Field Behind Harriet Tubman Getting Re-Sodded

DSCN0789, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

The field located on 11th between Kenyon and Irving is getting totally redone. I wonder if they shoulda waited until after Columbia Heights Day which is scheduled for August 29 this year?

30 Comment

  • This is awesome, badly needed. The last time this happened, a few years ago (at that time, a wholly volunteer effort), the field got jacked up again very fast, because (a) there was no time allowed for the grass to fully take hold, and (b) the field was never regularly watered. Hopefully, both of those situations will be remedied on this go around. I thought the hideous chain link fence was set to be replaced at some point, as well — is that still happening? The interior of that school is even more in need of renovation — yet another initiative I thought was being pushed hard. With some area elementary schools being closed, bringing this facility up to a bare minimum standard is even more important.

  • They should put in the fancy synthetic lawn like they have at cardozo and like they are installing on a lot of the soccer fields in arlington. You know real grass is just going to die.

  • Are you serious hold up school renovation because of Columbia Heights Day? DPR was supposed to maintain the field but pulled as part of the budget deal to get the prison fence at the 11th & Monroe Park. The entire school is being modernized and yes unfortunately they are usings synthetic lawn instead of real grass. The children and community deserve grass. The politics of benign neglect which delayed school modernization since 1997 and other community investments is very interesting.

  • If you were to add up every single thing that WJordan has claimed was NOT funded because of the “prison fence” at 11th and Monroe (which, while a bit over the top and far from a perfect solution — the only perfect solution there is a total reconstruction of that park similar to Girard — has undeniably stopped a large amount of crime, drug use, outdoors sex, and so on that was frequently occurring at evenings in that park), it would equal about ten million dollars.

    Basically, on other internet forums (and apparently this has now migrated here, wonderful) WJordan is fond of making all sort of fallacious claims, one of the most prevalent of which is to attribute any concern about any government inaction or funding to some sort of fictional “deal,” usually involving this fence (or occasionally to the dog park space, which cost very little to reconfigure I’m sure). He has been debunked over, and over, and over, and over again on a huge number of issues, but even when it is proven he is just making things up without any sort of evidence, he refused to revise any statement he makes. I’m not saying he NEVER tells the truth, just impossible to distinguish the truth from the fiction. Just giving the POP readers, who may not be familiar with his M.O., a heads up: don’t succumb to WJ’s call to attribute every single failure by DC gov’t to a single small fence in a single small park.

    As for grass vs. synthetics, I see both sides, but I actually agree with WJordan here. It is hard to maintain grass, without a doubt, and for a football field in a stadium like Cardozo, grass does not make any sense. But unlike the Cardoza field, this field is a natural part of the fabric of the streetscape, and it is a shame to see one of the few patches of green in the area disappearing. On the plus side, the community does use this field for soccer almost constantly, and this will assure it is more useful, if not, alas, more attractive.

    I am, however, glad to hear the entire school is being modernized, long overdue and badly needed.

  • William Jordan is in the house! Let me summarize for him: shadowy forces of gentrification, the Graham-Tangherlini regime, have conspired to divert resources from needy children to greedy yuppies and their pampered pets at the dog park at 11th and Park. (insert eye-roll here)

  • I’m torn on the synthetic v natural grass argument. Grass would be the obvious choice if there were any certainty it would survive under the cleated feet of soccer players. I have to look at this field every day, and while I would prefer a luscious grass field, I think I would choose synthetic green over an enormous, dusty brown, virtually grassless field. Is there something I’m missing?

    They’ve been carting stuff out from the interior of the school, so I’m guessing those renovations are happening this summer too.

  • I would like to hear more about the modernization efforts at the school and timeline for completion. To me, this school could easily be built up to 2x its current size by adding a floor or two while keeping the huge play area. CH continues to grow quickly and both modernization and increased size are much needed. Look at the size of the HS at 16th and Irving just 2 blocks away.

