Letter to the Editor: City didn’t consider alternative pool sites to Hearst

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

In his May 24 letter to the editor, D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation director Keith Anderson says his agency “conducted an assessment of available District-owned land … and the conclusion remains that Hearst Park is the most suitable location for an outdoor pool in Ward 3.”

Such analyses of alternate sites are indeed required under the D.C. Environmental Policy Act (D.C. Code Sec. 8-109.3) for a real estate project costing $1 million or more.  The price tag for the Hearst pool is $6 million. But there is no written evidence that alternative sites were assessed before Hearst was selected.

Last September, a Freedom of Information Act request was addressed to the Department of Parks and Recreation seeking documents that “reflect or pertain to the selection of Hearst as a pool site.” The agency responded by producing various documents created after Hearst was selected. No document — not even an email — was produced that pertains to pre-selection evaluations or pros and cons of alternate sites.

Director Anderson mentions assessments of Friendship (Turtle Park) and Palisades, but no documents were produced last fall demonstrating that those two parks were even studied — most likely because other plans had already been made for them. The city should just admit that Hearst was chosen by default, not as a result of “assessments” or analyses of alternate sites, and let the chips fall where they may.

Alternatively, site selection can be reopened. As Mr. Anderson notes, the National Park Service responded negatively to a pool-related inquiry from his department. However, Mayor Muriel Bowser recently sent a letter to the Trump administration seeking D.C. management agreements over several other Park Service properties; expanding this request would provide hope for freeing up a far better site for a Ward 3 pool.

Harry Martin, Vice President and Board Member, Neighbors for Hearst Park