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.
“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.”
Even though it was recently scaled back, a plan to add amenities to Potomac Overlook Regional Park (2845 N Marcey Road) is still drawing strong criticism from a group of residents.
The plan calls for a new stage/shelter, a new scout camping area, a renovated bird of prey structure and, possibly, a tree house overlook and a small urban farm. The initial plan, which included a zip line, a rock climbing wall and a paved parking lot, was modified after an outcry from residents.
Opponents of the plan have formed the Potomac Overlook Preservation Association, and launched a website that implores visitors to “Save Potomac Overlook Park.”
The association will be holding a public meeting tonight (Tuesday), with scheduled speakers from the organization as well as from the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation and the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, which owns the park and proposed the changes at a public meeting last month.
Tonight’s meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall of the Church of the Covenant (2666 Military Road).
Stephen Blakely, president of the Potomac Overlook Preservation Association, says the he expects “a strong turnout and a lively meeting.” He accused the NVRPA of attempting “to turn a nature preserve into a theme park.”
The Donaldson Run Civic Association, which also opposes the plan, sent a letter last week asking the NVRPA to “press the ‘reset button’” on the park plan.
Both associations accused the NVRPA of giving residents an inadequate amount of time to respond to the proposed changes.
“It is unfortunate that the many users of Potomac Overlook were brought in at such a late point in the process,” said the Donaldson Run letter. “Arlington has a long tradition of engaging its residents when major decisions such as this one, come before a community.”
Potomac Overlook Regional Park is a 67-acre park. Current amenities include “peaceful woodland, trails, educational gardens, a small picnic area,” a birds of prey facility and a nature center. The park also hosts summer concerts and summer camps.
Photo (bottom) via Potomac Overlook Preservation Association
An ambitious plan to add amenities to Potomac Overlook Regional Park (2845 N Marcey Road) has been scaled back as a result of negative feedback from residents.
The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority has released a “Version 2.0” of its Potomac Overlook improvement plan. Officials say they made changes to the plan after receiving concerns and criticism at a community meeting last week and in the comments section of an ARLnow.com article.
The new plan removes a proposed zip line, rock wall and paved parking lot from “near-term consideration.” It also establishes a “Natural Resources Advisory Committee” to study some elements of the original plan prior to any implementation. Plan elements selected for further study are the signature “tree house overlook,” a small urban farm, and any removal of healthy trees.
Elements of the plan that the park authority intends to move forward with over the next few years include:
- New programming and interpretive signage
- Tearing down an aging performance stage and replacing it with a new stage/shelter
- Renovating the Bird of Prey structure
- New kiosk/signage at park entrance
- New scout camping area near a fire circle in the back of the park
- Historic Donaldson barn site interpretation
- Adding more wood chips to trails
“We are calling this Potomac Overlook Improvement Plan Version 2.0, and I think it will please many who have shared their views with us,” said Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority Executive Director Paul Gilbert.
Improvements have been proposed for Potomac Overlook Regional Park, and one of the suggestions is to add the park’s first actual “overlook.”
The park land is managed by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA), which held a meeting last night (Monday) to present the proposed improvement plans.
One of the ideas is to construct an overlook in the tree canopy where visitors could rent equipment and participate in educational programs. The site could also potentially be rented out for events.
Some of the other proposed improvements are:
- Create bus drop off plaza/welcome area with information kiosk and covered area for up to 75 persons.
- Relocate and/or improve park signage.
- Move gate further down entrance road and add parking — can add approximately 20 head-in spaces in clearings on each side of road with minimal tree loss.
- Add new asphalt cap to park roadway.
- Expand area of amphitheater to hold larger events by trimming back the vegetation on the upper side of the bowl.
- Add rock climbing, zip lines or large swings or similar features to attract groups, and help rent shelters.
- Replace existing stage with a shelter that could be rented, or used as a stage when needed. This new shelter would use the existing solar panels on its roof. Improve the interpretation of the solar shelter.
- Implement a small 2-acre urban farm or community garden, and develop interpretation of Donaldson farm and the historic foundations located near center of park, just off the paved path.
- Renovate and expand the aging birds of prey facility — an extremely popular destination for school groups visiting the park.
- Remove outdated and dilapidated elements such as “simple pleasures trellis,” solar fan bench and toddler terrace.
- Add scout camping area in cleared area behind the Indian Garden.
- Consider reestablishing a healthy orchard area to do a “pick your own” program.
- Request long-term lease or gift of Marcey Park from Arlington County.
- Expand the number of weeks summer camps are offered.
