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Frederick Douglass Playground completes 24 promised renovations for children

Mayor Gray vows to continue his DC Play Initiative on March 11, 2014
Mayor Gray vows to continue his DC Play Initiative on March 11, 2014
Photo by Professor Metze

On March 28, 2014, Mayor Vincent Gray, Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) Chief of Staff John Stokes, Department of General Services (DGS) Director Brian Hanlon, and ANC 8E02 Commissioner Anthony Muhammad joined the Douglass community for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, which opened the newly renovated Douglass playground at the Douglass Community Center (1898 Stanton Terrace, SE). Students from Turner Elementary School also attended the ceremony.

Gray promised to renovate 32 playgrounds for children. He continued to renovate the playgrounds even in the midst of a complete shutdown of the United States of America Federal Government Shutdown. In his State of the District Address on March 11, 2014, Gray made reference to his dedication to the completion of the playground renovation project. “I could go on and on, regaling you with a litany of other numbers about the progress the District has made recently -- like the increased number of police officers, or the faster pace at which we are getting treatment to those diagnosed as HIV positive and the falling number of new AIDS cases, or our 40 new Play DC playgrounds, or the incredible progress we’re making to ensure the District is the most sustainable city in America,” Gray said.

“We are pleased that each Play DC play space embodies its own significant theme that characterizes the neighborhood. What better way to pay tribute to one of the greatest abolitionists of all time, than we do here in Ward 8 for Frederick Douglass? The children have an opportunity to bring the elements of play into this space, and they can also step into the life of Frederick Douglass and bring his experiences to life," Stokes said.

Frederick Douglass was honored by the 113th United States Congress with a bronze statue in the Capitol thus making him the first African-American to be so honored. He is the author of three classic autobiographies which chronicle his struggles to be free. The works by Douglass include: The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass published in 1845; My Bondage and my Freedom published in 1855; and The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass published in 1881.

The Frederick Douglass playground design centers on the life of the historic abolitionist, author, social reformer and statesman, Frederick Douglass. Douglass, after escaping from slavery became the leader of the abolitionist movement, gaining recognition for his oratory, and incisive antislavery writing. Born in Easton Maryland, Douglass was a resident of the District of Columbia, and his home, Cedar Hill, is a national historic site in nearby Anacostia. The playground design builds on a theme of memorial groves, which represent three instrumental phases and places in Douglass' life.

The playground is one of the 32 new play spaces originally designated for renovation under Mayor Gray's Play DC: Playground Improvement Initiative in 2012. For the new fiscal year, Mayor Gray added eight more playgrounds, bringing the total to 40, making Play DC the largest playground renovation project in the District's history. The Douglass community, along with Ward 8 stakeholders, attended community engagement and planning meetings with DPR and DGS to finalize the project.

"The Department of General Services was honored to design and construct the new playground, which pays tribute to Frederick Douglass and provides the community with a play space that includes the District’s first constructed zip-line, a community garden and play areas for residents of all ages," Hanlon said.

New features at the Frederick Douglass playground include ground net climbers, green roof pavilions, a free-standing rhythm spinner, walking trail, fitness stations, basketball courts and more. The Frederick Douglass Playground is also the first DPR playground to feature a zip-line, an aerial rope slide.

DPR currently operates 92 playgrounds in the District. To date, the following 24 playgrounds have been renovated, and are now open:

· Ward 1 – Harrison, Banneker;

· Ward 2 – Volta Park;

· Ward 3 – Palisades, Macomb, Key Elementary School;

· Ward 4 – Raymond, Emery, Takoma, Hamilton, Fort Stevens, Upshur;

· Ward 5 – Noyes, Harry Thomas Sr., Brentwood; Turkey Thicket

· Ward 6 – Rosedale; Kennedy

· Ward 7 – Neval Thomas Elementary School, Benning Park, Hillcrest;

· Ward 8 – Fort Stanton, Fort Greble, Frederick Douglass.