Benjamin Banneker Park could open sometime before Christmas, about one year after work started and a few months behind schedule.
“We just have a few final items that we are working on,” said Arlington County Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish in an email. “When the park opens, you’ll find a bigger park.”
The new park is 1.8 acres larger, the W&OD and Four Mile Run trails are four feet wider, and the park’s amenities have been upgraded, she said. The $2.5 million project was given the green light in September 2019. Work started in December 2019 and was originally slated to finish in the third quarter of 2020, according to the project page.
“Due to COVID-19, the manufacture and shipping of the play equipment was delayed, necessitating the projected opening of the park to fourth quarter 2020,” said Erik Beach, a Parks and Recreation staff member, in an email.
The playground for children ages 2 to 12 got new equipment, including an obstacle balance course, rock climbing, and “soaring play towers with sky-high slides,” Kalish said.
The athletic field, meanwhile, has been expanded to the west to allow parts of the turf to rest while other parts are used, she said. Spectators will also find updated seating.
The parking lot was resurfaced and striped to improve connections between amenities and to make the dog park, fields and trail more accessible for people with disabilities. The two widened trails include a new pathway configuration around the playground, she said.
Upgrades to the picnic area include new seatings and furnishings, canopy trees and native plantings, and the dog park has new entrances and structures for dogs to explore.
While work has been ongoing, pedestrians and bicyclists using the W&OD trail had to take a detour to the busy intersection of N. Sycamore Street and 19th Street N.
After recent heavy rains, some residents have noted that part of the park tends to flood.
“Like most County parks, Benjamin Banneker Park is predominantly in a floodplain and there will always be lingering moisture due to the geographical nature of its location,” Kalish said.
But Beach said some of the drainage issues people saw during construction have been addressed as work finishes.
“Stormwater management and mitigation measures to treat pollutants include permeable pavement at the walkways and bench seating areas in the playground and a stormwater facility to treat runoff in the parking lot,” Kalish said.
These measures meet the state stormwater management requirements, and the site is graded and designed for water to flow towards Four Mile Run, she said.
Kalish said the department is still fixing a separate drainage issue in the playground’s sand pit, so the sand pit will not be available “for a bit” after the park opens.
“Once we have everything completed the park should run as smoothly as any park that in a floodplain,” she said.
Other mitigating efforts Kalish listed included planting more plant beds around the dog park, field and playground, and adding more than 600 sapling trees. A natural safety surface was installed in half of the playground area for better drainage.
“The County rejected some small areas of the safety surfacing installation, which has since been corrected,” Beach said.