On July 11, Arlington posted a “Preliminary Draft” of its new Public Spaces Master Plan. This draft reflects considerable thought and effort. I encourage you to provide your comments by the newly-extended August 31 deadline.
The PSMP (p. 2) seeks to provide the foundation for:
a network of publicly- and privately-owned public spaces that connect the County‘s established neighborhoods and growing corridors to natural areas, protect valuable natural resources, provide opportunities for structured and casual recreation, and ensure access to the Potomac River, Four Mile Run, and their tributaries.
Today’s column discusses only a small number of issues raised by this 272-page draft.
I have highlighted previously the urgency of preserving and materially increasing Arlington’s inadequate park and recreation resources to address dramatically increasing demands from the projected county population growth of 63,000 people (29 percent) by 2040.
The PSMP core “Strategic Direction 1 – Public Spaces” seeks to “ensure equitable access to spaces for recreation, play and enjoying nature by adding and improving public spaces.”
These proposed changes can help reach this goal:
The PSMP states (p. 44): “Arlington has over 2000 acres of parkland, both County and non-County owned…” However, without greater clarity as to what is being counted as “parkland” (e.g., possibly all APS facilities and “unusable” portions of the federally-owned GW Parkway are included), this global number appears inflated and misleading.
The relevant issue is the amount of additional parkland needed in Arlington to meet present and future demand. See the “Population-Based Standards” chart (p. 90).
New “Public Space”
Proposed “Action” 1.1 (p. 70) states: “Add at least 30 acres of new public space over the next 10 years.” Inclusion of this land acquisition goal is critical and has widespread community support.
However, “Natural Areas and Wildlife Habitats” ranked as the second highest outdoor need on the statistically valid 2015 Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment Survey, and county citizens are consistently calling for more natural green space: “We want natural grass, trees, and a place to relax.”
This goal should be clearly focused on the county acquiring more “green parkland” or it will be “fulfilled” in large part by more hardscape plazas and/or synthetic turf in our urban corridors.
The PSMP should also incorporate the three separate sub-categories of “natural lands”, “unstructured” (or “casual use”) areas, and “structured” areas, i.e. athletic fields and courts I previously recommended. This should also provide explicit prohibitions on any loss of natural lands and “casual use” areas.
New Land Acquisition Policy
While hopefully facilitating parkland acquisition, this policy needs revisions to avoid filtering out critical present and potential “natural lands” and “casual use” areas. Higher points must be awarded to such “natural lands” that don’t have “special features.” Criteria affording points to such “casual use” areas need to be added. Points should also be reallocated from existing plans where parcels may already have been developed to parcels with strong community support identified on an “ad hoc” basis.
The PSMP is a new step forward for Arlington’s park and recreation resources. Although creative mechanisms to acquire more parkland are identified, our critical need for preserving and increasing our parkland — particularly our “green parkland” — can only be met with a strong commitment by the County Board in our budgets and CIPs for the foreseeable future.
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Our program focuses on socio-emotional development and kindergarten readiness through hands-on and engaging activities. Our programs offer different schedules ranging from 7:30 am-5:30 pm for students, ages 2-5. We feature a full-day Jr. kindergarten class for older 4’s/5’s. Our facility includes a full-sized gymnasium, school chapel, and library. All of our students enjoy music and physical education weekly. Children have an opportunity to participate in enrichment classes such as soccer, basketball, ballet, and science.
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For more information or to schedule a tour, visit us at www.stcharlesarlington.org or call (703) 527-0608.
If you are a lifelong learner over 50+ who wants to make new friends, power up your brain, and enjoy a wide-variety college-level courses, Encore Learning is for you. An Arlington based nonprofit, Encore Learning offers courses in the arts, theater, literature, history, technology and more. This semester we offer our most popular course, Global Hot Spots as well as 25 new courses. Courses are presented either online or in-person at George Mason University at Virginia Square and other Arlington locations.
Join the free presentation to learn about courses and meet the instructors. This is Encore Learning’s signature event to highlight the upcoming semester with brief presentations by each instructor.
The Spring Course Preview event is Thursday, February 2nd at 9:30 AM via Zoom:
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