Field photo with logotype

May 2024

Rebecca Coder Park Dedicated by Councilmember Pinto on April 19!

Posted: May 9, 2024
Chris Haspel and Brooke Pinto unveil memorial plaque.

A crowd of more than fifty West End and Foggy Bottom residents turned out for the dedication of Rebecca Coder Park, a part of Francis Field used for passive, non-athletic rest and recreation.

Councilmember Brooke Pinto, who sponsored the legislation, made brief remarks, and then participated in the unveiling of the plaque that memorializes the former neighborhood leader.

Among the participants were many of the neighborhood elders and leaders who knew and worked with Rebecca for the ten years she served as Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner before her death in 2018 at the age of forty-nine.

Guests included Susan Haight of the Friends of the West End Library; John George, president of the Foggy Bottom Association; Florence Harmon, Peter Sacco, and Michael Thomas, former ANC commissioners; Chef Ris Lacoste; Anthony Lanier, president of Eastbanc, the firm that developed much of the West End; and Joe Sternlieb, president of the Georgetown BID.

The memorial plaque unveiled.

Also attending were Chris Haspel, Rebecca's widower, and other members of Rebecca's family; many members of the Friends of Francis Field and the Foggy Bottom/West End Village—two organizations that Rebecca helped to found—as well as other neighbors, friends, and new residents.

The bronze memorial plaque, mounted on a plain, natural rock, is shown in the photo at right.

It is located in a corner of the park. No other signage is contemplated. Francis Field, which is partly owned by the National Park Service and is currently permitted by the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, will retain its name.

The reception and toast in the 2501 M lounge.

After the ceremony, a reception was held in the lobby lounge of the 2501 M building, where Rebecca's memory was toasted with her favorite champagne.

Rebecca Coder was also instrumental in securing a new West End Public Library, and a new fire station, both of which are multi-purpose buildings with residential sections. Her service and many accomplishments were related in the testimony for the memorial legislation. See related article on this website, which includes a larger image of the plaque and more about Rebecca.

Special thanks go out to FFF board members Brad Kerchof, who spruced up the dedication site and devised the plaque unveiling; and to Beth Monroe Chase, who handled the hospitality duties for the lovely reception. Thanks also to FFF members Michael Scheininger and Lauren Kessler for the photographs.

FFF Asks NPS to Deny Transfer of Francis Field Land to D.C. Jurisdiction

Posted: May 16, 2023.
Solid green shows National Park section of field.

Thirty days after the District government and the National Park Service (NPS) announced that they were considering a transfer of jurisdiction of Francis Field parkland, the Friends of Francis Field (FFF) sent NPS a letter in opposition to the proposed transfer.

A copy of that March 23 letter is on this website in PDF format.

The NPS land in question is shown in green in the diagram at right. The striped area is the portion of Francis Field over which the District government has current jurisdiction.

The NPS portion of Francis Field is part of U.S. Reservation 360, which is also known as the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway—and is now a historic district in addition to being a part of Rock Creek Park, a unit of the National Park System.

Detail of McMillan Plan of 1902 with Square 13 pointed out.

We provided proof in our letter that the strip of NPS land which is now a part of Francis Field was acquired under an Act of Congress in 1913, for the purpose of landscape architecture and the prevention of dumping trash into Rock Creek.

The landscape architect was Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., who described the parkway concept in some detail in the well-known "McMillan Plan" of 1902. The park-like roadway was part of the dignified architecture designed for the National Capital, the National Mall, and the connection of Rock Creek Park to Potomac Park on the river.

Several federal laws regulating National Park land prohibit its use for purposes other than that for which it was acquired or set aside. One of these laws is the 1978 act which states that the management of NPS units "shall not be exercised in derogation of the values and purposes for which the System units have been established, except as directly and specifically provided by Congress."

middle school soccer players on field
Soccer practice for Middle school students on Francis Field, October 15, 2021.

DPR is on record as planning a full-size, regulation soccer pitch on Francis Field, along with an expanded dog park.

Transferring land purchased for the landscaping of the National Capital to be used for either of those purposes is not what Congress intended or stated in the Act that created the parkway.

FFF has no objection to an expanded dog park on the section of the field under current DPR jurisdiction; but we must object to replacing Olmsted's landscape architecture with a competitive sports arena.

The natural turf field is large enough to accommodate elementary and middle-school field sports, but a full-size soccer pitch for adult competition is contrary to—and would be a derogation of—the park values of the Olmsted architecture for which the land was acquired.

Several legal and regulatory steps will be required for the proposed transfer of jurisdiction to occur, including:

DPR and DGS are not conservation or historic preservation agencies, and they have different purposes and values than NPS does. Preserving Francis Field's park values and leaving it in as natural a state as possible is our goal.

FFF hopes that this apparently "illegal" transfer of jurisdiction will be stopped in the NPS internal review. FFF is gathering additional documentation regarding the stewardship of the field for submission to the National Capital Planning Commission if that should become necessary.

Copyright 2024 Friends of Francis Field