Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Malcolm X Park Called; Says "Fix Me"

Sunday afternoons at Malcolm X Park are the best. Especially during the summer. If you visit late in afternoon on a hot July or August Sunday, you'll see an amazing drum circle forming near the Joan of Arc statue on the upper level of the park. Its been around for decades and anyone with a drum can join. Or just go to watch the drummers and dancers; or watch the other people watching the drummers and dancers. The drum circle usually starts whenever the weather consistently permits. The gathering is one of the great examples of why its great to still live in the city. Sadly, in New York, new condo dwellers near Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem have forced their very similar drum circle to relocate, because of "noise." Luckily, we haven't had problems like those here in DC.

Most people now know Malcolm X Park as Meridian Hill Park. Its a federal park, administered by the National Park Service. Its about, oh, 4 blocks from the 42 bus route, with the northern tip of the park at Euclid and 16th Street NW. Oddly, it was one of the first public structures to be built with a new cutting edge construction technology: concrete aggregate. The park opened in 1936. During the 1980s it was considered very dangerous, with open drug use and criminal activity in and around the park. However, over the years with work from the feds and everyday folks like Friends of Meridian Hill, the park has done a 180. Now its time for the National Park Service (NPS) to finish the job.

NPS been working on restoring the park to its peak grandeur since 2003. Some of the changes have been noticeable, like repopulating the park with benches. They'd been removed to ward off "loitering." No loitering in a park. Or sitting. Must have been sad times. Other work is less visible, like fixing drainage issues underneath sidewalks and the grassy mall on the upper level. The NPS is scheduled to finish the repairs this spring, but it sure doesn't look close. This park could be one of the best of the East Coast when fully functional, safe and maintained. Too bad its still a "hidden gem" of sorts. It needs to be out front and center as a city asset and the NPS could help it get there with a wrap up of the renovations. I don't want to be too harsh; after all, its still winter. But I do want the Park servive to come thouhgh on the final renovations so we can get back to enjoying the drum cirlces in a clean, construction-free, safe, and aesthetically pleasing park. New condo dwellers who dislike like "noise" can go elsewhere.