Concept of Hearst Park pool wins ANC support, though concerns remain over details

Plans for a pool at Hearst Park have sparked debate in the community. (Brian Kapur/The Current/March 2017)

Though community leaders are supporting the general idea of an outdoor pool at Hearst Park, they’re asking the city to conduct more evaluations to address neighborhood concerns about the plans.

On April 18, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3F (Forest Hills, North Cleveland Park, Van Ness) voted unanimously to support the city’s proposal for the pool but requested additional considerations and evaluations by the Department of General Services and other oversight departments before reaching a final decision.

Following a citywide facility assessment in 2014, the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation determined the need for a public pool in Ward 3 and proposed Hearst Park — at 37th Street, Idaho Avenue and Quebec Street NW — as the best location. Meanwhile, in her 2018 fiscal year budget, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser proposed shifting $5 million for the construction of a pool at Hearst Park from 2019 to 2020.

As the General Services Department moves forward to pursue the pool construction, some community members have voiced opposition, citing concerns about issues such as stormwater runoff, fiscal practicality and traffic logistics. But other neighbors have supported the idea, pointing to overcrowding at other pools in D.C. and the need for more aquatic space.

ANC 3F members arrived at their resolution following months of discussions, community meetings and input, according to commission chair Malachy Nugent.

“At the end, the commissioners decided that we support the idea of putting a pool at the location in Hearst Park, but we recognize there are a number of questions that have to be answered related to [the proposal], including the size, location, as well as a lot of environmental and stormwater concerns that still have to be addressed,” Nugent said in an interview.

The ANC’s resolution requests creation of a steering committee that could facilitate communication on the pool project and address neighborhood concerns. The group would include representatives from D.C. government agencies with oversight on the project in addition to members of ANC 3F.

Furthermore, the resolution requests that the Parks Department and General Services Department help minimize construction disruption and assess environmental impacts by providing monthly updates on the project, including any changes to the design, construction work or budget.

In addition to the pool project itself, the resolution also calls for consideration of expanded community programming at Hearst Park such as day care facilities and summer programs.

Longtime neighborhood resident Ruth Wieder, a parent of a Hearst Elementary student who attends city-run after-school programs at the park, said the proposal should consider expanding highly demanded after-school and day care programs. “We need to have resources that can be utilized by everyone, not just some. Not everyone swims, but everyone could use the space for all sorts of programming,” she said.

David Gogol, who has lived in the area with his family since 1981, said the pool would accommodate a multigenerational neighborhood. “A community asset like Hearst Park needs to have lots of assets in it so it can appeal to a broad range of people,” he said.

ANC 3F plans to re-evaluate its resolution after seeing responses from the Department of General Services and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

“We have requested the relevant city agencies to do studies and assessments on a number of issues such as stormwater runoff, and we have asked them to produce an assessment,” Nugent said. “If the negative impacts are too great and the city wants to build a pool anyway, then we would have trouble supporting the pool.”