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Plans for Bluemont Park focus on tennis facilities and natural flood prevention

(Updated at 9:50 a.m.) Upgraded tennis facilities and greater flood prevention are two focal points in proposed upgrades to the upper area of Bluemont Park.

Last month, Arlington County released new designs revealing its plans for the public park, informed by public engagement over the last three years.

It is soliciting feedback on the newest draft through next Thursday, April 20. Respondents are asked how satisfied they are with the concept, on a scale of 1 to 10, and to share any additional feedback.

The upper section of Bluemont Park is set to get new tennis courts and other amenities for players and spectators, as well as a building with restrooms, picnic furnishings, a resurfaced parking lot and more native shrubs and trees.

“Our project team focused on three key areas: improved recreational amenities, improved access and safety for vehicles and pedestrians, as well as, of course, protecting and enhancing natural resources,” said Adam Segel-Moss, a communications specialist with the parks department, in a video explaining the project.

Upper Bluemont Park renovation plans (via Arlington County)

The number of tennis courts will stay the same, at nine, but they will be spread farther apart and raised about a foot so they do not flood. There will be shaded areas for players and coaches, a stand-alone brick practice wall and more places for spectators.

Three courts intended for special events will be wider than the others, with two dedicated shade areas and fencing separating them from other courts.

Several residents in previous public engagement sessions requested less paved area and more trees to mitigate flooding that has impacted the area, such as the flash flooding in July 2019.

In response, a county presentation highlights an overall decrease in paved surfaces of about 12% and a net increase of 91 trees. A new “reforestation area” between the courts and Four Mile Run, where native shrubs and trees will be planted, will see a 52% decrease in paved surface.

To decrease runoff from the parking lot, the county is also exploring the use of planting beds for pavement runoff and permeable paving, says Segel-Moss. Site-wide, plans call for more stormwater management and drainage, something that the “reforestation area” will naturally help with.

“Reforestation will assist with filtering pollutants and reduce volume of stormwater runoff and prevent erosion and perform other important biological and ecological functions such as carbon sequestration,” Segel-Moss said.

Other upgrades include moving the parking lot entrance farther south on N. Manchester Street to improve safety and circulation. The current entrance is close to the intersection of N. Manchester Street and Wilson Blvd, causing a “pinch point,” according to the plans.

While the number of parking spaces will remain the same, at 68, the spaces will be repainted at a 90-degree angle, which Segel-Moss said is “much more efficient” than the current angling of the spaces.

The reforestation area, meanwhile, will also get new picnic tables and seating areas “to ensure this amenity can be enjoyed by every park visitor whether they play tennis or not,” he said.

The design process is set to wrap up at the end of 2023 with construction beginning in the later half of 2024 and wrapping up a little more than a year after that, per a project webpage.

Some have supported multi-use courts permitting play of the increasingly popular — and contentious — sport of pickleball. While the county is preparing to stripe more tennis courts for this sport, Bluemont Park is not in the running.

County staff told the Bluemont Civic Association last fall that the courts “are meant to be Arlington’s premier tennis facility,” but they would talk to Bluemont residents about possibly adding pickleball uses at the Bon Air Park tennis court across the street, per a civic association newsletter.

Project timeline for Bluemont Park renovations (via Arlington County)

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