A “high adventure” ropes course that allows users to swing at the same level as treetops is one of several improvements set for Upton Hill Regional Park.
The park (6060 Wilson Blvd) in Seven Corners, will add a ropes course near its pool. The courses typically have sections constructed in trees or made of utility poles, and are designed to be a challenging activity. The park already has batting cages, mini golf, pools and trails.
In a presentation to the Arlington County Board last month, executive director Paul Gilbert of the Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority, which manages Upton Hill, said the “high adventure course” has been a priority of people surveyed in the park for two years.
“You’ll be able to go all the way up, essentially, to the tree line and get a stunning view out over Arlington from there,” he told the Board. “We’re really excited. We think this will be a signature feature, something that in Visit Arlington promotions, you’ll probably have pictures of people up there and the wonderful views.”
In addition, that area of the park near the existing swimming pool is set for a new building to handle ticket sales for the course and the batting cages, with a section of that new structure available to rent for private events. The area would also get new outdoor seating and 91 new parking spaces.
Meanwhile, the area of the park near its entrance from Wilson Blvd is also set for a revamp. Gilbert said NOVA Parks will add a “high-end” playground, renovate the bathroom building and add new trails, seating areas and game tables.
Gilbert added that the authority is looking to add more lighting, and build a new entrance off Wilson Blvd with a small parking lot at its base, with the current driveway changed for trail use.
“It will be a very dynamic, interesting area,” Gilbert said, noting the authority’s desire to make that part of the park “sort of more of an urban place to hang out.”
But the $3 million plan has already come in for criticism from some quarters. Local activist Suzanne Smith Sundberg said not enough has been done to assess the impact on the park’s trees, planning for transportation needs has been inadequate, and there is a lack of transparency in the way NOVA Parks collected its survey data.
“By adding a new driveway, with an additional curb cut on Wilson Blvd, plus nearly an acre of paved parking, NVRPA will degrade one of the few remaining natural areas in Arlington County,” she wrote.
She added that more should have been done to engage with those who live in the nearby buildings like the Patrick Henry Apartments and the Seven Corners Apartments, among others.
“Whereas I sympathize with NVRPA’s need to generate more revenue, monetizing scarce natural land by converting it into developed land (particularly in an area that is already heavily developed) seems like a very high price to pay for a questionable gain,” Sundberg wrote in a lengthy email provided to ARLnow.com. “Without more precise information, it is difficult to see how this project makes sense from an environmental or economic standpoint as currently envisioned.”
For his part, Gilbert said the project will not interrupt natural resources already in the park. The plan still needs approval from the Virginia Department of Transportation — which controls Wilson Blvd near the park — as well as site plan approval from the county.
Images 1-3 via NOVA Parks presentation.