Dear PoPville – Should the Columbia Heights Fountain be Protected?

fountain in Silver Spring

“Dear PoP,

Though I had issues with the Columbia Heights fountain in the beginning (because A. it’s a barren lot all winter long and B. I feel like a DC artist should have designed it), it’s nice to see people enjoying a frozen yogurt on the wall while children play in the water on a nice sunny day (just hope the water is sufficiently chlorinated). Now I don’t want to sound like a grumpy old man but my concern is with the team of teenagers that are forever skateboarding on it. Those are, in fact, porcelain tiles, and underneath those grates are the fountain heads. Once the tiles or fountain heads break and once the stone walls are chipped I can’t imagine the city replacing them any time soon. Here is a photo of the very similar fountain in Silver Spring- only difference it has this small chain fence going around it. Granted a skateboarder could easily move something like that, but combined with those metal bumpers on the steps maybe it could deter them? At least while the fountain is off.”

Do you guys think when the fountain is turned off that it needs to be protected like the one above?

66 Comment

  • You sound like a grumpy old man.

  • Bigger fish to fry my friend.

    • I am so sick of that comment. Big for one is not big for another – you can’t dismiss thought that easy.

      So is it ok for the city to see it’s ROI just disintegrate over time?

      A simple chain like the one used in SS could add years to the fountain’s life and save repair cost.

      • Settle down Beavis.

      • “Its,” not “it’s.” And I don’t think that’s the right use of ROI. But aside from that – is it really a *big* fish to anyone? Even within Columbia Heights, there are plenty of other things the city should/could worry about first.

    • Having “bigger fish to fry” still doesn’t stop you from tossing a few hush-puppies in the kettle first.

      But first – does anyone actually know that modern urethane skateboard wheels cause damage? Seems some engineer ought to be able to calculate the friction coefficient-weight ratio-spin velocity vector whatever and give us an actual answer. (Like those chair-punching machines in Ikea.)

      Maybe the skaters will just rough-up the slick-as-snot tiles a bit and little kids won’t be slipping and cracking their little heads anymore!

  • Yes, it should be.

    The tiles have already been replaced in the fountain in SS – and after this was completed – that is when the poles and light chain were put up.

    • I believe the tiles in SS were replaced because of faulty original installation (they were cracking and coming loose), not vandalism or wear-and-tear.

      • JMC is correct. And that was on the stairs, not the fountain.

        • yes, the had to redo the stairs. and Yes, they had to redo some of the tiles in the fountain.

          I lived there when they were doing it.

          Or am I reading you incorrect – that they redid the fountain because of the stairs?

  • No. Get over yourself.

    And give some credit to whoever designed it – it probably, as something installed in the ground in a public plaza, was designed to be walked on.

  • You accidentally a word from your title.

  • It’s a dumb use of public space anyway. All that wasted real estate should have been use for bigger condos resulting in bigger tax revenue for the city. There’s a park a block away for kids.

  • Yes, it should protected.

  • Yes. It’s not a skate park. It’s a fountain and public art piece. The city built skate parks — skate there. The skaters use of the fountain is not consistent with and, in fact, destructive of its intended use. Make it stop.

  • Yeah, let’s put fences and bollards around the whole thing to keep the tiles looking pretty.

  • I’ve asked Graham to stop the skateboarding several times.

  • I, for one, adore the skateboarders. Jeez, teenagers do not have much that is fun and keeps them (mostly) out of trouble.

  • Yes, if for no other reason in 1-3 years this will be added to the long list of entries in the “This is why we can’t have nice things” category of capital investments in public art and infrastructure.

    2011: Bums have sex and do drugs in the restrooms in the park, so we have to close them at dusk…this is why we can’t have nice things.

    2012: Skate punks broke the fountain head and since it was slippery he busted his head on the tile. Can’t turn on the fountain this year…this is why we can’t have nice things.


    “The broken windows theory is a criminological theory of the normsetting and signalling effects of urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior. The theory states that monitoring and maintaining urban environments in a well-ordered condition may prevent further vandalism as well as an escalation into more serious crime.”

    money was spent on building this fountain, why not invest in keeping it functional? why wouldn’t we protect it from unreasonable “use”?

  • I’d rather have kids skateboarding than a working fountain if that’s the choice. Public space should be used not just looked at.

    • But that’s not the choice. The choice was made: it’s a working fountain.

    • You should spend time there. The fountain is interactive, with kids running and playing in it all summer long and adults of all persuasions getting entertained watching them blast their faces with water. It’s a nice little scene, though it could use some trees.

  • Hey, if it stops them from trying to steal my iPhone, I say let ’em skate!

  • If and only if the fountain will be harmed by skateboarding on it, then the city should put a light chain barrier around it.

    Otherwise, if the skateboard doesn’t harm the piece, let the kids have fun! Better to use the space year round than only in the summer.

    And I don’t think the broken window effect applies here. This is not vandalism… and as of now the fountain/art piece isn’t damaged.

  • who cares!

    let people use the fountain in any creative way that pleases them so long there is no ill intention .

    its a park and it should be used to its max. stupid design for putting delicate materials on a floor in a busy intersection in a city!

    that is why you hang paintings you dont walk on them.

    sounds like some people here need to move to the burbs and join the HOA, that way you can place all kids of restrictions and make every part of your neighborhood unpractical.

  • get over it

  • skateboarding is not a crime.

