How do you make a great park into an even better park? That was the challenge at Benjamin Banneker Park, which is spread out over 12.5 acres and has a variety of things to do for people of all ages and interests.
Arlington County started the process in 2016 by working with the community to develop the Benjamin Banneker Park Framework Plan and Design Guidelines. The plan was needed as the County had been strategically purchasing land around the park to expand it, and because the trails within and around the park have become very popular with recreational users and bicycle commuters.
Benjamin Banneker Spaces and Places
Benjamin Banneker Park, at 1680 N. Sycamore Street, has a variety of casual use spaces and popular recreation options. First, it’s scenic, with lots of trees and casual use space and the Four Mile Run stream running through it. And it’s historic. The park is home to the SW-9 Intermediate Boundary Stone, one of the 40 boundary stones erected to form the boundary of Washington, DC. Benjamin Banneker, the park’s namesake, played a key role in the survey of the original boundary of the District of Columbia.
Banneker’s trail intersection of the Four Mile Run and W&OD trails also brings people to and through the park. And the dog park, with specific areas for big and little pups, is quite the draw, as is the playground.
After the County Board adopted the Benjamin Banneker Park Framework Plan and Design Guidelines in December 2017, County staff began the design phase of the project and conducted broad public engagement that included community meetings and workshops to help design several amenities in the park. As there is such a diverse draw to the park, there were meetings specifically set to talk about playground and dog park needs.
Great things coming to Benjamin Banneker
The park is within the Four Mile Run floodplain and the Resource Protection Area, so all the improvements were designed to meet the Resource Protection Area (RPA) and floodplain regulatory requirements. You can’t really stop flooding in a floodplain, but you can take steps to ensure improve the water quality flowing from it. Based on this need and the community input here’s what coming.
It will be easier to get around the park
- Interior paths were created and enhanced to ensure that the variety of park users and recreational and commuter cyclists can have a safe and enjoyable experience.
- Multi-Use trails were widened, to 10 to 12 feet, following guidelines from the Arlington Master Transportation Plan Bicycle Element and the Public Spaces Master Plan to support the significant volume of trail use. (Although some advocated for permeable pavement on the trails, permeable pavement in this location would have higher clogging potential and be difficult to maintain because of the floodplain location.)
- A sidewalk connection from 16th Street N. to the parking lot will be added along with a sidewalk around the parking lot perimeter to link internal sidewalks and trails with park amenities.
- Improved signage will not only help direct people to the many park amenities but will also provide fun facts about the park and its history.
Fun for everyone
- The playground is shifted further from the stream and trails and is visible from the street. And the new equipment will have separate areas designated for older and young children.
- The dog park’s surface will be refreshed and will include new play features and furnishings.
- Cyclists will have access to an air pump and tools…just in case they need it.
- The field is slightly longer, which will allow the soccer end line of the game field and soccer goals be moved from season to season to prevent the field turf in these areas from getting quickly worn out. This will also provide additional warmup space between practices and games.
Improved nature stewardship
- Stormwater mitigation will help to clean the water as it goes to the Chesapeake Bay.
- Park areas have been cleared of invasive plants so that next spring there will be space and sun for native plants and hopefully thereafter more native creatures.
- More than 600 sapling trees and shrubs have been planted.
- 76 new trees will be added
- Over 30,000 square feet of vegetated landscape beds will be planted
At its Recessed meeting on September 24, the County Board approved a contract that will fund improvements to the parking lot, dog park, trails, athletic field, playground, picnic area and more. The approximately $2.6 million contract was awarded to McDonnell Landscape, Inc.
To find out more about the project and the renovations timeline, visit the Benjamin Banneker Park Project Page and sign up to receive email updates.