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.
On Oct. 24, Arlington County posted on its website the latest draft of its proposed Public Spaces Master Plan (PSMP), or POPS plan (Plan for Our Places and Spaces).
The POPS plan will guide all Arlington park and recreational planning decisions for the next 20 years.
The latest POPS draft incorporates highly inflated quantitative estimates of present and future demand for sports fields.
After the 2017 POPS draft was posted, Arlington residents sought information to understand the plan. The Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) refused to provide many kinds of data and answers, so residents launched a series of FOIA requests in December 2017.
By late Spring 2018, DPR had produced a lot, but not all, of its data regarding field supply and demand. Those data demonstrate that a remarkable amount of inefficiency and mismanagement have resulted in a very large amount of unused field capacity. Further details are available here.
Despite the large discrepancy between DPR’s own supply/demand data and the public POPS recommendations, DPR continues to defend to the public, to the POPS Advisory Committee, and to the County Board that the POPS recommendations are valid because DPR is using a valid methodology which DPR has called a “Population Based LOS.” (LOS = Level of Service.)
While a properly performed estimate of Population Based LOS is indeed one methodology used to estimate park needs, DPR’s own expert consultants state that a properly performed LOS should be based on current and future supply/demand data. Their methodology statement was provided to DPR but was not made part of the POPS document.
Not only did DPR fail to incorporate that necessary data, it failed to tell the public that it had not done so. Further details are available here.
Approving erroneous supply/demand estimates is destined to misallocate land and tens of millions of Arlington taxpayer dollars
The POPS plan is intended to guide quantitative park and recreational decisions for 20 years. Therefore, basing that final plan on the erroneous and incomplete LOS recommendations will result in the misallocation of tens of millions of tax dollars and hamper efforts to meet residents’ needs.
That misallocation is destined to occur because in any subsequent proceedings, e.g., to develop an individual park’s master plan or whether to make investments (e.g., add synthetic turf or lights), it is inevitable that DPR and advocates for such investments will rely on the erroneous POPS quantitative estimates to justify those decisions.
In response to the concerns raised, some County Board members have suggested that subsequent individual park planning could consider a single facility’s usage to determine its need or new investment. However, county-wide demand needs to be determined in a county-wide proceeding.
It is completely impractical for any large park facility decision to be developed solely within its own park boundaries, ignoring the capacity of nearby and county-wide facilities (e.g., a decision to add synthetic turf to one field, while another field that could be used has enough excess capacity). Further details are available here http://parks4everyone.org/population-based-level-of-service/.
The best solution to the present situation is to:
- remove the erroneous quantitative estimates for sports field demand from the final POPS plan
- commence a new, independent and transparent process to:
- develop new quantitative estimates of county-wide supply/demand for sports fields
- replace the county’s current field scheduling system with a real-time, web-based system