Red Top Road Residents Envision a Place of Hope

Illegal dumping, speeding cars, overflowing dumpsters, illegal businesses, and not one place to garden pushed one Prince George’s County resident to action. For Sawa Kamara, Red Top Road was an unsightly dumping ground that made her worry for the safety of her and her child. Determined to make a change, Sawa began working with her District 2 Council Member, Deni Taveras.

Volunteers and NDC staff add more green to Sawa’s Hope Circle at this fall’s Clean Up, Green Up event.

Council Member Taveras requested services from the Neighborhood Design Center to create a master vision plan for the area. Residents were engaged at events, formal and informal meetings, and onsite conversations. The vision plan was distributed to County agencies, nonprofit partners, and property owners to unify efforts around a single vision that sought to  foster neighborhood pride, provide assets for youth and their families, and beautify the area as well as increase safety, health, and wellbeing.

Multiple agency partners collaborated to tackle the structural problems on Red Top Road. The Department of the Environment hosted a cleanup. Department of Permitting, Inspection, and Enforcement focused inspectors on the area and provided technical support in designing some waste management solutions. DPW&T cleaned unsightly brush, installed continuous sidewalks, and has scheduled street light replacement. Residents also organized into the Takoma Branch Civic Association in August of 2018.

Residents were eager to address illegal dumping, an ongoing issue along Greenbriar Avenue.

One small, forgotten area that saw frequent illegal dumping was the “paper street”—a street that appears on maps but was never actually constructed—Greenbriar Avenue, owned by DPW&T. NDC, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, residents, other nonprofits and the councilmembers’ office have been working together to turn the derelict area into a parklet for play and community socializing. The first phase, implemented during the summer and fall of 2018, was large scale infrastructure: depaving, installing stormwater management, stabilizing slopes, and pouring retaining walls. It was designed as a collaboration with NDC staff members Rachel McNamara and Marita Roos, and DPW&T staff. Upon completion of phase 1, the site was renamed Sawa’s Hope Circle and an honorary street sign was installed.

NDC hosted a series of engagement events to listen to residents’ needs and ideas for an improved community space.

Residents planted 40 perennials through this year’s fall Clean Up Green Up program. Staff from the council member’s office, NDC, the Northern Gateway CDC, and NDC board members and volunteers also supported the efforts. Housing Initiative Partnership, with NDC support, has championed a grant application to install phase 2 of the parklet. While grant review goes on, NDC is working directly with the civic association to design a plan for a playable, beautiful social space for Red Top Road residents. Several other suggested projects are being taken on by local nonprofits and we expect a lot of exciting new things to be happening around Red Top Road.