By: Amanda Menas
Community members are calling for the creation of an official path leading through Fort Reno Park to Alice Deal Middle School. The current path, known as a social trail, was created by daily pedestrian usage from Fessenden Street to the school.
“This walkway has deteriorated into an unstable, gloppy, and slippery mess, creating a fall risk for the hundreds of students, commuters, joggers, and dog walkers who use it daily,” said parents of a middle school student.
Concern about this trail has been raised previously by ANC 3E with the National Park Services (NPS). At the time of the original requests for maintenance, no steps were taken to permanently improve the path. Commissioner Jonathan McHugh visited the school on Wednesday and said they would bring up the issue at the next meeting on October 11.
When the Facilities Maintenance Department went to look at the space, they found that it required more than a simple repair. The Department of General Services (DGS) said that while the Capital Construction Services will work to solve the problem as fast as possible with NPS, funding may not be available until the next fiscal year.
“We don’t want students walking through the mud. That’s the priority,” said a spokeswoman from DGS. Anthony Cassillo, constituent services director for Councilmember Mary Cheh, was also aware of the issue prior to parents’ complaints. He pointed to previous work with NPS as indication that they would be happy to rehabilitate the area at least temporarily.
“From my conversations with NPS over the years, they seem inclined to pave at least the path off Chesapeake because students and residents use it to traverse Ft. Reno. But they run into financial barriers,” said Cassillo.
Councilmember Cheh reported that NPS is working to complete final archeological tests and make the southern trail (which links to Wilson High School) navigable in ADA terms. NPS is reportedly also planning to advertise for the contractor by the end of the month. At the moment, the council-member acknowledges there is a problem, mentioning community members should call 311 or her office if further sidewalk erosion occurs.
Those interested in making a formal request can look to Superintendent Julia Washburn of Rock Creek Park with NPS.
“We are happy to talk to the city and talk to the school to figure out what they want to do with it,” said Superintendent Washburn.
Additionally, parents have expressed concerns regarding the path to the field at the northwest gate of the school, which is connected to the social trail.
During the summer months, the city received a special use permit from NPS to provide entry access for the school’s construction contractors. Fences were placed with the intention to prevent use of the path leading after-school access to the field to be significantly limited.
According to Nick Bartholomeo, the chief ranger for Rock Creek Park at NPS, the path will be rehabilitated by the end of the week with topsoil and sod. At the time of publication, it is unclear if construction at Alice Deal Middle School has been completed.