Rosedale Pool. Photo from DCDPR.

Do you use your local park, rec center or pool? Have you encountered any problems? If you don’t use them, why not? The Department of Parks and Recreation needs to hear from you to make its facilities better.

Most complaints I hear about DPR facilities concern upkeep or the attitude of park employees.  But there are a lot of parks and a lot of staff, many short-

term, running many programs across the city.

Without our eyes and ears, the central park staff can’t respond to issues quickly. I had a frustrating experience at a local park one recent Saturday, but when I sent DPR a comment they responded very quickly.

I took my 3-year-old to Rosedale Pool, a brand new pool that opened in May, ideal for kids.  My son and I arrived to find all three water slides closed. While playing in the pool for 2 hours, my little guy kept asking why the fun water-slides were closed, when they would re-open, and if we could come back when they did.  Other toddlers were trying to climb onto the water slides only to have their parents pull them off. 

When I asked the lifeguards why the water slides were closed, they said there weren’t enough lifeguards to watch the pool and the slides.  But I saw 5 lifeguards either working or sitting in their break room, rotating every hour so that only 2 were on-guard at a time. When I asked the park staff at the entrance, they said it was because the slides were broken.  Something didn’t seem right. 

Perhaps more frustrating, though, was the apathy of the other families at the pool whose kids were just as disappointed as mine, yet who did nothing.  I asked some other parents in the pool about the slides, and got one of two answers. 

Some parents said the slides must be broken.  When I asked if it seemed likely that all 3 slides were broken, a mere 2 months after the pool was built, they agreed but didn’t know what to do. The other parents actually said outright, in a shrugging way, “what are you gonna do”? 

Such apathy and defeatism doesn’t do anyone any good. Sure, government can seem callous or unresponsive at times, but most often it’s just that, a perception.

DPR Director Jesus Aguirre, for one, wants to change the entrenched system at DPR, but needs our eyes and ears.  So I emailed dpraquatics@dc.gov, and received an apologetic reply within 15 minutes on a Saturday night.  The slides were reopened, except for 1 of the 3 that was actually broken.

How can you quickly let the city know about issues at your local park and get a reply? 

  • Email them directly at dpr@dc.gov or, if it is aquatics-related, dpraquatics@dc.gov.
  • Call them at 202-673-7647.
  • Tweet them at @DCDPR.
  • Create a 311 request on the 311 web site or using the 311 mobile app.  From the list of Service Types, select “Parks and Recreation.”


If the city is responsive to your request, compliment them at the new Grade.DC website.  If they are not responsive, make sure to explain how they fell short. 

Director Aguirre has demonstrated his commitment to creating a responsive, service-oriented culture at DPR.  And now they’ve put the tools in place to submit questions and issues.  The ball is now in our court, to quickly let DPR staff know of all issues in local parks.

It actually takes more time to complain to your neighbors about your local park than to fill out the online 311 form.  We have to get into the habit of channeling our frustration about issues with local parks into the feedback system DPR has provided. Only then can DPR staff to respond to issues, and only then will Director Aguirre be able to hold his staff accountable for responsiveness. 

So the next time you have an issue with the District’s parks and recreational facilities, don’t let it fester.  Tell DPR, and give them a chance to rectify the situation.

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Ken Archer is CTO of a software firm in Tysons Corner. He commutes to Tysons by bus from his home in Georgetown, where he lives with his wife and son.  Ken completed a Masters degree in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America.