Magazine article Parks & Recreation

What's Going On?

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

What's Going On?

Article excerpt

The Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Northeast Washington, D.C.'s Anacostia district is often called "the other side of the river," and has long been isolated from much of the rest of the city by the Anacostia River. For decades its revitalization has trailed that of trendier, more affluent areas of Washington. But that is changing in the Lincoln Heights and Deanwood neighborhoods, thanks to an ambitious urban revitalization effort. At the heart of this revitalization is a diamond-in-the-rough--Marvin Gaye Park.

Marvin Gaye Park, a 1.6-mile stretch of verdant parkland has its roots in the 1930s, but got a major boost in 1966 when Lady Bird Johnson made it a centerpiece of her national beautification program. The District of Columbia government took over administration of the park in 1970 when federal funds dried up, but for numerous reasons the park went into sorry decline. Even as recently as several years ago, it was better known as "Needle Park" because of pervasive illegal drug activity. It was certainly no place for the 600 families living nearby to play sports, picnic, and just enjoy a walk through the park.

In 2001, the nonprofit group Washington Parks & People mobilized 24,000 volunteers in a slow, steady process of reclaiming the park. More than four tons of trash, 9,000 hypodermic needles and 78 cars abandoned in Watts Branch stream were removed. One thousand trees, a farmer's market, amphitheater, and biking-hiking trails sprouted. This summer, dozens of youths in the mayor's summer jobs program have been working diligently to transform the adjacent Crystal Lounge, where Marvin Gaye first performed, into a vibrant community center. …

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