It began last Friday. Neighbor and friend Holly posted a message to the Shepherd Park listserv:
Anyone know where this came from?
Her message included a picture of the concrete slab in the picture below.
By Monday evening, that message had received over 40 responses.
Marvin Caplan park is a medium-sized triangle park that is bounded by Alaska Avenue, Holly Street, and 13th Street NW. It has nice trees and shrubbery and a wonderful plaque that was dedicated to its namesake (link) two years ago this month. There is enough space for children to play a game of soccer.
What it does not have is any place to sit down.
We’ve been in the neighborhood for about ten years now. Periodically, the idea of asking the Department of Parks and Recreation to add a bench to the park has bubbled up, but it was always quickly followed by dissenting voices who worry that seating might attract unwanted attention from people “outside the neighborhood”. Specifically, homeless people.
During this iteration, we’ve learned that a local government IT contractor TCG has “adopted” Marvin Caplan park though DPR’s Adopt-A-Park program. Through this method, they have donated the materials and labor to maintain the park, and, recently, poured the concrete base that is needed to install a city-approved park bench. An impromptu meeting was held sometime last week where the prospect of the bench was discussed. The company seems willing to take whatever action is desired by the community, including completing the installation or removing the slab altogether.
There are well-practiced Pro-Bench and Anti-Bench contingents on both sides of this issue. Proximity to the park, ideology, and views about the best uses for public space are certain to shape each of our opinions on the question. There are also others who would have preferred the bench to be located in a different location within the park, perhaps closer to the sidewalk nearest the bus stop on Alaska Avenue. But perhaps the biggest failure here was a lack of communication. Despite the multiple civic and Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) meetings that take place here each month, it seems that very few people were aware of the project before the concrete was poured.
Local ANC commissioner Stacey Lincoln wrote that he was not aware of bench project or the park’s adoption. If you have an opinion one way or the other, I would encourage you to contact him to share your thoughts and concerns on the issue. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 466-4932.