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Alcova Heights Residents Petition to Save Pedestrian Path

More than 130 people who live in and around Alcova Heights have signed a petition to save a walking trail from the proposed expansion of a nearby federal training facility.

The State Department’s National Foreign Affairs Training Center, which trains members of the nation’s foreign service, is seeking to expand its campus in Arlington to include a new training and classroom facility, childcare center and other buildings.

As planned, the expansion would extend the perimeter fence farther south, and, in the process, swallow up a pedestrian path that connects George Mason Drive and S. Quincy Street.

According to an assessment from the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), the agency in charge of managing federal buildings and facilities, the effects on walkability in the neighborhood would not be significant.

“While input from the public scoping process showed a concern to keep the pedestrian trail open to the public, the [expansion’s] impact on neighborhood connectivity would be minor,” the GSA wrote. “This determination is based on the limited number of individuals using the NFATC pedestrian trail, as well as the extensive walking network of sidewalks adjacent to campus that offer an alternative to the pedestrian trail.”

But neighbors and other locals who use the path disagree with the government’s view.

Alcova Heights resident Danielle Arigoni, who yesterday launched a petition urging the government to reconsider eliminating the path, said the assessment is “outrageous.”

“The fact that the existing path is being eliminated is insulting,” Arigoni told ARLnow.com.

Eliminating the path would deprive pedestrians of a safe and easy way to walk from one part of the neighborhood to the other, Arigoni said.

“The NFATC site is so enormous… that it bifurcates Alcova Heights,” she said. Other than the pedestrian path “there are no east-west pathways that are viable alternatives.”

Others, like local resident Beth Smith, called the path a “great asset” for the surrounding neighborhood.

“I walk that way every day to pick my boys up and we walk back from school,” she said. “If they take this away and they don’t offer us an alternative, we’re either going to walk along Route 50, which is really frightening, or have to go down to 8th Street, which is really not convenient.”

One possible solution, said neighbor Rodrigo Abela, is limit the perimeter expansion to 10-15 feet instead of the planned 20 feet.

“Connectivity does not require more than 10-15 feet to allow people that move along the fence line, and looking at the site plan, it is easily achievable without compromising the safety of the compound,” he said.

Arigoni’s petition urges the GSA to, among other requests, “build a perimeter trail connecting 3rd St. S to the existing trail at Quincy at 6th St. S,” a suggestion that would require a permanent public access easement. In theory, Arigoni writes, Arlington County could then build a perimeter trail connecting 3rd St. S to the existing trail at Quincy at 6th St. S.

Regardless of the solution, she said she simply wants to the GSA to take stock of the community’s needs.

“I think the point is that we want to be good neighbors with GSA and with the feds,” she said. “I understand the need for these kind of facilities, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of safe bike and pedestrian access in our neighborhood.”

Alcova Heights residents interested in submitting public comments can do so on the GSA website through Jan. 15.

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It is the decision of the United States Department of Defense (DoD) Washington Headquarters Services (WHS) to implement the Proposed Action: the 2024 Pentagon Reservation Master Plan Update (Pentagon Master Plan) as the framework to guide future decisions regarding land use and infrastructure at the Pentagon site and Mark Center. The Pentagon Master Plan aims to provide an update to the existing conditions at the Pentagon and Mark Center and presents projects and revisions to land use categorizations that will address the specific needs to reduce the Pentagon’s environmental impacts and advance sustainability, security, and resilience. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review has been completed through preparation of a Final Environmental Assessment (EA) to evaluate environmental impacts arising from implementation of the projects. WHS has concluded that no significant impacts to the human or natural environment will result from implementation of any projects, and recognized negative effects will be reduced by adherence to standard best management practices, applicable permit and consultation conditions, and standard operating procedures. This decision is further documented in the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) signed on March 20, 2024.

This notice announces the availability of the FONSI to implement the 2024 Pentagon Reservation Master Plan Update.

For further information and to request a copy of the Final EA or FONSI, please contact Brian King, Environmental and Sustainability Program Manager, WHS/Facilities Services Directorate/Standards and Compliance Division/Environmental and Sustainability Branch; (703-614-3658 or [email protected]). Please include “Pentagon Master Plan Final EA and FONSI” in the subject line.

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Arlington has made substantial strides in advancing housing equity and improving fair housing policy with the adoption of the Regional Fair Housing Plan in 2023. Come learn what’s next to fight housing discrimination, incorporate equity for marginalized populations in our housing policies and programs, and increase awareness of fair housing rights under state and federal law.

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Please RSVP in advance to ensure you receive your free lunch at the conference. Free and open to the public.

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