Hyattsville residents dream big as city reimagines Magruder Park
By BEN SIMASEK — What do you imagine when you picture your ideal public park? A splash pool? Sports fields? Nature trails? A community center? How does your dream park compare to the current Magruder Park?
Over the past seven months, the Neighborhood Design Center (NDC) has given the City of Hyattsville an opportunity to reimagine Magruder Park. At the City Council meeting on Feb. 19, Marita Roos and Allie O’Neill of NDC presented two concept plans for what a redesigned Magruder Park might look like and described the public engagement process behind these concepts.
NDC partnered with Bradley Site Design, a landscape architecture firm, and Rivera Group, which supported the community engagement and translation elements of the project. They conducted community conversations with focus groups, online surveys through SpeakUp! HVL, onsite observations and surveys, and held a visioning workshop in September.
Altogether, 69 people participated in online surveys, and an additional 97 people completed surveys in the park. Additionally, 29 people attended the visioning workshop, and more than 100 came to meetings with Department of Public Works employees and Teen Club members, and to open community listening sessions, which were conducted in both Spanish and English.
“Our goal was to engage as many people as possible, [both] in the park … and around the community,” said Roos.
Of those surveyed, 55 percent said they visit the park on a weekly basis. Many people said that Magruder Park is important to them as a place to exercise, explore nature, play and spend time with family. However, the NDC found that large portions of the park are often unused and that visitors are adapting the park infrastructure for uses other than the intended. NDC also found that teens are not well served by the current park.
The two concept plans presented by NDC increase the variety and amount of infrastructure in the park. Both designs include full-court basketball, sports fields, fitness equipment, expanded playground space, new nature trails, and shaded areas with seating and barbecue facilities.
Both designs have a gateway to the Northwest Branch Trail along the Anacostia River. Many residents see the park’s proximity to the river as a unique plus, but the river also poses a risk, as the park is in a low lying floodplain. The new design will require improving stormwater management and regrading the playing fields for better drainage.
“We purposefully took things out of one and left them into another. We did that on purpose,” O’Neill said. “Nothing is set in stone. This is really meant to elicit reactions. Our goal with this is to get a direction on which way we want to go … and know which parts of which one are precious and important, and we’ll fold those into a final design.”
Concept 1 offers separate entrances for cars, pedestrians and cyclists to increase safety and improve flow, and features a new community center in the middle of the park. The layout of concept 2 is closer to the park’s current design, with some tweaks, including more picnic spaces and a larger community center.
As O’Neill explained, the intention of presenting the two concepts at this stage is to spark reaction, but neither represents a final design. Already, strong reactions to the lack of tennis courts in the first concept underscores how important they are to many park visitors.
Councilmembers shared positive feedback on the creative community engagement process and the concept designs.
“I particularly like how in the first concept, you really do reimagine,” Councilmember Shani Warner (Ward 2) said. She also praised the connectivity.
One concern she had: the number of the sports fields.
NDC said they worked with the PGSI group to address those concerns. Both concepts add sports fields to the park, according to O’Neill.
Councilmembers also stated that they had received numerous comments about the fate of the tennis courts, saying many residents would like to see them in the concept designs. Councilmember Bart Lawrence (Ward 1) said he personally would like the tennis courts.
“To all the tennis enthusiasts out there, there is going to be a place for you in Magruder Park,” O’Neill said.
Most of the councilmembers also praised the use of the wooded areas.
“I love that [the concept designs] bring to the forefront the natural assets around the park … and that there are also elements for environmental education … so schools can take trips there to experience and learn about something that’s right in your backyard. I think that’s a wonderful thing,” said Mayor Candace Hollingsworth.
Based on public input, NDC will continue to work with the city to incorporate elements that people like from each concept in a final design. According to Lesley Riddle, director of Public Works, design of a master plan for the park is in the upcoming budget for fiscal year 2020.