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Quest for Bluemont Bocce Court Ends, For Now

Bocce being played (file photo via Wikipedia)A controversial effort to get a bocce court built along the Bluemont Junction Trail has been shot down by Arlington’s parks department — for now.

Supporters wanted a 13′ by 50′ bocce court built along the trail, using $15,000 from a hoped-for Parks Enhancement Grant from the county and “sweat equity” from community members. The court would provide a fun and safe recreational opportunity to local residents young and old, supporters said.

Some who live in the neighborhood vehemently opposed the proposed bocce court, however, saying it would produce noise, trash, traffic and parking woes. Plus, opponents said, there were no public restrooms for bocce players along the trail.

At first, it seemed that Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) staff was supportive of the idea — disputing many bocce opponents’ objections in a letter to community members. But in March, DPR staff completed an evaluation of the bocce court proposal and concluded that the court should not be built along the trail in the neighborhood, but should be built in nearby Fields Park.

View of Bluemont Junction Trail, site of proposed bocce court (via Google Maps)Furthermore, staff concluded that the court should be “standard sized” — 15.5′ by 76′. The cost to build such a court was estimated between $17,600 and $25,500, depending on the type of court surface used (staff preferred a more expensive but less maintenance-intensive synthetic surface). Either way, that brought the cost estimate above the $15,000 PEG grant limit.

“These costs do not include the cost of site work or the cost of additional amenities such as player’s benches or trash cans,” Arlington County Park and Recreation Commission Chairman Paul Holland wrote to bocce supporters. “Since the costs exceed the current PEG limits, a future PEG request will need to identify matching funds.”

But even if supporters wanted to reapply, another PEG grant might not be forthcoming in the near future. The grant program was not funded in the county’s upcoming 2014 fiscal year budget and consideration of new grant applications has been postponed indefinitely.

Bocce supporter and former Bluemont Civic Association President Judah dal Cais said he was disappointed that the parks department picked Fields Park for the location and 15.5′ by 76′ for the size, thus scuttling his application.

“Fields Park is an awful location for a bocce court,” dal Cais told ARLnow.com via email. “Children and seniors need to walk across two busy intersection (N. George Mason and Wilson Blvd) to reach the site.”

“Not only was the location not ideal, staff recommends a regulation size court be built… vs. the requested 13’x50 court in my application,” dal Cais continued. “This larger court will cost $17,000 to build vs. a court that can be built with material donations and stakeholder sweat equity for less than $10,000.”

Dal Cais maintains that 11 potential bocce court sites that he suggested — sites that are closer to the trail and “provide much greater visibility, shade, and accessibility” — weren’t properly considered. He said DPR staff was not responsive to his recent emails, and he has requested a meeting with parks department officials to discuss the matter.

Roberta Korzen, a DPR spokeswoman, said that Fields Park — which has seasonal restroom facilities — was chosen after careful consideration.

“Staff focused on a potential site for the court in Fields Park due to its relatively flat area which can accommodate a standard sized court and be easily connected with an existing concrete path for ADA access,” she told ARLnow.com. “The results of the evaluation showed that the location meets DPR requirements for visibility, limited impact to surrounding trees and proximity to adjoining neighbors.”

Korzen said the county conducted the site evaluation to aid in the consideration of a PEG grant application.

“If the community decides to apply for a PEG grant in the future and has additional funds to offer towards construction, DPR will support locating the court in Fields Park,” she said.

Korzen also pointed two new bocce courts are being built at Glebe Road and N. Randolph Street in Ballston, less than a mile away from the Bluemont neighborhood.

Photo (top) by Victorgrigas via Wikipedia. Photo (below) via Google Maps.

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