Town Meeting on Ellington Field, Jan. 13

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Ellington Field. Georgetowner photo.

The future management and use of Ellington Field at 38th and R Street NW will again be the subject of a public meeting on Monday, Jan. 13, time and place to be announced.  

With its two field houses and all-weather track, the facility has long been the official playing field of the nearby Duke Ellington School of the Arts (formerly Western High School), managed by DC Public Schools. In October, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the city’s intention to transfer the administration of Ellington Field from DCPS to the Department of Parks and Recreation. But the transfer has become controversial. 

Duke Ellington has few athletic teams. For over a decade, some athletic teams from Georgetown University, across Reservoir Road, have used it in the mornings, and other schools have held meets and events there. But the completely enclosed field has mainly been used for community recreation — especially senior rehabilitation — and as an off-leash dog park.

Many Burleith and Glover Park residents, such as Maureen Murphy, MaryAnn MacKenzie and Richard Doege, have told The Georgetowner that the field has been the center of their community life.

Residents are therefore concerned about the move to DPR. “Unfortunately, many don’t fully trust DPR after a 10-year renewal agreement with Maret private school for exclusive prime-time use of Jelleff Field this summer was signed without full transparency,” said Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kishan Putta.    

“The ANC and many residents had repeatedly and officially requested they be included in those negotiations, but we weren’t. Now, we want a commitment in writing from DPR that public schools and community groups will be given priority and that no exclusive agreements will be made for private school use,” said Putta. 

“DPR will be better able to maintain the field and also increase community access,” said Tommie L. Jones Jr., DPR chief of external affairs. At the Dec. 6 meeting of ANC 2E, DPR Chief of Staff Ely Ross stated: “The field will be upgraded at city expense and open to usage to all, with priority first to school athletic teams in the area, especially Hardy and School Without Walls.” Ross added, “Just tell us what you want done at Ellington, how you want to use and improve it.”

However, a November survey by the Burleith Citizens Association found that neighbors mainly wanted it to remain the same — for casual neighborhood use. According to Murphy and another frequent user, Jeanne Solomon, many dog walkers who use the park daily don’t mind if there is a dedicated fenced-in area for dogs, but want the park to be open continually, as it is now.

By December, it appeared as if the transfer of city jurisdictions was a done deal and that under DPR the field would be available primarily for school, then community, youth group athletic use. But on Friday, Dec. 20, DPR announced that it had extended the notice period for administrative transfer an additional 30 days to Feb. 12.

Until now, noted Putta, no DCPS officials have been accessible for comment, though Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn is a Georgetown resident.

To contact Jones in advance of the Jan. 13 town hall meeting, call 202-431-8676 or email tommie.jones@dc.gov.

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