The Fort Washington Forest Community Center, which had sat unfinished for several years because of a contract dispute, is finally nearing completion. Prince George’s County Parks and Recreation Department Senior Planner Don Herring wrote in a Sept. 6 email, “The contractor is in the process of completing interior finish work, and has minor landscaping items to address. We expect to start staff move-in and furniture installation on September 30th. Staff will announce a facility opening date, once this activity has been completed.” The 22,000-square-foot facility is attached to Fort Washington Forest Elementary School, across Indian Head Highway from Piscataway Hills. It includes a gym, community meeting rooms, and other facilities.
Piscataway Hills residents are participating in a major initiative by the Prince George’s County Department of Environmental Resources to protect and improve the Piscataway Creek watershed.
Citizens from throughout the watershed area, which at 43,000 acres is the third-largest in the county, provided their ideas at a public forum at the Accokeek Library July 18. The session followed up a May public forum, where PHCA Vice President Dave Lishin had described dumping along Old Fort Road that was polluting the watershed. The situation was investigatedby county officials, who then displayed pictures of the trash at the July meeting.
County officials said the water quality of Piscataway Creek is considered “impaired” and that major goals of the watershed improvement project are to remove pollutants that exceed allowed levels, to restore the stream to its natural state, and to reduce stormwater runoff. Excessive pollutants in the free-flowing section of the creek are fecal coliform and other biological contaminants. The tidal portion, which includes the section near Piscataway Hills, is polluted by suspended sediments, nitrogen, and phosphorus, according to the DER presentation.
Officials at the July meeting estimated that about a third of the fecal coliform in Piscataway Creek comes from wildlife, such as deer, and another third comes from domestic animals, including farm animals and pets. The remaining third is from human waste, either from sewage or septic systems. Suspended sediments come from soil erosion caused by excessive runoff, while nitrogen and phosphorus often come from fertilizers.
Potential solutions discussed at the meeting include improvements to existing stormwater management systems to reduce runoff, streambed repair, reforestation, wetlands restoration and creation, new controls on pollution sources, public education, and better enforcement against illegal dumping. Another meeting is planned for the fall but has not been scheduled yet.
Groundbreaking for the long-promised Fort Washington police station is scheduled for September 25. Located at the corner of Fort Washington Road and Livingston Road, the station will serve the new Police District VII, comprising Fort Washington and other parts of southern Prince George’s County. Fort Washington is now included in District VI, based in Oxon Hill. PHCA has supported the new station for many years, through appearances by association leaders at budget forums and other community meetings. Representatives of PHCA will be attending the groundbreaking ceremony.
PHCA members approved plans for a new playground at Lot 39 Waterfront Park during the June 26 quarterly meeting. It will be the first play equipment installed at the park since an old swingset made of telephone poles was dismantled more than 25 years ago.
The new playground equipment is to cost $3,200, with PHCA to provide $1,200 and the rest coming from a special fundraising campaign. Supporters of the playground said that as of mid-September, $1,478 had been donated, leaving $522 still to be raised.
Residents who are interested in the playground are being urged to send donations to PHCA or drop them off with Treasurer Don Benedict as soon as possible. “I would really love to help make the playground a reality, but I can’t do it alone, nor only with the help of 4 other families,” wrote playground organizer Maureen Bartee in an August 14 message to the community. “Please consider making a contribution very soon so we can install the playground this fall.”
Designed for younger children, the new playground is to include a sliding board, a covered climbing platform, swings, and a rope ladder. It is to be assembled by volunteers and be located in the northwest corner of Lot 39, near the volleyball area and farthest away from the water.
The members also authorized PHCA to purchase liability insurance, which was estimated to cost between $500 and $900 per year for $500,000 of coverage. With average PHCA membership of about 70 households, the cost per member would be about $10 per year. PHCA President Gwynn Roberson said the Board of Directors had been advised that liability insurance would help prevent PHCA from losing control of Lot 39 in case of a lawsuit.
Concerns were also raised that individual board members might be liable for damages in certain cases. It was later determined that PHCA had carried liability insurance until about30 years ago.
Opponents of the liability insurance proposal contended that, because Lot 39 is not considered a buildable lot, it has little value and so would not attract lawsuits. Insurance coverage of $500,000, it was argued, could actually encourage lawsuits by increasing the potential payout to plaintiffs and lawyers. In addition, they pointed out that, even if PHCA lost Lot 39, residents would still have the right to use the property as stated in their deeds.
Immediately after the discussion, members voted 27-16 to authorize PHCA to buy liability insurance, and the playground proposal was approved by a vote of 37-6. Funding for the playground and liability insurance in the 2013 budget will be considered at the next PHCA quarterly membership meeting, Tuesday, September 25, at 7 p.m. at Spirit of Elijah Church.
With more children likely to be playing at Lot 39, especially after the playground is installed, efforts to reduce unsanitary dog droppings were discussed. One idea was to install dog cleanup bags on a post in the park. In general, dog owners were strongly encouraged to clean up after their pets.