By Eric Langenbacher, firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally published on May 4, this post has been updated. Please email Kishan Putta if you would like to get involved with the Tot Lot.
The Tot Lot is a key neighborhood amenity for the children of Burleith. The playground is located on the east side of 35th Street between S and T Streets, adjacent to the old Fillmore School building now owned by S&R Foundation.
Some Background. The Fillmore School and adjacent grounds originally belonged to DC Public Schools. The Fillmore Arts Center (currently in the Hardy Middle School building) was located here from 1974–1998. The Corcoran College of Art and Design owned the property from 1998–2014. In 2015, the building and adjacent land were purchased by S&R Foundation, which has renovated the space and converted it into the Halcyon Arts Lab.
Residents remember that a playground has existed on this location since at least the 1970s, maintained under the auspices of the Burleith Garden Club. At one point, the playground equipment was substantially upgraded to create the playground we see today. Community leaders such as Bonnie Hardy, Peter Pulsifer, and Ed Solomon were deeply involved in establishing the Tot Lot and ensuring its continued survival after the land became private property. The neighborhood owes these individuals and all the other volunteers over the years a massive thanks for their efforts. In addition to providing space to play, the Tot Lot has also been the location of the BCA's annual Halloween party.
Responsibilities. In 1998 when the Board of Zoning Appeals approved the Corcoran College of Art and Design at the site, their determination made clear that the Tot Lot would be enhanced by the Corcoran school and maintained
by the Corcoran for so long as the community continued to
assume its current responsibilities. The only problem was that there was no specific agreement, nor any document that outlined the parties’ responsibilities. After discussions in spring 2018 among representatives of the BCA, ANC, and S&R, the following responsibilities have been determined:
- S&R will maintain the “infrastructure,” meaning the grounds and the permanent equipment affixed to the ground, and maintain trash service of the Tot Lot garbage can (this is not provided by the city), including replacing significantly warped/broken planks on the playset, emergency repairs, fencing, and ground covering. From time to time S&R may, at its sole discretion, replace permanent equipment;
- S&R will replenish the sand in the sandbox once a year; any other replacement or supplement of sand will be by the Burleith community or residents at its/their expense;
- The Burleith community will maintain/replace the toys (riding toys, wagons, sand buckets, sand shovels, etc.), the picnic tables, and pick up litter (branches, twigs, debris on the ground, etc.);
- The Burleith community will include the Tot Lot in its twice-a-year “clean-up” days; and
- The Burleith community will acknowledge that play is “at your own risk” on the privately owned Tot Lot.
This spring, S&R has repaired certain wood planks on the playset and will remove the mulch and wood border and the pampas grass from the Tot Lot and replace them with a packed sand surface. This enhancement will have the effect of removing wood mulch moisture and expanding the play area. The Tot Lot was explicitly included in the May 12 biannual community clean-up.
Governance. We discussed creating a governance structure going forward. One idea is to establish a “Friends of the Tot Lot” volunteer organization to coordinate community activities and questions regarding the Tot Lot. Representatives could include the BCA board, ANC 2E, S&R, and several community members. Current BCA board member Kishan Putta has kindly volunteered to act as liaison for these efforts. (Please email him if you'd like to get involved.)
The Burleith community is quite grateful that S&R Foundation generously continues to provide the Tot Lot space for the children of Burleith.