    I love real grass but the fake grass might be a good solution due to high maintenance for the real thing. As mentioned by another poster, fake grass is being used in some VA schools and the current field is used daily for soccer. Also, my daughter attends the Field School and they replaced their entire field with the stuff and it looks and works just great. And in time for CH Day.

    I 3rd the posters who lament about William Jordan posting here.

  • SteveG, curious as well to hear what moderinzation will entail. In terms of adding size, I don’t see that happening — DC public schools are bleeding students due to the proliferation of charter schools, and there are a large number in the area (like the huge new one that just opened on Georgia Ave., the one on Iriving, etc.). Moreover, the trend in successful reform of public urban education has been to move away from mega-schools towards smaller and smaller educational units (like Green Dot is doing in L.A.). So I’d rather see this school stay the same size, but just have better, more modern facilities to better compete with the area charter schools.

  • Strikes me as though this is the counterpart to the recently discussed field at Meridian Hill Park — this field primarily is used for athletics, not aesthetics, so it should get whatever surface will withstand that treatment. The regularity of the soccer games here, I’m fairly certain, would kill any real grass planted in the space in about 3 weeks. So as much as I’d like the real stuff, field turf seems the way to go. Let’s just hope the dog owners (of which I am one) note the difference in surface and make use of the dog park instead of this field for Fido’s nightly wiz.

  • Put me in the no-synthetic-turf column. Natural grass and natural systems have inherent benefits, and the issue here is about designing the space so it is able to withstand the use. We should support funding necessary means to upgrade and maintain the natural lawns.

    Here’s a good article from the University of Missouri turfgrass science department that summarizes some of the problems associated with synthetic turf:

    Some bullet points from the article:

    -Synthetic turf is HOT. On a sunny summer day the temperature of synthetic turf can reach over 170 degrees (as opposed to 105 for a natural lawn)

    -Synthetic turf may not be safer than natural lawn, it just causes different kinds of injuries for athletes (less concussions, more strains)

    -Synthetic turf lacks the natural microbial system that acts as a natural filter against pathogens. Synthetic turf can spread infection since the spit, sweat, blood, dog and bird feces, spit-out-gum and trash stays there and festers.

    Regarding that last point and the ‘astrolawn’ link posted above, the makers of astrolawn suggest chemically sterilizing the entire area before application of the lawn. Does such an extreme measure perhaps hint at an underlying problem with synthetic lawns? Not to mention the environmental disruption that those chemicals can likely cause when they runoff.

  • I think that the DC government should not waste money resodding any field that is not fenced in and restricted access. Without those measures, the field will be destroyed in less than a month by the soccer players and dog owners that will invariably flock to it. I don’t have anything against soccer or dogs, I just challenge anyone to find an open field used for soccer or dog play that is not 95% dirt. It will be pouring money down the drain.

  • Oh no! Where can I play Petanque now?

  • Larchie makes a good point. The fake stuff might truly turn the area into a cesspool. It seems like the dustbowl that is the soccer field is a win-win for soccer players and dog owners. Hey, if DC gets stimulus dollars to resod then so be it. Keeping folks off the turf while the grass grows will probably not happen. But at least – hopefully – the project gave a few folks a month’s worth of work.

  • I have NO IDEA who people think will maintain the natural lawn. Does anyone really, honestly expect that DC City or DCPS employees will properly do the work necessary to keep up the lawn and does anyone really think that increasing the budget will mean that the work will be done or will the extra employee only mean one more person available to play poker in the school’s maintenance shed. I think people simply MUST accept that all city employees are far more corrupt and immoral than the rest of us. I have found that to be a DC Truism. Once you realize that they aren’t going to keep up the field ever then you design policy on top of that understanding. Being naive about it is not a response.

  • DCPS is replacing most of their fields with wonderful astroturf. Look at how successful this has been at Janney and Beauvoir for instance. Any concerns about it are not born out by the facts. So be a scientist, not a faith healer, ok?

  • 14th and Park is getting a fountain. I don’t see why the soccer field at the school can’t get sprinklers.

