to find a contractor to mount it in a rock or boulder. Volunteer help with that is welcome.
FFF has also requested DPR to remove an obsolete valve from a section of Rebecca Coder Park with part of the $3 million appropriation approved for Francis Field renovation in this fiscal year's budget.
Jim Malec Elected ANC-2A Chair after Joel Causey Resigns the Office
Posted: May 16, 2023.
The leadership of our local Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC-2A) took an unexpected turn last month, after Joel Causey resigned the office of chair on April 14, but did not resign from the Commission. He had held the post since March 2022.
There has been friction between Causey and some other commissioners that has hampered the work of the non-partisan and unpaid commission, which advises the District government on neighborhood matters in Foggy Bottom and the West End.
Commissioner Trupti Patel provided an example of the mood at the beginning of its April 19th meeting. "We have a crisis," she said. "We don't like each other, we don't talk to each other, and we don't trust each other."
In a special meeting on May 8, Jim Malec, who represents single-member district 2A02, where Francis Field is located, was elected the new chair, by a vote of 8-0.
“I want to thank you all for your support,” Malec said after the voting. “It’s a big responsibility, I’m going to do my best and try to make you guys proud.”
A first-term member of the Commission, Malec was elected to it in November 2022. His unanimous vote for chair this month was a sign that he may be able to do the neighborhood a real service and lead the commission in a more collegial and collaborative manner.
ANC-2A usually meets monthly, and will meet again on May 17 at the West End Library and virtually by Zoom. See its website, ANC2a.org, for details and the agenda. See also background article on this website on the Causey and Malec seats on ANC-2A as result of boundary redistricting due to 2010 census.
Erika Hale Is New FFF President, Younger Team Will Steer Organization
Community Engagement for Field Renovation Expected To Begin by March
Posted: February 2, 2023.
The Board of Directors of the Friends of Francis Field elected new officers at its January 19, 2023, meeting. Erika Hale, a resident of 2501 M Street NW, was elected president, replacing Gary Griffith, a long-time member and officer, and one of the founders of the organization.
Griffith, who had announced his retirement at FFF's open annual meeting in October, presented a letter of resignation at the board meeting, stating "old age and infirmity" as his reason for stepping down. He is 75 years old, and had served ten years as corporate secretary and five years as president.
Ms. Hale and her husband live in one of the 2501 M Street apartments overlooking the field, and moved to the District from Austin, Texas, where she worked as a statistician at the University of Texas. They have two grown children, one still in college.
Erika became active on the FFF landscaping committee last September. The chair of that committee, Brad Kerchof, was elected corporate secretary at the same January 19 board meeting. Brad has not only been working with his hands on the field, but also supervises the rear-field landscaping work, and coordinates with Casey Trees and the Urban Forestry division of the D.C. Department of Transportation on the care and pruning of the field's trees.
Laura Belt, another 2501 M Street resident, will continue to serve as treasurer. Laura presented the Francis Field landscaping plan to Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A in March 2019, and was part of the team that argued the FFF permitting case to the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) in December of that year.
"These young and energetic officers will steer the organization going forward," Griffith said, "and—most importantly—will represent our membership in the Community Engagement process for the $3-million renovation of the field."
That process will involve a series of meetings with DPR and the D.C. Department of General Services, which hires the necessary contractors. The National Park Service, which owns about half of the playing field area, will also have an important say in the process.
The renovation—and the planning that precedes it—will determine how Francis Field is redesigned and used for the next decade, and probably longer. Expansion of the Francis Dog Park is also part of DPR's agenda.
Newly-elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Jim Malec, who now represents the Francis Field area, tells FFF that the first Community Engagement meeting will probably be held by DPR near the end of February or early in March.