“We all remember the days when people cynically called this place ‘Needle Park,’ ” DC Mayor Vince Gray said this morning. “There was so much drug activity. We have changed that. [. . .] We are not going to call it ‘Needle Park’ anymore.”
The new urban park, located at 50th Street and Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, Northeast, is the second of four peanut-shaped parks that are part of Planters’s 2011 Naturally Remarkable Tour. The tour aims to transform underdeveloped urban land into green spaces and bring sustainability and healthy living to the surrounding community. In March, Planters and The Corps Network finished its first park in New Orleans; two more parks in New York and San Francisco are scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.“We’re very excited for what it’s going to do with the community, [. . .] giving them a chance to enjoy a healthy lifestyle outdoors,” said Scott Marcus, of Kraft Foods, “As well as all the health, economic, and environmental benefits a green place like this can provide.”
Planters Grove joins a series of other parks within the 1.6-mile-long Marvin Gaye Park, which have undergone transformations and revitalization in recent years. It is the longest municipal park in the District and aims to become a major hub of outdoor recreation for the city.
Planters tapped landscape architect Ken Smith to come up with the park’s design. Smith, who is known for his work in urban areas like the rooftop garden at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, designed all four parks in the shape of a peanut as an ode to Planters.
To promote stainability, the bike path that cuts through the park is lined with white, reclaimed wooden porch columns, which highlights the community’s front porch culture. “The central space with the columns is a place for people to come together,” Smith said. “It’s a way of bringing the community back to life.”
In addition, a rainwater garden will collect storm water excess and the use of wetland plants and irises keep in tune with the natural ecology of the area.
Until noon today, volunteers scattered around the park to begin planting herbs like chamomile, sage, thyme, and lavender. Residents in the surrounding community will be able to pick the herbs for their own uses, as well eat almonds and figs from a grove of 39 trees once fall comes.
Ashley Howard, a local resident and member of the Earth Conservation Corps, helped prepare for the opening of the park. “I think I’ve lost about 20 pounds from mixing concrete, digging holes, and planting trees,” she said jokingly.
The park, she says, means a “better future” for the neighborhood. It will get “the youth involved, and let them know more about the environment, background, and history of where they live.”
“The Marvin Gaye Park is an area that has a series of small parks that are a string of jewels,” Smith added. “This is one of those jewels that is contributing to the neighborhood.”