  • From the perspective of a skateboarder:

    1. No one will skate there when it is crowded.
    2. The expensive fountain isn’t really skateable – the awesome dark ledges under the awnings are. aren’t they just concrete?

  • Do kids skateboard in a running fountain? They didn’t last year.

    I say run em off when they break a fountain part or run over a senior citizen.

    fwiw – My kids 4 and 7 love to watch the skaters and love to run in the fountain. The skaters are foul mouthed teenagers but tend to be respectful of this parent with kids.

  • The point + beauty of street skating is creative expression and using different sorts of terrain. Most of are you stuck up yuppies who probably made fun of skaters in high school. Well have fun w/your condos and mimosas. We’re going skating. We’re still taking advantage of what life has to offer. Cheers.

    I’ll say it once, I’ll say it again: Ticketing and arresting skaters in a city where more serious crimes happen EVERY DAY is a poor use of police powers.

  • Maybe if the skateboarders trash it, we can have a fountain that isn’t butt-ugly installed.

  • Yes! we also need to replace the other restaurants around there with a macaroni grill and red lobster and throw in an applebees for good measure. we dont want people thinking that we are in the middle of a city! the problem (not surprisingly) is that the city designed it with these kind of tiles, it doesnt take a stretch of the imagination to realize that there would be skateboarders, bikers, SUV strollers and other things of the sort using this space.

  • As a skateboarder and musician, I think it’s pretty hilarious how dismissive some of you lot can be.

    “Your post is as cliche as yuppies in condos with mimosas.”

    Last I checked brunch remains all the rage in Columbia Heights and Mt. Pleasant. I’m sorry that skateboarding requires a bit of thinking outside of the box and occasional rule or law breaking. I make fun of the yuppie lot and anyone who moves into a city expecting suburban tranquility because they deserve it.

    Some of you might say “Well there’s the skatepark on 11th and Rhode Island.” And that’s ONE TYPE of skateboarding terrain. Why should we be confined. I don’t yell at dog owners to take their dogs to designated dogparks and nowhere else.

    Maybe some of y’all should learn to mind y’alls own business.

    • as a former skateboarder, and current brunch eater, you have my full support.

      • I’m going to stomp on my Clomper Stompers wherever and *whenever* I choose, and you reactionary bitches can eat my vapors!

    • You’re so cool, can we be friends?

    • As a former skateboarder, Young K, you are a funny kid. And I find how dismissive you are, while telling others they are dismissive to be a pretty standard DC thing. Do they teach this at DCPS?

      “I’m sorry that skateboarding requires a bit of thinking outside of the box and occasional rule or law breaking”
      No, you are not sorry at all. Skating does not reqwuire any out of the box thinking. If you are thinking, you are not skating.
      But the rule and lawbreaking make skateboarding the subculture that it is.

      ” And that’s ONE TYPE of skateboarding terrain. Why should we be confined.”

      Safety, for you and others (really others, you are on your own). Damage done by skaters to the concrete and to the ART installation. ART, ya know.

      ” I don’t yell at dog owners to take their dogs to designated dogparks and nowhere else.”
      Oh, but your folks would, if they saw that dog offleash anywhere at any time ever.

      “I make fun of the yuppie lot ”
      And we make fun of the ideas of kids.

      I agree that skating wherever whenever is exhilarating and much much fun. I know, I used to skate through the closed fountains, down the steps, using people as slalom gates before I had to hop the fence to escape the old security guard puffing after me til he couldn’t run anymore. Closed and drained pools were nirvana back in the day.

      That was 1985. Nice to see the subculture stays the same. I hope you never stop skating.

      • Oh come on grouchy oldsters – remember back when we were all insufferable rebels? Let the new kids play in the playground. The swings are soft and safe now! (I do mourn the end of dangerous slides.)

    • Ah, right. Skateboarding requires “thinking outside the box.” You know what also requires thinking outside the box? Hackysacking. Ultimate frisbee. Kite-flying. All are forms of subversive artistic expression that’s not full appreciated by The Hegemon.

    • I think it’s pretty hilarious that you forgive your own rule- and law-breaking because you somehow find it to be deep or enlightened or whatever it is that is morally superior to brunch in your mind. Here’s some enlightenment: be more honest with yourself. The reality is that you want to do it, and f**k the rules that don’t allow you to do what you want. Same with “graffiti artists.” Same with kids who rob you blind when you get off the Metro. It’s all selfish in relation to society.

      No one gives a rat’s ass about skating on the sidewalk, street, skate parks, etc.. We give a rat’s ass about people playing by the rules, which allow us all to have nice things. Spend my tax dollars on a skate park or spend them on a public fountain, I don’t really care. But don’t spend them on a fountain and expect me to be happy when some skater tears up that fountain and it has to be repaired/replaced or just gets shut down and becomes an eyesore that I have to look at all the time. Iif it’s public, it is my business, so I’ll mind it as much as I want.

      Finally, I’m always glad when someone is able to self-appoint himself as the arbiter of dessert. I’m sure that’s based on your extensive study of historical notions of the concept and trenchant and wholly consistent philosophical positions developed over time. Also, I’m sure it comes across in some of the awesome lyrics you write.

  • The tiles should be durable enough to withstand the skateboarders, and the grates definitely should. Now maybe the skateboarders should be redirected to a more appropriate location. But not because of the fountain materials.

  • Skateboarding is proof that this country has turned away from God.

  • where’s the “get over yourself” emoticon

  • Really?!? Skateboarding is a suburban nuisance. I would rather have those kids skateboarding than mugging.

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