I woke up one recent morning to take a jog in my favorite neighborhood spot, Oxon Run Park. But, to my surprise, the park was dug up and in disarray.
Why didn’t the park service fix the park one section at a time so that the community could still use the other parts. Were any efforts made to inform our neighborhood of the closure in advance?
This is soon to be the case for Franklin Square Park downtown as well, which is central to many of our homeless neighbors.
For many years, advocates fought to regain Franklin School, which served as a downtown homeless shelter until the last resident was evicted on September 2008. The historic building remains vacant after multiple mayors have solicited proposals to put it to use. The neighboring park, however, is used by many as a peaceful place to rest and is known as a location where charity groups often give away clothing, food and hygiene kits to help people on the street survive. Cross Wilderness Mission alone serves more than 300 people at the park every Sunday.
In the Spring of 2016, construction plans for the park called for closing half of it at a time for construction, leaving the other half open for use. Updated plans call for a full closure of the park starting in 2018, which will overlap with two years of the downtown D.C. Library branch closure for renovations, another resource and gathering place for the homeless community.
Unlike Oxon Run Park, where the community wasn’t notified, we have a year to plan for Franklin Square Park’s closure. What will the people that use Franklin Square Park go? Only time will tell.