BY KIT SLACK
Rabid foxes. Ravenous goats. Unruly children. Strangling vines. Food forests. This June, even a black bear who lost his way: Hyattsville parks have it all — and a new city parks website lists the amenities at each one.
Plans are afoot to bring even more to local parks.
Finally, a bigger swimming pool
This winter, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) purchased wooded land on Adelphi Road north of the existing community center, in a deal covered by the Washington Business Journal.
The $4.7 million purchase will allow for a new 87,000-square-foot recreational center on a 5-acre site. The new center, which will replace the old community center, will include an indoor pool and track, as well as spaces for sports and fitness — all designed for multigenerational use.
A request for proposals for the design work will go out this year, according to Claire Worshtil, the capital budget manager for the M-NCPPC. Worshtil anticipates that the firm selected will create full construction documents ready for a permit in 12 to 18 months from when they win the bid. The design process will include community input on features like the size and attributes of the indoor pool, and the design of some indoor spaces based on community needs.
Worshtil expects that the $115 million project will be fully funded by the end of next year.
In 2021, the county finished construction of a similar facility, the Southern Area Aquatic and Recreation Complex in Brandywine. Two others are planned further east in the county, according to a feasibility study published in 2021.
Imagining, and reimagining, Driskell Park
The largest city project in the works is a renovation of the 32-acre David Driskell Community Park, an idea introduced to the city council by then-Mayor Candace Hollingsworth in January 2017.
Before the pandemic, the city developed a plan to put a new community center deeper in the park, between the entrance to Trumbule Trail and the giant oak by the bridge to the bike path. The concept plan, developed after extensive community meetings, interviews and focus groups, also included moving parking and a car entrance to the east side of the park, moving the playground, expanding the basketball court and adding new paths and trails.
The Neighborhood Design Center (NDC), a nonprofit with offices on Gallatin Street next to the Hyattsville Municipal Building, led the redesign process — then called Magruder Park Reimagined — under a $51,000 contract approved as part of the city’s 2018 budget process.
The project paused during the pandemic, according to Hyattsville Director of Public Works Leslie Riddle, as her department focused its strained resources on basic services like trash pickup and road maintenance.
During the pause in the redesign process, the city renamed the park for the late David C. Driskell, a prominent artist and longtime Hyattsville resident who died in 2020 after a lifetime of advocacy for African American art and artists.
This year, Riddle says the city will take the concept plan for the park and turn it into a master plan. In April, the city council approved up to $400,000 for further NDC work on the project, including landscape and stormwater engineering design, an architectural plan for a new community center and possibly other buildings, and programming ideas — all driven by a new community engagement process.
O’Neill said that each component of the current design effort will be guided by principles and themes from Driskell’s work, including discovery and creativity, contemplation in nature, and the idea that everyone belongs. The NDC identified themes through conversations with Driskell’s mentees, colleagues, his biographer and others, according to O’Neill.
The design team — and their clipboards — will be back in the park in the late summer or early fall, collecting data, running focus groups, and leading larger community conversations, O’Neill said.
Funding and construction of the new park amenities will take time, according to Riddle.
Meanwhile, under a proposal made this spring by former Ward 3 Councilmember Dan Peabody, the city would use $300,000 of federal pandemic relief money to build a three-season outdoor classroom onto the back of the current community center, providing more space for camp and after-school programs.
This spring, the city approved up to $75,000 for a study of how to redevelop the five-way intersection at the current park entrance. That work, according to Riddle, may dovetail with the design of the park entrance.
Plans for the large field adjacent to the park may be in flux: A group of residents has been challenging the Suffrage Pointe townhouse development planned for the site for years, arguing that zoning laws do not allow such a development in a flood plain. In May, the county council rejected a detailed site plan previously approved for the development, sending it back to the county planning board.
Hitting The Spot
On a much smaller scale, The Spot — the parking-lot-turned-gathering-space along the Trolley Trail between Yes! Organic Market and Franklins Restaurant — will be getting a makeover.
City renovation goals include a stage, shade, bike parking, lighting and areas for food trucks and bathrooms, with the NDC handling design work under a $40,000 contract approved by the city council this spring.
The city has been surveying residents about the project on the Hello Hyattsville website, and received almost 200 responses there, according to City Communications Manager Cindy Zork.
O’Neill held a drop-in workshop for residents about the project during the recent June 10 Trolley Day. She says the NDC will submit an engagement report and a couple of design concepts to the city council this fall.
Getting teens to go outside
Attracting teens to Hyattsville parks can be a challenge, at least according to NDC surveys of Driskell Park back in 2019.
The NDC will be leading landscape design for a teen-friendly mini-park next to the new Hyattsville Teen Center that is under development at 40th Avenue and Nicholson Street; in February, the city council approved up to $80,000 for the landscape design work.
Preliminary plans for the project, drafted two years ago by another contractor, include picnic tables, an obstacle course and a handball wall. NDC staff says those plans will be a starting point for a community conversation about what to put in the space, and they say residents should keep an eye out for opportunities to engage in the fall.
Tots need parks too
Last but not least, Riddle says new designs are coming for the tiny playground and park on Gallatin Street, which has been closed since the fall for environmental remediation prior to construction. In March, the city council accepted a petition from residents asking that play equipment remain in its current location and that a green space be preserved in the center of the park. The Low Impact Development Center, a nonprofit focused on stormwater management, is working with the city on the project.
During Riddle’s 10 years as the city’s public works director, she has worked with the NDC on renovations to Hyatt Park and Deitz Park, and overseen the cultivation of two food forests where residents can forage. Riddle also worked with the M-NCPPC on the new playground and outdoor fitness center at 38th Avenue Neighborhood Park. “It’s been a real joy for me to see the parks develop as they have,” said Riddle, crediting staff and council support.
For all city-led projects listed above, residents can find updates and ways to participate in planning at Hellohyattsville.com.
Hyattsville.org/parks now lists amenities at each city park.