DGS Written Testimony of Dr. Jessica Sanders

Testimony of Dr. Jessica Sanders
Director of Science and Policy
Casey Trees
February 28, 2019
Performance and Oversight Hearing DC Department of General Service
Before the DC Council Committee on Facilities and Procurement

Good afternoon Chairman White and Councilmembers. I am Dr. Jessica Sanders, Director of Science and Policy at Casey Trees. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

As an organization that regularly engages with volunteers on tree care and maintenance, we recognize the amount of work it takes to support so many areas across the District and would like to thank the Department of General Service for their hard work. We recognize that their successes frequently go unrecognized and commend them for the part they play in maintaining vibrant communities across all eight wards.

However, with this responsibility comes the task of communicating with communities about current project phases, project timelines, and any expected or unexpected project delays. One platform that currently does this is the DGS Parks and Recreation Center Projects page on the DGS website. This webpage is meant to keep residents up-to-date on DGS and DPR’s current redevelopment projects, upcoming public meetings, and project plans. However, the current layout of the page is not user friendly. All DPR projects, past and present, are listed alphabetically and are not consistently labeled or all listed in the sidebar1. Also, with no sorting or filtering options available, it makes viewing groups of projects difficult. The public should be able to seamlessly access all project information and sort it by ward, current project phase, and when the project was last updated. We ask that DGS, in conjunction with DPR, to create a more user-friendly Projects webpage, so the public can be informed about redevelopment projects in their neighborhood. By eliminating these knowledge barriers, we can create a more inclusive and transparent environment for project review.

While public engagement is an essential aspect of developing and executing a project, ensuring the final plan aligns with District goals, such as Sustainable D.C. 2.0 and Climate Ready D.C., is equally as important. Landscaping is typically the last thing considered and the first thing cut when designing and constructing a project. Therefore, we urge DGS to deliberately keep the outside environment in mind when planning, modernizing, and building recreation projects. We also ask them to collaborate with DOEE on best management practices for landscape designs solutions, biophilic design, pollinator habitats, green corridors, and green infrastructure.

One example of the importance of this collaboration is tree planting in playgrounds. On a hot summer day, trees prevent playground surfaces and structures from getting too hot for children to use. By making sure that the trees planted can grow in the compact soil that will occur as a result of recreation activities, we can ensure a long life for these trees and, with regular maintenance, we will see both the social and environmental benefits that these trees will provide for years to come.

The dedication of DGS and its various management divisions to maintaining the quality of life for D.C. residents is something that should be commended. Casey Trees applauds DGS’ diligence and urges the Council to provide sufficient funding for DGS to allow them to continue to do their important work.

I thank you for your time and welcome any questions.

1For example, the Anacostia Recreation Center ADA Upgrades and Fitness Center project is not listed in the sidebar, nor is there a ward number listed next to the project.