  • @Neener, my concerns are born by the scientific study I linked to. Incidentally, anecdotal evidence (“it worked for me, it’ll work for you”) is not science, but rather the stuff of late night infomercials and faith healers.

    But I’m not quarelling with you. I actually would like to see DCPS study the difference that artificial turf has on long term maintenance costs, injuries and health statistics, etc… It seems that they are in a good position to do a system-wide study on this. However, one hopes that they examined the full impacts of artificial turf before making the decision to install it at all schools, and I’m curious to see how they came to that decision.

    There are definitely benefits to artificial turf, but it is by no means maintenance-free. I am merely challenging any blanket statements that say artificial turf is always better than grass for city parks.

  • On behalf of Mayor Fenty and The Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization (OPEFM)

    ATTN: Harriet Tubman ES – Community Update Meeting

    The community is invited to hear the latest on the new school’s design, schedule and academic program.

    Meeting Details

    Date: Tuesday, July 7 2009

    Time: 6:30pm – 8:30pm

    Place: Tubman Elementary School Auditorium 3101-13th Street NW

    Dear Harriet Tubman Elementary School Stakeholders;

    Tubman ES is scheduled to undergo a “Phase 1 Modernization” (Classroom Improvements) in FY2009, per the Draft Master Facilities Plan currently being reviewed by Council.

    The classroom modernization consists of targeted improvements projects designed to improve the educational environment in every classroom and complementary, specialized academic spaces and is designed to focus on the following areas –

    Lighting Quality

    Improvement of natural and high-efficiency artificial lighting in classrooms with ‘bright’ new paint that is not distracting, but complements the school and is conducive to learning.

    Environmental / Air Quality

    Addressing of temperature control, ventilation, air filtration, carbon dioxide levels, and HVAC background noise to achieve comfortable classrooms.


    Limits reverberation and background noise and improves sound isolation. Adds sound enhancement equipment (microphone, speakers) for teachers.


    Providing data connections for online learning resources, AV equipment, closed-circuit televisions, and a sound system with emergency capabilities.


    Introduction of adaptable and flexible furniture systems, mobile media systems, and mobile media carts.

    Scope of Work

    Each classroom will be fitted out in such a manner, to the maximum extent possible, meet the Performance Criteria as stated in the Master Facilities Plan (focus on enhanced natural lighting, acoustics, air quality, climate control, technology, and FF&E), as follows.
    Install new flooring, partition walls, acoustical ceiling tile, and new lighting fixtures in each new space.
    Repair or replace the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in the modernized classrooms and spaces to ensure that the rooms are comfortable in any season.
    Install new electrical outlets and voice/data/CATV jacks as required for new classroom/support space configurations.
    Install new marker-boards, tack-boards, casework, projection screens, audio/video equipment throughout; also – digital whiteboard(s) where appropriate.
    Provide new furniture in all new classroom spaces where desired (selected L-1 Pre-S, Pre-K, and K items are asked to be retained).
    Replace existing damaged or translucent glazing or lexan window panels with new clear glazing throughout; repair and re-seal window frames where required to ensure no moisture infiltration.
    Minor re-configuration of spaces to locate all Head Start, Pre-K, and K classrooms on the ground floor in a single wing of the building.

    Field will receive new Tubular Wrought Iron Fencing. School Soccer Field will be completely redone with Turf, including regulation size goals and other amenities.

    Project Schedule

    2/23/2009 – RFP Issued for ‘Phase 1 Modernization’ Projects

    3/19/2009 – Proposals Received

    4/15/2009 – Notice of Award Issued

    6/26/2009 – Council Approval of Design-Build Contracts

    7/02/2009 – Construction Start

    8/17/2009 – Construction Complete

    If you have any questions regarding the Tubman ES Modernization project, please attend tomorrow’s meeting or contact OPEFM’s Communications Director, Tony Robinson, ([email protected]) or myself.

