Reopen the District of Columbia's McMillan Park. Let us in!

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Reopen McMillan Park for Recreational Use - Let Us In!!!

District of Columbia Mayor Bowser, Deputy Mayor Kenner, and D.C. Councilmembers, 

Over recent years, the District's Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development or DMPED and its selected consortium of developers (Vision McMillan Partners, or VMP) has sought to develop the 25-acre McMillan Park, owned by the District of Columbia and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Friends of McMillan Park (FOMP) and allied organizations have sued to overturn decisions by the District’s Zoning Commission and the Mayor’s Agent for Historic Preservation which would have permitted massive commercial development on the site and the near-total destruction of its historical character.

 On December 8, 2016, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled against the District's decisions, and gave opponents of this development a crushing victory by remanding and vacating (made null and void) these decisions, agreeing with us that the District was violating its own zoning and preservation laws.

 The efforts of the FOMP will now be to push the city to look at revitalization of the site consistent with the recommendations of the District's Comprehensive Plan, to create a scope of work for its future that does not involve maximum possible return for private developers, and to conduct an international design competition for its reuse. This work will be long and hard, but the court decision is a great encouragement.

We now ask that the District of Columbia government do three things:

(1)  Immediately reopen McMillan Park so that District of Columbia residents and others may enter the park for purposes of recreation, exploration and community activities.

(2)  Begin to define with full citizen participation a new scope of work for planning the future of the Park

(3)  Commit to an international design competition for the future use of the Park.

The Mayor and others have proclaimed that McMillan Park is “unsafe.” This is misleading and untrue. Most of the park is safe for public access.  Neighborhood tours of the park were given for many years without incident.

If you agree with us that these three steps will help return this 25-acre park to the people of the city and the world (after the unsafe portions have been secured), please sign this petition and forward this it to your friends who favor open green space instead of massive commercial development at McMillan Park.


     PLEASE SIGN OUR PETITION TO REOPEN MCMILLAN PARK   (and read on for a bit more of the story behind this astonishing place)

The Unique Historic Value that McMillan Park Offers

The McMillan Sand Filtration Site and Reservoir, with its system of underground vaults for water purification, is the last such facility of its kind extant in the U.S.  In 1991, the 25-acre park land was added to the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites, putting it under the protection of the city's very strong Historic Preservation Act, and in 2013, the entire McMillan campus (including the McMillan Reservoir next door that supplies drinking water to the District) was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

History of McMillan Park

The McMillan Sand Filtration Site and Reservoir, located at the corner of Michigan Avenue and North Capitol Street, NW, in Washington D.C., served to filter and purify our capital city’s water beginning at the turn of the 20th century during an era of rampant, fatal water-borne diseases like typhoid.

Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the famous landscape architect who designed the grounds of McMillan, cleverly concealed the water purification facility beneath a public park for the surrounding communities to enjoy. The entire park, opened to the public about 1912, served as the city’s first and only de facto integrated park until the beginning of World War II (when it was fenced to protect the water supply from enemy sabotage). After the war, McMillan Park was re-opened for a short time.

After the Hurd vs. Hodge Supreme Court decision of 1948 that eliminated covenants in real estate deeds that excluded homeowners by race and religion (thus ending a key practice that prevented persons of color from being able to purchase homes), the city “coincidentally” fenced and gated the entire area, even though wartime had ended, in an apparent effort to close this park to the area’s new African-American residents. The federally owned reservoir side of the McMillan Historic District likely retained the protective fencing for security reasons, but why is the fence still up on the city-owned side, where there is no longer any city water and thus no water security issue?

When D.C. Purchased McMillan Park from the Federal Government

The McMillan sand filtration site purified city water until 1986. It was subsequently de-commissioned, and a chemical water-treatment facility nearby took over that task. The federal government determined that it had no use for the decommissioned water filtration site and park and so sold it to the District for $9.3 million.  The deed transferring the property to the District contains a covenant that obligates the District and any successor owners of the land contemplating development of the site to proceed in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Historic Preservation.

Since that time, neighbors and the District government have fought over the future of this land, which offers scenic views of the Washington Monument and beyond.  First, a strip mall with a Kmart was proposed, and then a prison. The city’s most recent proposed development, initiated in 2007 by DMPED and DMPED's selected development partner, Vision McMillan Partners (VMP), would demolish virtually all of the vaulted underground sand filtration chambers and eliminate all but 6.2 acres of the contiguous open space above for the construction of high-rise buildings and townhouses. McMillan Town Center, as it is known, largely eschewed the feedback and concerns of neighbors and residents across the city. The VMP development plan is dead, at least for the moment, due to the D.C. Court of Appeals decision.

Let's restart this process and do it RIGHT this time! And in the meantime, TAKE DOWN THAT FENCE! LET US IN TO OUR PARK!