Arlington, VA

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 October 16, ARLnow reported on the Department of Parks and Recreation’s (DPR’s) proposed project at Bluemont Park (601 N. Manchester Street).

In the article, the county explained more about the renovations, writing that:

“The goal of this Parks Maintenance Capital project is to replace the tennis court complex, lighting, restroom/storage, shelter, parking lot, site circulation, section of Four Mile Run Trail, site furnishing, drainage and landscaping in the Upper Bluemont area.”

The County has scheduled a meeting on Tuesday, October 29, 7-8:30 p.m., at Ashlawn Elementary School (5950 8th Road North) to enable the public to comment on DPR’s current plans for Bluemont Park upgrades.

Some DPR park upgrade proposals make sense and should be pursued.

As Boulevard Manor Civic Association President Chris Tighe noted in a comment to the ARLnow.com story:

“The [tennis] courts are indeed in bad shape due to large cracks, water damage, and unlevel playing surface. […] The gazebo structure is also in dire need of rehabilitation.”

DPR should be commended for planning and responding appropriately to maintenance concerns like these.

According to a County Bluemont survey, most respondents asked for upkeep, lighting and benches.

The survey drew around 350 responses when it asked for suggestions on what should be changed in the park. The majority of responses asked the County to:

  • Preserve and plant more trees
  • Resurface the tennis courts to fix cracks and improve drainage
  • Improve lighting, and add more light poles near the baseball diamond
  • Install more benches at the tennis courts and elsewhere
  • Better maintain the restrooms and water fountains by the picnic shelter

The current parking lot does not need to be replaced

Other proposed DPR “upgrades” are overkill and should be cancelled; the money saved should be redirected to higher priority, better uses.

Contrary to DPR’s current plans, the existing parking lot at Bluemont Park simply needs resurfacing, and it would be a waste of our tax dollars to replace it entirely.

As the image to the left illustrates, the parking lot is level and the existing pavement is in reasonably good shape.

Also, County policy has consistently reduced off-street parking requirements and emphasized shared parking arrangements.

The existing tennis-court footprint doesn’t need expansion

The needed tennis-court repairs should be made within the existing tennis-court footprint; the site is already built out, and the existing footprint should not be expanded.

The recently completed Public Spaces Master Plan documents a substantial surplus of tennis courts in Arlington. In our severely land-constrained County, it makes no sense to waste our scarce bond capacity and limited tax dollars to expand the tennis courts in flood-prone Bluemont Park.

Redirect money saved from foregoing unnecessary proposed “upgrades” to fund needed environmental enhancements that support flood resilience

The survey’s apparent top response supports preserving existing trees and planting more trees (in other words, preserving the remaining natural areas that occupy a small portion of the existing site today). This directly conflicts with DPR staff’s plans — even though this flood-prone area contains a FEMA floodplain, an above-ground stream, and a Resource Protection Area (RPA).

Several survey respondents asked the County to address stormwater runoff concerns with trees, more pervious surfaces, and underground drainage features. “Drainage has been a major problem this past year, with all the rain,”one resident wrote in a survey response. “The open space has had times when it was an impassable marsh.”

Preserving mature trees, minimizing land disturbance and reducing impervious surfaces should be the top priorities to ensure that this flood-prone area provides maximum absorption of flood/stormwater while minimizing the financial investment in a highly vulnerable area where future flood-related losses are almost certain.

Conclusion

Whereas parts of this proposed DPR project make sense and should be pursued, other parts are overkill and waste our tax dollars. These other parts should be eliminated from the proposal.

DPR project design should be informed by listening and responding to residents’ top concerns, while also working within known site constraints to address chronic problems like flooding.

Prioritizing wish lists of special interest groups and pursuing unnecessary “enhancements” to park infrastructure at the expense of the environment, the public interest and the County’s financial constraints does a disservice to everyone.

Peter Rousselot previously served as Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission (FAAC) to the Arlington County Board and as Co-Chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction (ACI) to the Arlington School Board. He is also a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) and a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). He currently serves as a board member of the Together Virginia PAC-a political action committee dedicated to identifying, helping and advising Democratic candidates in rural Virginia.

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