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Peter’s Take: Choose Option 2 for Jennie Dean Park

Peter’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.

Arlington’s Jennie Dean Park is named after Jennie Serepta Dean:

“A former slave, Dean … was a skilled fund-raiser, securing money from African American and white donors in Virginia and in northern cities to support her plan to open a school that would teach skilled trades to young African Americans.”

As part of the Four Mile Run Valley planning process, the County Board has been asked to choose this month between two alternative concept design options for Jennie Dean Park.

Options 1 (PDF pp. 13-14) and 2 (PDF pp. 15-16) are portrayed in a County staff report.

If the Board must decide between these two options this month, the Board should choose Option 2.

Principles for decision

The most reliable evidence of Arlington residents’ county-wide preferences for parks and recreation improvements is captured in the cross-tabs of the statistically-valid ETC survey. Every age group, as well as every geographic group, even households with children, had the same top two choices for improving our park and recreation system:

    1. Preserve trees and natural areas
    2. Acquire new parkland for passive — as opposed to active — uses

Option 2 more accurately reflects Arlington residents’ preferences

As explained in a recent letter to the editor, the Nauck Civic Association, via its President Portia Clark, unanimously supports Option 2 because:

“[T]he front of Jennie Dean Park, the portion fronting the neighborhood at Four Mile Run Drive [FMRD], will be left open for casual use. We want this area to be a gateway for the community to enter the Park. We want it to be green. We want it to be landscaped. We want it to have flowers and trees and open space.”

Option 2 would ensure that both sports fields are more distant and face away from homes in Nauck. Jennie Dean Park is entirely (100 percent) located within the boundaries of the Nauck Civic Association.

Option 1 less accurately reflects Arlington residents’ preferences

The Shirlington & Douglas Park Civic Associations support Option 1. In an online petition these two civic associations argue that choosing Option 1 “will say a lot about whether [Arlington] is a progressive community interested in planning for the future of families in Arlington.” But, neither Option 1 nor Option 2 is more “progressive” or “family-friendly” than the other option.

Some organized sports groups also believe that Option 1 is preferable because Arlington ultimately may not be able to acquire the current WETA site to incorporate into Jennie Dean Park. But, interestingly, the only option that removes playing space is Option 1. Option 2 retains all of the amenities currently there with notable upgrades in Phase 1.

Finally, the impact of new high Kelvin LED lights on the Nauck neighborhood has been glossed over. The proposed smaller lighted youth softball field 75 feet from 4MRD would become the dominant feature of the park facing Nauck after sundown under Option 1. This option would still result in unacceptable light pollution affecting park users, including Nauck residents.

Conclusion

Although no data about the costs of either option have been presented to the County Board, there appears to be a belief that if Arlington doesn’t spend or commit the money by the end of this fiscal year it will be gone forever. That seems an odd assumption, but if it is correct, then the Board should choose Option 2.

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