By Eric Langenbacher, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tot Lot is a key neighborhood amenity, especially for the children of Burleith. Located on the east side of 35th Street between S and T Streets, it's adjacent to the old Fillmore School building now owned by S&R Foundation. I would like to express the community's gratitude to S&R Foundation for continuing to provide the Tot Lot space for the children of Burleith.
Some Background. Although the Fillmore School and adjacent grounds used to be owned by DC Public Schools, and the Fillmore Arts Center (currently in the Hardy Middle School building) was located here from 1974–1998, the Corcoran College of Art + 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 Halycon Arts Lab.
Around the time the property was acquired by the Corcoran, the Tot Lot had been constructed by the Burleith community and maintained under the auspices of the Burleith Garden Club. At one point, the playground equipment was substantially upgraded. Community leaders such as Bonnie Hardy, Peter Pulsifer, and Ed Soloman were deeply involved in establishing the Tot Lot, and the neighborhood owes them a massive thanks for these efforts.
Responsibilities. In 1998 when the Board of Zoning Appeals approved the Corcoran College of Art and Design at the site, the order was clear that the Tot Lot would be enhanced by the Corcoran and maintained by the Corcoran for so long as the community continued to assume its current responsibilities. The only problem is that there was not a specific agreement, nor any document that outlined the parties’ responsibilities. After recent discussions between representatives of the BCA, ANC, and the new owner (S&R), the following responsibilities have been determined:
- S&R will maintain the “infrastructure,” meaning the grounds, 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. 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 (meaning 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 will repair certain wood planks on the playset, remove the mulch and wood border, and the pampas grass from the Tot Lot and replace it with a packed sand surface. This enhancement will have the effect of removing wood mulch moisture and expanding the play area.
Governance. We discussed creating a governance structure going forward. One idea is the establishment of 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.