Arlington Celebrates Opening of Renovated Jennie Dean Park
Published on May 20, 2022
Arlington County Parks and Recreation is excited to celebrate the reopening of newly renovated Jennie Dean Park, an integral part of the Green Valley community for more than 75 years.
Building upon its history and the community's love of sports and arts, the park has been transformed into an exciting place designed to celebrate the area’s past and cultural heritage, while increasing access to recreation and nature.
“Jennie Dean Park is deeply entwined with the history of Arlington, "said Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol. "When the County was segregated, this was the park for Black Arlingtonians from Green Valley and beyond, who imbued this space with a love of community, sports, and arts. In partnership with community leaders, these new renovations seek to both honor that history and build upon it."
Celebrate the reopening of newly renovated Jennie Dean Park! Join us on Sat., May 21, 12-3 p.m., with a mini parade, live music from JoGo Project, a ceremony with past members of the baseball league that played at the park, and more! Details. Media interested in attending should RSVP to Ryan Hudson.
Jennie Dean Park has been expanded by 2.25 acres, which allowed for a larger and more modern playground. The picnic shelter was renovated so it’s fully accessible along Four Mile Run, and the restrooms were updated to be all-gender. The diamond fields and athletic courts were relocated to increase playability, with more-efficient LED lights. There is also a new history walk with a timeline of significant dates and events that happened at Jennie Dean Park.
As part of the new park, artist Mark Reigelman developed a site-specific public art, Wheelhouse, inspired by the mill that stood in this location in the early 1700s and the park’s rich recreational history.
The History of Jennie Dean Park
During the planning process, Arlington worked closely with the Green Valley Civic Association and its history working group to incorporate several features to honor and celebrate the park’s past.
Starting in the 1930s, the park became a major hub for Black baseball clubs in the region, where game days were lively, social epicenters for the community. Over the next few decades, more teams were formed, both semi-pro and recreational, run by members of the Green Valley community.
Along the fence of the diamond fields are several pennants of the historic semi-pro and recreational teams from Green Valley –– designed by local graphic artist Ted Irvine in collaboration with the Green Valley Civic Association.
The two fields have been named after Ernest E. Johnson and Robert Winkler to recognize their deep contributions to the Green Valley Community.
Johnson became the director of Arlington County’s “Negro Recreation Section,” a separate division of the County’s segregated Department of Recreation in 1950. Under Mr. Johnson’s leadership, the “Negro Recreation Section” expanded to include a variety of sports, dance, theater, musical and community events for all the Black American communities in Arlington. He was a vital figure in the County’s African American community and ultimately oversaw the desegregation of Arlington recreation in the early 1960s. He went on to serve the County for two more decades.
MORE: Cub Scout Pack 589 and Ernest Johnson
Robert Winkler was raised in Green Valley and worked for Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation for more than 40 years. Mr. Winkler coached sports for Green Valley youth, as well as the Drew women’s softball team, and was a community activist who protected and preserved local fields for community sports.
Wheelhouse explores the industrial history of the Jennie Dean Park site through the lens of baseball. Inspired by the mill that stood in the location in the early 1700s, and the park’s recreational history, the installation’s 24 slices extending up from the ground reminds of a dugout, as well as the spokes of a churning wheel. “Wheelhouse” is a common term in baseball to describe the area where a batter likes a pitch in the strike zone.
Watch a time-lapse video of Wheelhouse being installed
The County began master planning the park as part of the Four Mile Run Valley community effort and adopted the Four Mile Run Valley Park Master Plan and Design Guidelines in September 2018. The Park Master Plan illustrated the major elements of the park and their general location and provided guidelines for the look and feel of the park.
The County worked closely with the community throughout the process to refine some of the details and finalize the design of the park. On Nov. 16, 2019, the County Board approved the construction contract for the project.