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Peter’s Take: More Parkland For More People

peter_rousselot_2014-12-27_for_facebookPeter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

By some measures, Arlington parks are doing well, but without changing course, we’re falling behind.

Arlington Parks are Ranked 4th in the Nation…

Congratulations to Arlington County on our park system being ranked as 4th among the nation’s 100 largest cities by the authoritative Trust for Public Land (TPL) in its ParkScore® index, based on the three factors of Park Access, Park Size, and Facilities and Investment.

But, Our Parkland Acreage is Already Inadequate for Current… and Future… Population

As I detailed in earlier columns, our public parks and recreational facilities are a core government service. They provide social, health and environmental benefits critical to the quality of life in our community. Unfortunately, as a snapshot in time, the ParkScore® index doesn’t reveal that current demand in Arlington for active and passive parks and recreation already far exceeds current resources. County land acquisition has not kept pace with population growth, resulting in increased shortages and overcrowding of all forms of recreational and outdoor space.

Over a 20-year period, Arlington County acquired an annual average of 3.8 acres of new public parkland. The most recent trend has been lower — just 0.63 acres were purchased in 2015. The result is an ongoing decline in the ratio of parkland per 1,000 residents, declining from a ratio of 10.8 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents in 1995 to 7.9 acres per 1,000 residents in 2015 with a considerably lower average in our high-density corridors.   Our neighbors are doing much better: D.C. has 13.2 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents; Fairfax County has over 20 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents, and is planning to purchase an additional 2,015 acres for parks.

Yet, our Comprehensive Plan contemplates the addition of 35,300 households or an estimated additional 75,400 people by 2040, a dramatic increase of 36%. What is now an acute shortage in active and passive park and recreation resources will turn into a crisis by 2040 unless the County accelerates its parkland acquisition now.

We need increased CIP Funding

Unfortunately, the County Manager’s proposed CIP includes only $3 million of parkland acquisition funding for fiscal years 2017 and 2018, at p.B-5, well below funding levels before the Great Recession.

Between 1995 and 2008, funding for parkland acquisition per two-year park bond cycle was between $4.0 and $8.5 million, with most cycles at $8.5 million. Yet between 2008 and 2014, a six year period, parkland acquisition funding, from both bonds ($3.0 million) and budget allocations ($5.47 million), totaled only $8.47 million.

With land in Arlington costing on average at least $4 million per acre and increasing every year, the $3 million of land acquisition funds now proposed for the CIP for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 will potentially purchase approximately only three quarters of an acre of parkland! This is woefully inadequate to meet current, no less projected, demands for passive and active recreation in our County.

Conclusion

The County Board needs to dramatically increase the parkland acquisition funding in the 2017-2018 CIP to at least $8 million, the same approximate level as prior to the Great Recession, for inclusion on the November 2016 ballot.

Let’s ensure that we have adequate parkland for all of our people in the future… and that Arlington continues to rank highly in the ParkScore® index.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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Former participants have this to say:

_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._

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Learn about the new assessment of Arlington’s urban tree canopy and the many ecological and social benefits trees provide. Staff from the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) will share study results and compare canopy cover for different areas of Arlington.The webinar will include assessments of ecosystem services such as stormwater mitigation, air quality, carbon uptake, and urban heat islands. For background on Arlington trees see the “Tree Benefits: Growing Arlington’s Urban Forest” presentation at http://www.gicinc.org/PDFs/Presentation_TreeBenefits_Arlington.pdf.

Please register in advance to assure your place at the webinar, https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/29543206508863839.

About the Arlington County Civic Federation: The Arlington County Civic Federation (“ACCF”) is a not-for-profit corporation which provides a forum for civic groups to discuss, debate, inform, advocate and provide oversight on important community issues, on a non-partisan basis. Its members include over ninety civic groups representing a broad cross-section of the community. Communications, resolutions and feedback are regularly provided to the Arlington County Government.

The next meeting is on Tuesday, February 21,2023 at 7 pm. This meeting is open to the public and will be hybrid, in-person and virtually through Zoom. Part of the agenda will be a discussion and vote on a resolution “To Restore Public Confidence in Arlington County’s Governance”. For more information on ACCF and this meeting, go to https://www.civfed.org/.

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Submit your own Announcement here.

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