Fort Washington Forest center opens after six-year delay -- Gazette.Net


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It was six years ago that Lisa Owens took the reins as Fort Washington Forest Community Center’s facility manager. It wasn’t until Friday that she got to manage an open, active facility.

After years of construction and delays, the center opened its doors during a celebration event marked with speeches and music.

The $5 million center offers youth and adult activities, including Zumba, arts and crafts, a computer lab and bilingual classes. It is also attached to the Fort Washington Forest Elementary School, allowing students at the school, which didn’t have a gym, an opportunity to use the center’s gym up to three times per week.

Owens said she was excited the center was opening after so many delays, hoping it would bring together the community with its events and programs.

“It’s a vision come true,” Owens said. “We really want to make a positive difference in the community.”

Construction of the 22,300-square-foot center began in 2007, but in late 2009 concerns with the performance of the construction company caused delays, said Larry Quarrick, Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation division chief for parks and planning. Quarrick said a new company was hired in late 2010 and had to redo some of the previous work, such as the gym’s roof, so the project was further delayed.

“It has been a challenging project,” he said. “We had to make sure it was structurally sound.”

Residents can access the center for free or a fee, depending on the person’s age or the program desired, according to the center’s fee list. The first few weeks will feature demonstration classes, which will give residents an opportunity to try classes and programs before paying for them, said Wanda Bertrand, Prince George’s County Parks and Planning program superintendent.

The center’s opening comes after several community centers in south county have opened, but Owens said there wasn’t one close enough to serve the neighborhoods near Fort Washington Forest Elementary, which she said has a large walking population. The center is located at 1200 Fillmore Road in Fort Washington.

Nadine Proctor of Clinton has a child who attends Fort Washington Forest Elementary School, and she said the center’s opening has been a long time coming. She said her child is excited to use the gym and computer lab, and she knows where her children will be on the weekends.

“We waited for it. We needed it for a long time,” Proctor said. “[The children] have a safe place to go.”

ccook@gazette.net