- Drop camps for older kids that do not fill.
- Expand camps for younger kids that are in demand.
- Offer half day camps.
- Institute on-line registration process.
- Use more summer seasonal staff, and reduce distance of field trips.
- Offer merit badge programs with scout camping for a value-added experience.
- Do fewer concerts with bigger names to improve returns.
- “Yappy Hour” events using tennis courts on scheduled evenings.
- Explore after school nature programs for area elementary schools.
- Partner with external organization to operate the Urban Agriculture area.
Funding for the project would come from the NVRPA, with the possibility of some assistance from the Northern Virginia Regional Park Foundation.
So far no start date has been set for the beginning the work because the plans are preliminary. NVRPA is currently focusing on soliciting comments and suggestions from the community, which can be emailed to Potomac@NVRPA.Org. NVRPA will hold at least one more meeting with community members regarding finalized plans before renovations begin.
Good Stuff Eatery Opens Tonight — The new Good Stuff Eatery location at 2110 Crystal Drive in Crystal City will open to the general public for the first time tonight. The burger and shake restaurant will be open for dinner only today; it will start opening for lunch and dinner tomorrow. A television production crew is expected to be filming at the restaurant tonight for an upcoming episode of ‘Life After Top Chef.’
Potomac Overlook Naturalist Retiring — Martin Ogle, who is retiring next week after 27 years as chief naturalist at Potomac Overlook Regional Park, is being credited with playing a key role in a number of environmental initiatives in Arlington over the years. [Falls Church News-Press]
Moran Challenger Worries About GOP Inclusiveness – Patrick Murray, the Republican who will be trying again to unseat incumbent Rep. Jim Moran (D) in November, is concerned that the GOP is straying from Ronald Reagan’s belief in a ‘Big Tent.’ Murray issued a statement following Ric Grenell’s resignation from Mitt Romney’s Republican presidential campaign. Grenell resigned as a spokesman for the campaign after social conservative groups began criticizing the campaign because Grenell is openly gay. Murray said he was “disappointed” to learn that Grenell stepped down. [Sun Gazette]
It’s expected to a be a beautiful, warm weekend, with temperatures reaching as high as 90 degrees. In other words, it’s the perfect weekend to head to a park, enjoy an outdoor movie, or go on a bike ride. See our events calendar for even more fun things to do.
Author talk with Novella Carpenter — The author of “Farm City” talks about her experience creating a fully operational farm on a vacant lot next to her Oakland, Calif. apartment. From 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Arlington Central Library (1015 North Quincy Street).
Crystal City 5K Friday — Run in Crystal City’s last 5K Friday of the season. The race kicks off at 6:30 p.m. at 2121 Crystal Drive, and will be followed by an post-race party in a nearby apartment complex.
“I Love the ’90s” Rosslyn Outdoor Film Fest — Rosslyn will kick of its ’90s-themed film festival with the 1995 favorite “Clueless.” Takes place at 7:30 p.m. at Rosslyn Gateway Park (1300 Lee Highway).
Fashion, Food and Music for the Cure — Join former Washington Redskin LaVar Arrington and his wife Trish for a fashion show at Caribbean Breeze restaurant (4100 North Fairfax Drive) benefiting the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Against Breast Cancer. There will be a musical performance by Jason Cerda followed by a runway show. Doors open to the public at 9:00 p.m.
Tour des Bibliotheque — Join Arlington Public Library staff members for a bicycle tour of six of the county’s seven libraries. The tour will start at Central Library (1015 North Quincy Street). Meet on the Quincy Street side near the front doors at 9:30 a.m.
Shirlington Kentucky Derby Party — Help support Operation Homefront while sipping mint juleps and rooting on your favorite thoroughbred. The event, at The Bungalow (2766 South Arlington Mill Drive) will feature a Derby hat contest, Derby food and a classic derby drink showcase. Post time for the race is 6:24 p.m., but the party kicks off at 4:00.
Potomac Overlook Park Heritage Festival — A springtime tradition with fun for all ages. The event features music, entertainment, food, community exhibits, games, a maypole dance, and more. It takes place between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. at Potomac Overlook Regional Park (2845 North Marcey Road).
Mamma Mia Flash Mob – A “flash mob” style dance performance from the musical Mamma Mia is scheduled to take place at 3:00 p.m. at Ballston Common Mall (4238 North Wilson Blvd). The public is welcome to participate if they know the moves. Whether it’s truly a flash mob if it’s announced ahead of time is up for debate, but nonetheless organizers promise “a mob of synchronicity, choreography and fun.”