PHOTOS: Residents help design Deitz Park, brainstorm ideas to address illegal activity
BY REBECCA BENNETT — On May 30, the Neighborhood Design Center (NDC), in conjunction with the City of Hyattsville and the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) lead a brainstorming and design workshop for Deitz Park.
The land is owned by M-NCPPC, but park planner Eileen Nivera said the park commission has had a memorandum of understanding with the city since the 1970’s which makes the city responsible for maintaining Deitz Park and other properties.
Houses and apartments surround Deitz park on all sides, and it is only accessible to the public by a single, winding path in the 4100 block of Oliver Street that leads visitors to what some consider a hidden gem. Hyattsville Park Maintenance Supervisor Dawn Taft said this land-locked position was one factor that lead the city to seek input from residents on the future of the park.
The brainstorm and design workshop for the park took community members through a series of exercises to build their version of the Deitz Park. Adults and children alike used colored dots on a map to indicate their favorite and places, places that were not working and other places that had potential.
Another activity took residents through creating a character to tell a story about what they would like to see happening in the park, then asked what they would need in the park to do those things. Before identifying what items were needed soon or could wait, participants used tracing paper to draw their ideal version of the space.
Suspicious or illegal activity
The enclosed nature of the park, according to residents who live nearby, also leads to a great deal of suspicious or illegal activity in the park.
Nivera said M-NCPPC participated in a community meeting in 2008 where residents expressed concern over houses being broken into and “people hanging out in the park.”
“We do conduct patrols of the park as part of our pro-active enforcement strategy,” said Hyattsville City Police Department (HCPD) Spokesperson Lt. Chris Purvis. “As there are many ways to gain access in to and out of the park, it is often difficult to catch illegal activity occurring as violators often hear [authorities] coming and run before we can catch them.”
Lt. Purvis said the department is encouraged that the park has been cleaned up to allow for better visibility and that they support the Hyattsville Department of Public Works possible plan to add low-ambient lighting by the picnic shelter. HCPD said the timely clean up of broken glass, soda cans, cigarette butts and other trash fosters a safe environment and often discourages littering.
“With these modifications, the city hopes to attract more active participants in the park, thus, decreasing criminal activity,” Lt. Purvis said. Many residents gave feedback that they also thought the more park use would mean less suspicious activity.
Anyone who witnesses suspicious activity in the park should call 301.985.5060. HCPD said callers should stay on the phone with the dispatcher, if possible, in the case that suspects run as officers arrive.
Funding the project
Nivera said they received funds for some improvements through the Capital Improvement Program (CIP), but she said it has not been enough. According to Nivera, the county just went through it’s budget process and some CIP funds were no longer available, but she hoped the funds for this park were still there. They are looking for some state funds through the Open Space Initiative. The City of Hyattsville has also applied for a grant to upgrade the playground, and is waiting to hear back on approval.
Officials also said that upgraded park plans will need to take into account American Disabilities Act and stormwater management regulations.
When it comes to stormwater, NDC said it’s running from houses on the east side of the property to the west, and also north to south, collecting at the fence. They said the soil drains well, so the various proposed water features would work on the property. NDC’s Elisabeth Walker said if the soil didn’t drain well, solutions like rain gardens wouldn’t work in the park.
Walker also said, Deitz Park drains into the Northwest Branch Watershed of the Anacostia River, but it is right on the border of the Northeast Watershed.
Residents who still wish to submit feedback about Deitz Park can email the Neighborhood Design Center. NDC said it will hold a follow up meeting to show initial concept designs in the near future.