>On Saturday the first phase of the Georgetown Waterfront Park, between 34th Street and Wisconsin Avenue, opened to the public. When the entire park is completed, it will stretch from the start of the Georgetown waterfront at the Swedish Embassy and Washington Harbour, and continue west to the Key Bridge. Construction bidding for the second phase of the park, which will include a large fountain at the foot of Wisconsin Avenue, is presently underway.
Sunday afternoon before heading to mass, I went down to stroll through the new park, which replaced a gritty parking lot only famous for its ugliness, as well as blocking the view of the water (and for featuring in the entertaining 1980’s thriller Suspect starring Cher, Dennis Quaid, Liam Neeson and John Mahoney. ) It was certainly a beautiful afternoon to take the promenade along the waterfront and note the many people enjoying the grass, tasteful pavers, comfortable ergonomic benches, and the views of Roosevelt Island and the Rosslyn skyline. I was particularly pleased with the design of several overlooks that jut out along the river, as well as the presence of many native species of trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses.
Not everything hits a positive note, however. The lampposts, for one thing, are simply silly. They look like giant versions of a black cast metal $19.95 Taiwanese desk lamp knocking off a more accomplished Swedish design.
Then there is that de-rigueur feature of garden design these days, a “labyrinth”. This is not something built to impress, like the great Labyrinth of Horta. The only person who might get lost in such a maze would be a flea, since in this case it is simply a pattern of standard lawn grass growing in gaps between bricks.
And then there are what I can only call a series of future bogs. The garden designers, in their wisdom, decided to place several depressions in this part of the park. These depressions are called “rain gardens”. Never heard of a rain garden before? I hadn’t either, until I looked them up.
While these may be a very nice idea, and they certainly look very pleasing, they are a galactically stupid thing to put in a city park. I can almost bet that the City Council will get them backfilled within the next five years. There is no fencing or other barrier around these “rain gardens”, so any small child can tumble down into them, as of course can a passing cyclist, or pedestrian, and the drop is about two to three feet: more than enough to cause injury and lead to lawsuits.
On the whole, the Georgetown waterfront park is a lovely new addition, and I will enjoy it. It could have been better, planned more in keeping with the Georgian shipping and Victorian industrial history of the old harbour, but opening the entire village to the water and to the ships again after over a century of industrial blight and decay is so laudable that the mistakes are forgivable. Man needs to be near the water as much as he needs to be near high places, and fortunately the Rock of Dumbarton, upon which Georgetown is built, once again now has both.