Meeting: Ellington Field


By Eric Langenbacher,

The Burleith Citizens Association will hold a community meeting to discuss the fate of Ellington Field on Monday, October 7, from 7:30–9 pm at the Washington International School (36th Street between R and Reservoir). This will be an opportunity to get information and to express opinions about the issue. Click here for the agenda.

Background. Ellington Field (bounded by S, 38th, Reservoir, and 39th Streets) has belonged to DC Public Schools (Western High School and then Duke Ellington School of the Arts) since it was created. The field has been a cherished public school and community resource for decades with many residents utilizing and maintaining the space.

Recently, there have been attempts to transfer control over the field to the Department of Parks and Recreation—a move that could have a variety of positive and negative consequences for surrounding neighborhoods. For months now, we have been asking for more information about this change and for meetings with the community. City authorities, particularly the Department of Parks and Recreation, have been extremely unresponsive.

Moreover, city authorities, including Mayor Bowser, have connected the fates of the Jelleff and Ellington Fields. Maret gets preferential access to Jelleff; public schools (and others?) get access to Ellington. But, these are not interchangeable assets. Jelleff has lights, facilities, parking, space for buses, and an ideal location just off Wisconsin Avenue that minimizes impact on local residents. Ellington Field has none of this.

Although many members of the community have been active regarding the city's deal giving preferential access of Jelleff Field to the private Maret School, the BCA is concerned that insufficient attention has been devoted to the fate of Ellington Field. To this end, we are convening this community meeting. We are also inviting a variety of city employees and elected officials to answer our questions and address our concerns. I hope that they will be able and willing to attend. Even if they do not, there is much to talk about as a community.

Updates. I do not know for sure what the current status of the field is. Jack Evans sent a message stating that he has asked Mayor Bowser to hold off on any changes before the community has a say. This needs to be confirmed and community meetings need to be scheduled. I am unhappy to report that I have asked DPR repeatedly for such meetings, but have not even received a single reply. 

I think this might be news to many of you, but I have heard that the field (and track) at Ellington is not of "regulation size"—nor is it currently safe. I know that this description is unclear, but it is all the information I have. Apparently, there are already plans being discussed to re-do the field—work that would likely involve the removal of trees and even additional excavation. 

Many neighbors have serious concerns including: 1) amount of usage and who gets access; 2) parking implications around the field and any displacement into other parts of the neighborhood; 3) traffic, particularly buses; 4) any facilities to be built; and 5) lights and late-night games. 

All of this needs to be clarified and some sort of (hopefully) binding agreement needs to be negotiated. I currently have very little trust in the city authorities to achieve the dual goals of greater access for public school students, while maintaining the quality of life in our community.

I hope to see all of you at the meeting,