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County to award small-scale park and street improvements throughout Arlington

The next batch of neighborhood-level improvement projects is headed to the Arlington County Board for approval.

These include installing new LED streetlights along 35th Street N. in the Rock Spring neighborhood, fixing a missing sidewalk link along a street in Alcova Heights, and improving two parks — one in South Arlington and one in North Arlington.

The four were winnowed down from nearly 60 prospective projects. Of them, one — improvements to Baileys Branch Park in Columbia Forest — meets new equity criteria that the Arlington Neighborhoods Program says it has started using to evaluate worthy projects.

Location of neighborhood projects set for County Board approval (via Arlington County)

For three decades, this program has served as a community-driven process by which residents can identify small-scale infrastructure projects that are vetted and then recommended to the Arlington County Board for approval. A long-standing criticism has been that this process favored wealthier neighborhoods where residents had the time, resources and connections to be more civically engaged.

Last year, the Arlington Neighborhoods Advisory Committee struck “conservation” from its name, saying it connotes exclusivity, and added equity criteria to how it evaluates projects. At the start of this year, the Arlington County Board welcomed these changes to “embrace equity.”

The new criteria are two-fold: first, whether the neighborhood has a high population of people of color, and second, whether it has high rates of poverty and lower rates of higher education, homeownership and English proficiency.

“The equity considerations are a work in progress and will be evaluated and refined as needed over time,” per the report.

Neighborhood Conservation projects from 1989 to 2019 compared to neighborhoods with high and low populations of people of color (via Arlington County)

More details about the project are as follows.

  • 35th Street N. from Little Falls Road to Williamsburg Blvd, in Rock Spring, is going to get new, “cobra-style” LED streetlights for $268,710. Road safety is a particular concern in this part of residential North Arlington. This stretch is a few blocks from where Washington-Liberty High School student Braylon Meade was killed by a teen accused of drunk driving.
  • Bailey’s Branch Park (990 S. Columbus Street), a 2-acre park with a playground and green space in Columbia Forest, will get $750,000 in improvements, including the removal of invasive plants, additional native trees and plantings, new site furnishings and park signage.
  • After invasive plants are removed from Thrifton Hill Park, new site furnishings, a picnic shelter and potentially, a dog run will be added. This will cost $985,000. The park at 2814 23rd Street N. in the Maywood neighborhood has trails and provides access to Custis Trail.
  • A missing sidewalk link, with crosswalks and ramps that are accessible to people with disabilities will be installed along a 200-feet stretch of 7th Street S., near where it curves and intersects with 8th Street S. in the Alcova Heights neighborhood. This street improvement will cost $342,741.

The recommended projects went through the standard public engagement process for Arlington Neighborhoods Program, according to the county report, described as a “collaborative effort that seeks input from residents and civic associations on concept designs.”

The Rock Spring and Alcova Heights projects went through a two-step petitioning effort for affected residents and received the necessary support to qualify.

“The Columbia Forest and Maywood park projects were approved by their civic associations at one of their advertised meetings,” the report says. “All four civic associations continue to support each of the projects in their respective neighborhoods.”

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