EE&K's Project, Deanwood Recreation Center, Opens with a splash and some stumping

By Hamil R. Harris

When Wade Mercer was growing up in the Deanwood section of Northeast Washington, there were few recreational options for young people. Swimming meant finding space in a crowded outdoor pool.

With swim trunks and towels, Mercer and four of his children were ready for a swim in a new pool Friday, but because Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) were shaking hands and trolling for votes on the crowded pool deck, the 34-year-old father headed for the main reading room at the new $33 million Deanwood Recreation Center and Library.

“This is a beautiful place to see,” said Mercer, one of the hundreds at the grand opening of the 63,000-square-foot facility, which also includes a water slide, gymnasium, football field and rooms filled with computers and music and game equipment.

“We have spent a lot of our time talking about the things that we have done the last 3 1/2 years, and this is just one example,” Fenty said as he walked through the crowded facility, with many people wearing either his green campaign buttons or Gray’s blue ones. “We have another recreation center being built in Kenilworth and four more being built in Ward 8, sit-down restaurants and grocery stores. I barely have time to talk about all of the things that we are doing . . . obviously if somebody challenges me and said we have not been able to do things, then we are going to point out the differences.”

As Fenty talked on one side of the pool, Gray offered his perspective from the other.

“This is exceedingly important for the people of Ward 7,” Gray said. “When I became the Ward 7 council member, we began working on this, and now, five years later, we have been able to get this down. This is a facility not only for Ward 7 . . . it will be the envy of the entire city.”

Fenty also offered condolences to the family of a 6-year-old girl who drowned Wednesday at another city recreation center. Jesus Aguirre, acting director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, said the city is doing its best to make all of the recreation centers and pools safe. “We have been working all summer to make sure that the lifeguards are trained and certified and pools are ready,” he said.

The Rev. Clarence W. Turner III of Fruit of the Spirit Baptist Church in Northeast Washington offered a prayer of thanksgiving. “This is a great place for us,” he said, “to get to the point where our children realize that they can have something nice.”

The Washington Post, June 26, 2010