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Neighbors say planning process for rec center excluded them

(Published May 6, 2002)

D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation officials say they will hold a community meeting May 9 to try to fix what appears to be an escalating dispute with Brookland-area neighbors of a planned new $8 million recreation center.

The meeting, to be held at the current Turkey Thicket Recreation Center, is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams and other officials gathered May 3 to break ground for the new Turkey Thicket Recreation and Aquatic Center, to be located adjacent to Brookland Elementary School on Michigan Avenue, between Shepherd and Perry streets NE.

But many neighbors of the park say they were never notified by the city that plans to build a new recreation center, which officials say was originally funded in fiscal 1993 at $3.3 million, were progressing beyond the talking stage. Some residents attended the groundbreaking ceremony to pass out flyers that informed officials of the neighborhood complaints.

Parks and Recreation Director Neal Albert and Cornelius Haynes, the departmentís chief of capital projects, said they have been working closely for the past four years with the areaís advisory neighborhood commissioner, Mary Baird Currie, to plan the new center.

Albert and Haynes both said the departmentís normal procedure for communicating with property owners and other residents about changes at nearby recreation center is to delegate notification responsibilities to ANCs and civic associations.

The city awarded an $8 million contract on Feb. 25 to RK Contractors Inc. to design and build the new recreation center, according to information provided by Haynes. He said the project plans, which are currently 70 percent complete, are expected to be completed by June and construction is expected to begin shortly thereafter. Building the new center is expected to be a 12-14 month project, he said.

The planned 30,000-square-foot facility will include classrooms, multipurpose rooms, computer and arts and crafts areas, a gymnasium and an indoor aquatic center that will include a 75-by-60-foot swimming pool, a wading pool and a heated whirlpool. The poolís depth will range from 3 feet 6 inches at its shallow end to 12 feet at the deep end.

Officials said the original $3.3 million budgeted for the recreation center was increased to its current $8 million level in fiscal 2001 by reprogramming funds.

Copyright 2002, The Common Denominator