Friends of Francis Field

Website Article:

Volunteers Needed for Fall Landscaping Projects

Posted: July 6, 2020.

We have approval for three projects on Francis Field on 25th Street NW, between M and N Streets, but the Covid 19 situation and social distancing precautions have made the timetable uncertain.

Each of these involves some planting, and we have missed the spring season. We are now trying to be ready for fall, which requires that the planning work gets completed this summer.

While some of the work will be done by professional landscape contractors, we'd like to involve our current and new members in some of the other important work, both outdoors and indoors. We can use people who can handle cameras and pencils, and well as shovels and rakes. Listed below are our major projects.

Tree Laboratory

Our three-year agreement with the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) includes the planting of 11 new trees with the Urban Forestry Division of the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) and an assessment of the 43 trees that were planted on Francis Field in 2017 in conjunction with he Casey Tree Foundation. A few of those have died and will be replaced.

As shown in the photo at left, we began this study last winter. Some new trees have been planted, but the replacement of dead trees has been delayed by the Covid 19 situation.

Because of health and social distancing concerns, we may not be able to involve volunteers in the new tree plantings.

However, we would like to involve volunteers in mapping each of our 54 trees as a basis for studying the species that are most suitable, and why some species do better than others. We would like to make this an educational project, and perhaps we can also interest the biology departments at our local schools and universities in this study.

Rear Field Landscaping

There is a professional landscape plan for the southern end of the field that includes the professional planting of new shrubs and bushes, which will be purchased from a nursery.

We have funding to pay for much of this, and we are about to begin the bidding process. The area has been untended for more than a year, and weeds have taken over. Three of the trees that were planted as landscaping elements have died. The area is shown in the photograph at right.

Is it worthwhile to identify these "weeds"? Are any of them worth "taming" as landscaping vegetation? They seem to want to grow there, and do well. They are evidently native species that find suitable soil conditions, light, and rainfall.

Meanwhile, the tree species that came from a nursery have died. Can we learn something from this?

Perhaps a small group of volunteers could tackle this issue. If the weeds are not useful, volunteers might remove them from the planting bed. That could make our landscaping budget go further.

Rebecca Coder Park

Our agreement with DPR also includes removing an obsolete water valve from a portion of Francis Field between 25th Street NW and the fence that encloses the athletic field portion. Planting grass and otherwise "beautifying" the area is also specified. It is shown in the photo at right.

The work will be privately funded.

This area was set aside in the 2009 plan for "passive recreation" and championed by Rebecca Coder, the founder of our organization who died in 2018. DPR will permit this sub-section to be named "Rebecca Coder Park" if the necessary legislation is passed by the District Council and the Mayor.

Today, this section is one of the most frequently used areas of Francis Field. Neighbors use the benches there to relax, eat lunch, and read, but the area is most often used by people walking dogs, and it is a necessary and useful neighborhood space for that purpose.

We would like to study and experiment with different soil additives and species of grass that hold up best under the use to which the grass is subjected there.

Athletic Field Study

The largest element of Francis Field is the athletic field space, which has traditionally been overused, and under-maintained, despite the neighborhood's stated objective to provide "a green, pleasant, and safe recreation area" suitable for "school, youth, and community sports."

Due to the Covid 19 situation, the field was closed during this spring's permitting season. Its condition in April is shown in the photograph at left.

On this website, we've reported a great deal about field conditions, maintenance and permitting in the last two years. What is increasingly important is for the two different District government agencies that permit and maintain the field to work together to keep the field safe and suitable.

We have been advocating for a science-based study of the use and maintenance. This involves, in part, determining the number of cleated shoes that are permitted each season, and the frequency of seeding and maintenance. We need to find a balance that works.

This is another area in which we encourage our schools, school parents, and permit-holders to participate.

Join in and volunteer

For these projects we do not need large numbers of people, but we could certainly use a few. During this Covid 19 period, social distancing is smart idea, and we will follow that. Contact information is on the About FFF page on this website. Our organization has been in existence for over ten years now, and we have a good record of getting things done. Please consider joining us in this productive effort!

Copyright 2020, Friends of Francis Field.