How to fix DC’s downtown “playground desert”

How to fix DC's downtown
A proposal for the "Children's Garden" at Franklin Square Park, which DC is working on revamping with the National Park Service

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How to fix dc's downtown "playground desert"
A proposal for the “Children’s Garden” at Franklin Square Park, which DC is working on revamping with the National Park Service

An official map of D.C.’s parks blooms like a colorful garden, with the flower-shaped asterisks used to represent new playground projects forming a bright circle over the city. A second look, however, reveals a problem: the circle is more like a wreath, with park and playground improvements planned for the outer neighborhoods, and lots of blank spaces left downtown. There’s parkland, but almost no outdoor play space for kids in the center of the District, and parents say this poses a challenge to the city’s livability.

“When you have a kid between 18 months and three years old, you suddenly realize that you need space for them to run and play,” says Danielle Pierce, a playground advocate and co-founder of Downtown DC Kids, an online group dedicated to making D.C. accessible and livable for families. “You can’t just put a kid down on the ground in Dupont Circle and expect them not to eat condoms.”

In many ways D.C. has become a victim of its own popularity; there are now more kids than there used to be in many neighborhoods and many people wanting to raise their children in places that did not used to be heavily residential a few years ago. The public’s response to being able to live close to where they work created a rate of demographic change in D.C. that has surprised everyone. Ward 6 alone has added more than 8,500 new residents between 2000 and 2010. []


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