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Back to Drawing Board for Potomac Overlook Plan

by ARLnow.com — March 20, 2013 at 4:05 pm 22 Comments

Treetop shelter similar to one proposed for Potomac Overlook Regional Park (photo via NVRPA)The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority has scrapped a plan to add amenities to Potomac Overlook Regional Park (2845 N. Marcey Road) after an outcry from residents.

The NVRPA had floated a plan to add a tree house overlook, a youth camp ground and a small urban farm to the 67-acre park, among other additions and renovations. In response, residents who live by the park formed a group called the Potomac Overlook Preservation Association, and bombarded county and NVRPA officials with emails protesting the plan.

The plan, opponents said, would shift the park toward a more high-impact recreational use rather than the current use for nature preservation and for low-impact recreation.

At a meeting held by the preservation association last night (Tuesday) — attended by a standing-room-only crowd of more than 250, organizers said — NVRPA officials said they would throw out previous plans and restart the public process of considering improvements to the park.

In an email to ARLnow.com, NVRPA Executive Director Paul Gilbert said the authority realized it had fumbled the public presentation of the plan.

The issue is one of process and semantics more than anything else. While it was our intention (and our actions) to seek public input before we moved forward with any of these ideas, many in the community read our meeting minutes and reached the conclusion that we had made final decisions. In truth we had not done any site specific planning or determined the ultimate feasibility of these idea.

Because of this miscommunication, some looked at the Power Point that had been presented and reached worse case scenarios about many of the ideas. We were never able to have the conversation with the community that we wanted and because opinions were formed we realized that we needed to reset the process and start over. The characterizations that these plans somehow changed the nature of the park were never well founded. We simply got off on the wrong foot.

We will probably discuss some of these ideas in the years ahead, because many of them were very good. But we will be more careful in issues of process and semantics in the future.

Site plan for Potomac Regional Overlook ParkIn a press release, the Potomac Overlook Preservation Association said it supported some parts of the plan, and will work to shape future plans.

“Park users and local residents voiced strong support for certain aspects of the plan, such as greater efforts to control invasive species and rebuilding the park’s aging birds-of-prey shelter and deteriorating trails,  but quickly organized to block the development projects,” said the organization. “Users of the park immediately welcomed the park authority’s reversal, praised their quick response to the growing community pressure, and pledged to work cooperatively with the authority in future planning efforts.”

The president of the preservation association, Steve Blakely, said NVRPA “did the right thing.”

“The NVRPA did the right thing by listening to the community,” he said. “They deserve full credit for that, and doing it quickly.”

  • squidgod

    “add amenities” = monetize.

  • DCBuff

    Well done, all parties involved.

    • Park Lover

      Agreed. It’s rare that a government organization admits some fault and has the courage to change its plans. If only ArlCo government had the same honesty.

      • DCBuff

        Input from differing opinions? Changing plans? That is not the Arlington Way, circa 2013.

  • Daniel Burnham

    Interesting how a “regional” park gets taken over by the loud locals.

    • ARL

      Next time they can alert all the people regionwide who are just itching for a zipline to come speak, huh?

      • I like Fun

        Sure, I would come and speak in favor of a zipline, sounds fun

        • Kyle

          It sounds like fun, but it is horrible

  • Josh S

    Busy bodies jumped to the wrong conclusion based on incomplete information? Gosh, that sounds familiar.
    Welcome to Arlington, NVRPA.

    • DCBuff

      Sorry you didn’t get your urban theme park Josh.

      • speonjosh

        You don’t even try to follow along, do you?

    • ARL

      What information did they not have? Tell us, here.

  • EBJ

    Glad to see they scrapped this plan. It was bizarre and inappropriate for the site.

  • PattiB

    Yay! The rich white people won! I saw a funny photo of the guy who wrote the letter to the Sun Gazette complaining about the zip line and the climbing wall, playing on a zip line himself in someone else’s back yard!
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=4135653224422

    • come on

      Please leave race out of this.

  • Chris M.

    “What??!! This park is a nice quite addition to my backyard. I don’t want people to actually come and use it. Pisshaw!!” -POPA

  • Eric

    At least install a metered turnstile to limit the number of visitors at one time. I imagine the laughter of a crowd of children would disturb the locals, drowning out the sounds of the jets on the DCA River Visual Approach to Runway 19.

  • gorecki23498

    Well thank god someone did something to keep the poors out of North Arlington. It’s bad enough that we have to house those people. Now we were supposed to let them come and enjoy our parks? Don’t they have a swimming area or a water treatment plant or something down in Four Mile Run or something that they can use to get their kicks?

    • CommentBot

      The Harris Teeter memorial wading pool

  • safeforthemoment

    The worst was the urban garden although I like the idea just not in a nature preserve, the zip line is just plain stupid. The nature preserve should be preserved as originally intended.

    • speonjosh

      Preserved as originally intended. By whom?
      Do you mean like the hardwood forests that used to cover all of Arlington? That were so thick a squirrel could supposedly travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River without ever touching ground?
      Or do you mean like when half of Arlington was cleared land, used as farms, etc?
      You realize that there are ruins of homes located inside Potomac Overlook Park?
      It’s your experience. That doesn’t mean that there hasn’t ever been a different reality in this location. Or that there won’t be a different reality in the future. Being in opposition to these plans because they will somehow mar the pristine beauty and tranquility of Mother Earth’s garden is poppycock.

  • CW

    Only in Arlington do the NIMBYs mobilize not to stop a power plant, a factory, a landfill, or even a Wal-Mart…but rather a park for children to play…

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