October 4, 2012 at 4:34 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Concern over Stead Park renovation plan
Stonewall Kickball, sports, Stead Park, 17th Street, Washington Blade, gay news

A gay kickball league is among the groups that make use of Stead Park. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The co-founder of the local gay group Stonewall Sports is circulating a petition opposing a proposal to renovate the Dupont Circle area’s Stead Park in a way that the group says would reduce the size of its sports fields by 25 percent.

Martin Espinoza states in his petition that a park renovation project proposed by Friends of Stead Park would “jeopardize current community leagues like soccer, volleyball, and kickball from using the fields.”

Espinoza, who is running for a seat on the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission, is one of the organizers of a gay kickball league that uses the park.

Friends of Stead Park is a non-profit group that has helped maintain the park through an endowment from the Stead family, which donated the land in which the park is located to the city about 40 years ago.

Friends of Stead Park invited members of the community to weigh in on the renovation proposal at a meeting scheduled to take place 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, at the D.C. Jewish Community Center at 16th and Q Streets, N.W.

Stead Park is located on P Street, N.W., between 16th and 17th Streets.

“We would like to see the limited funds being received be used to renovate the existing field with re-sodding, enhanced fencing, added benches and upgraded lighting,” Espinoza states in the petition.

Gay ANC Commissioner Jack Jacobson, who’s giving up his ANC seat to run for the Ward 2 D.C. school board seat, has expressed support for what he says is the park renovation proposal’s goal of expanding the number of people who use the park.

“I’m a member of the community,” Jacobson told the Blade. “I pay taxes. I don’t play kickball and I don’t play basketball. But I would rent a community garden plot or maybe utilize an amphitheater or picnic tables or a number of other things that don’t exist right now,” he said.

Adding more amenities to the park than just sports fields would benefit a greater number of people in the community, Jacobson and others supporting the renovation proposal have said.

Espinoza told the Blade retaining the current size of the sports field would not prevent other park improvements. The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation is expected to make the final decision on any significant changes for the park.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

    • keb

      I didn’t interpret Jack Jacobson’s quote as self-interested. The fact is that Stead field is often empty on most weekdays before 4 p.m. which is a waste given the limited green space in the city. Plans to add a range of activities that would appeal to a broad range of the community (young, old, families etc. ) while still preserving most of the field space are a good thing, in my opinion.

  • Steven Mandurano

    I think that we all can agree on three things: (1.) space is limited in DC; (2.) limited funds should be used to enhance the field; and (3.) presently, neither the city nor Friends of Stead Park (or whomever wants to take responsibility) is doing an adequate job at maintaining the field, fence, structures within, access/entry points, etc., which is why I find it funny that, “out of the blue”, Friends of Stead Park suddenly have an interest in maintaining the space. Why now? Why not the last 40 years? If Friends of Stead Park, and/or DC Parks and Rec cannot effectively maintain the endowed property in its current state, characterized as “bare bones”, how are they going to maintain it in such a lavished upgraded state? Let’s be strategic and acknowledge that whilst architectural designs of what Stead Park “could be” all get us excited, limiting usage and not effectively outlining how the new updated space will be maintained is simply not a win-win strategy.

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