(Updated at 9:35 a.m.) Neighbors of Virginia Highlands Park are accusing Arlington County of ignoring a proposal they put together for the park’s future.
Last year the Aurora Highlands Civic Association submitted a plan for the permit-only softball fields on the west side of the park at 1600 S. Hayes Street to be converted into open space, without any set programming.
“The fields are significantly underused relative to other facilities and especially to open space,” the proposal says, noting that use of the fields is seasonal. “Each field is used for approximately 600 hours per year out of a potential of 4,380 hours (12 hours a day), a total of less than 14% of the time.”
The county is at the beginning of what it says is a “community-wide conversation” about the park’s future and developing a comprehensive plan.
But some residents are critical of staff at the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation, saying that staff has not adequately considered their proposal nor communicated with them, despite an “extraordinary effort” on the part of community leaders “to ensure that there was little to no miscommunication in this process.”
“Attempting to develop a long-term plan for the park that fails to openly and honestly consider the needs of all park goers over existing facilities and their usage, as well intentioned as it may be, will just reshuffle that poor planning with some prettying around the edges,” the group Friends of Aurora Highlands Parks said in its latest newsletter.
ARLnow columnist Peter Rousselot wrote in a recent opinion piece that a member of DPR staff said the softball fields “are needed” and would not be removed.
A county spokeswoman, however, said that while there is no set timeline for planning for the park’s revamp, the civic association’s proposal is still on the table.
“The Aurora Highland Civic Association did provide a plan for the neighborhood’s vision for the park,” the spokeswoman said. “When the county begins the framework plan for the park, the civic association’s plan as well as other community-wide inputs will be considered. County staff is now working with the County Board to determine next steps.”
The softball fields at Virginia Highlands Park are used by a variety of leagues across age groups, from youth to adult.
The D.C. Fray adult league — formerly known as United Social Sports — begins a new eight-week season on July 7 at the fields. Founder and CEO Robert Kinsler said the league “strongly supports maintaining and expanding the fields available for organized sports in Arlington and specifically at Virginia Highlands.”
“We permit and use the parks as much as availability and DPR allows and often have to turn away players due to lack of field space in the area,” Kinsler said. “Any loss of the softball fields would be a huge lost for the activity community that lives in the area.”