Letter to the Editor: Chevy Chase center should serve seniors

The Chevy Chase Community Center is located at Connecticut Avenue and McKinley Street NW. (Brian Kapur/The Current/January 2017)

Near the end of The Current’s June 7 article on the D.C. Council’s budget allocations on May 30, a mention of $75,000 caught my eye.

Included by Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh, the sum means that sometime in fiscal year 2018 there may be a staff member at the Chevy Chase Community Center to address the needs of seniors. Council member Cheh exercises oversight over the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation.

Meanwhile, on June 1, at-large Council member Anita Bonds conducted a thorough inspection of that center — room-by-locked-room. This was after she had her own oversight hearings, listened to testimony and held community meetings. Council member Bonds’ mission is to serve the District’s seniors, and she’s on her game.

Located west of Rock Creek Park, the center is located in an area with the greatest concentration of seniors in the District. Even so, the Department of Parks and Recreation has not been responsive to senior needs.

Despite that concentration, the D.C. Office on Aging has failed to establish a senior wellness center and instead operates through a proxy.

Such disparities have been known by elected officials for some time. A year ago the Ward 3 Democrats passed a resolution calling for enhanced senior services.

Given the lack of services, some believe that the added funding should be immediate, on an emergency basis.

At the Chevy Chase center, health and fitness programming has been delivered (for free) by the YMCA — not by the city. The Y’s classes serve as many as 60 people — far more than the Department of Parks and Recreation requires to support programming.

What is unfair is that elsewhere, seniors already have access to activities at agency sites.

On-site comparisons have been documented by advisory neighborhood commissioners and individuals. It is not that the center lacks the potential — it is that the center is a severely underutilized asset.

These problems could be addressed with minimal imagination and a commitment to avoid turf battles.

At any given hour in the day, the center has five to 10 locked, vacant rooms where “sister” agencies could deliver services. Most comparable Department of Parks and Recreation sites have dedicated senior lounges — but not Chevy Chase.

The needed enhancements aren’t solely for seniors. The center lacks equipment that most agency sites have for both youth and adults ages 18 to 59. The department disposed of operational cardio equipment rather than transferring it to Chevy Chase. Unlike other sites, the center doesn’t even have computers for community usage.

Doubt these comments? Go see for yourself and determine how the Department of Parks and Recreation could better serve those west of Rock Creek Park.

Jay Thal, Chevy Chase