- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 14, 2004

East Potomac Park, also known as Hains Point, offers golf, miniature golf, swimming, tennis and playgrounds as well as fishing in the Potomac River and the Washington Channel, all just a stone’s throw from downtown Washington.

“It’s an oasis in the center of the city,” says Bill Line, spokesman for the National Park Service, which oversees the park. “It really provides great recreational opportunities for children and people of all ages.”

Other recreational uses include running, biking, hiking and in-line skating along Ohio Drive, which stretches along the perimeter of the park and is completely flat. One lane of the road is closed to automobile traffic on weekends.

“The serious bicyclists and Rollerbladers really love it,” Mr. Line says. “You see them year-round, even on cold January days.”

Popular summer activities include swimming in the 50-meter swimming pool. There is no children’s pool, and the shallow end of the Olympic-size pool is 3 feet, which may make it less accessible for very young children.

Another popular activity in the summer is tennis, which can be played on inside and outside courts at the East Potomac Tennis Center. The center has 24 courts and offers spot times for non-contract holders.

The East Potomac Public Golf Course has two nine-hole courses and one 18-hole course. One of them allows children as young as 5 and the other two welcome children ages 10 and older. Children 10 and younger must be accompanied by an adult. The golf course also features a driving range with 100 stalls.

The miniature golf course may be a fun option for younger children.

Aside from all the physically strenuous activities it offers, the park also provides a great view of the surrounding area. From the east side of the park, visitors have a view of the Southwest waterfront, its marina, restaurants and fish market. From the west side of the park, the view includes a toddler favorite — a close look at airplanes taking off and landing at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

On the south tip of the park lies “The Awakening,” a sculpture by J. Seward Johnson Jr. featuring a bearded giant who seems to be struggling to get out of the ground. It’s popular with small children, Mr. Line says. They occasionally use its gargantuan limbs for climbing and sliding.

The park’s southern tip also features dozens of picnic tables, bathrooms and playgrounds, including jungle gyms and swings.

This 300-acre park is actually a landfill, Mr. Line says. It was created about 150 years ago from riverbed silt when the Potomac River was dredged to ensure that it was deep enough for commercial ships.

It is bordered to the north by a railway bridge used by Amtrak and to the east, west and south by the Potomac River and Washington Channel.

The park looks nothing like a dump. It has the second-largest concentration of cherry trees in the District after the Tidal Basin, located just north of the park. It also has well-tended lawns and paths.

Yet for all the beautiful vistas and recreational opportunities it offers, something else may provide its greatest appeal during the area’s oppressively hot summer months: its climate. It can feel cooler and less muggy at the park than in the rest of the city, Mr. Line says.

“It’s a little more open, and there’s always a little bit of a breeze.”

WHEN YOU GO:

Location:East Potomac Park is south of the 14th Street Bridge in the District.

Directions: Take Ohio Drive south from Independence Avenue and 23rd Street or use the Potomac Park exit off Interstate 395 South. Make a right onto Ohio Drive and go south.

Hours:The park is open 24 hours a day.

Admission: Free

Information: Phone: 202/485-9880 or www.nps.gov/nacc

Note: On weekends, one lane of Ohio Drive is closed to automobile traffic. The open lane is designated for cars bound for the East Potomac public golf course.

The following is information about the various recreational activities offered at East Potomac Park:

• East Potomac public swimming pool, 202/727-6523. Hours: 1 to 7 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; closed Wednesdays. Fee: $1 to $5 per person, depending on age and residency.

• East Potomac public golf course, 202/554-7660. Hours: Tee times are offered from dawn to dusk; the pro shop is open from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Green fees: $8.50 to $26.50. Miniature golf course hours: 12:30 to 8:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. Fee: $3.75 to $4.50.

• East Potomac tennis center, 202/554-5962. Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Fee: $8 to $17 an hour for spot times.

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