  • Thanks for posting WJordan. While I remain on the fence re: the field plans (good points raised by both sides above), everything else sounds fantastic (and badly overdue, kids deserve a decent physical environment to learn in, not to mention one that is not egregiously technologically dated). Glad to hear this is happening. I hope Cardoza is likewise scheduled for an interior rehab to match its gorgeous new stadium. Also glad to hear about the fencing — something about rusty chain link fencing around a school just sends the wrong message …

  • Keep it as natural grass. You wouldn’t see an astroturf field in Georgetown, so why do have to have one here? Fake grass is trashy.

  • The grass was replaced by the kickball teams that used the field back in 2006 – then the soccer players promptly destroyed it. Natural will just be trashed all over again if the fields are open to soccer games.

  • The story of that field was much more complex than kickball players good, soccer players bad, there was little difference in the two groups. In fact that field was about this community failing its children in a haste to fulfill our own individual interests. Each and every segment. No heroes. Basically we are going to turf because “we” don’t want to invest the care that grass takes.

  • I am not sure who “we” is WJordan. All I do know is that “I”, along with a large number of other volunteers, spent a Saturday resodding that field, only to see it quickly destroyed because it was never watered by the city, so far as I can tell. I am not sure if ANYTHING can save a field from such heavy soccer use (probably not), but certainly, the lack of any maintenance from the school or city didn’t help matters …

  • WJordan – Thanks for the info.

  • WJordan, you’re a known, exposed liar who is lying here. Grow up or get out.

  • Larchie, There is a monstrously huge difference between how something is maintained in Silver Spring or Arlington and how it’s maintained in DC by DC employees. I couldn’t care less about the difference in injuries between the two kinds of fields if astroturf is the only functioning choice- do you get my meaning?

    If someone can run a comparison between school fields and greenspaces in DC, Baltimore, Newark or Atlanta (or possibly Cleveland or Detroit) then I’ll accept those comparisons. If someone wants to talk about any other US city or suburb then the comparisons are simply inaccurate.

    I have talked to NYC City employees who have been incredible with weird local ideas of how they want their community to be. Has anyone ever once spoken to ANY DC employee including a DCPS teacher or principal who had ideas for the community that they felt were intelligent or higher? I have not. In every case the teachers had sub-articulate undereducated ideas and DC employees who weren’t teachers were just plain stupid.

    Here is a photo which spells out DC public employees to me very clearly even though the guy himself is a Fed:

  • Georgetown has astroturf playgrounds. Do people even visit Georgetown?

  • As mentioned, the private and expensive Field School ($30K/yr for 7th-12th grades) did their entire field in fake turf recently. I see no conspiracy here. The school field is used constantly and would require lots of regular maintenance. New grass takes a year of daily watering to be maintained or you lose your entire investment. That is just not a reality at this school or likely others.

  • I was walking by the Harriett Tubman field today and noticed the work and was curious to know what was happening there. Many thanks to the Prince of Petworth for reporting on this issue and to all the posters who have chimed in with additional info and perspectives. After reading the posts I have a few comments:

    As a longtime Columbia Heights resident and a soccer player who has played on grass and turf fields of varying quality in DC, MD, and VA for the past ten years, I am highly appreciative of DCPS for turfing the field at Harriett Tubman and creating a quality playing surface in this part of the neighborhood. Would I rather play on a nice grass field, like the professionally maintained ones at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown, or at Trinity College in Northeast where visiting foreign national teams train before playing the US? Of course. Turf can get really hot, as one poster noted, and I’m not surprised to hear that it’s a little harder on the body. But the benefits of turf are too many to be ignored – less maintenance costs, you can play in the rain, it can be used more often – and turf quality has increased to the point where it’s misinformed to call it “trashy” or “cheap.”

    And just to correct the record … it was soccer players from the District Sports coed soccer league that re-sodded the Harriett Tubman field a few years ago. I was part of that effort. It was sad to see the field degenerate into a dustbowl after just a few months. Turfing the field is a wise investment of time and money.


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