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Arlington’s own chainsaw art competitor has completed his latest carving.

Local chainsaw artist Andrew Mallon recently unveiled his newest work of art on the front lawn of a home in the Ashton Heights neighborhood.

The work, near the intersection of Pershing Drive and N. Monroe Street, is entitled “Sunshine and Moonlight — The Oak at Pershing and Monroe.” It depicts a rising sun and moon with an Art Deco motif.

It came out to be sort of a stately, subdued representation,” Jim Roberts, who commissioned Mallon to do the piece for his home that he’s lived in for 44 years, told ARLnow. “It’s just a beautiful piece of artwork.”

Mallon can currently be seen on the Discovery reality TV competition show “A Cut Above,” going against some of the world’s best chainsaw artists. He has made it through the first five weeks and even won a wood bug carving event that aired earlier in October. The next episode airs on Sunday. The entire competition series is 12 weeks, so more than half of the episodes remain.

While Mallon is chainsawing wood every week for a national audience, this particular project was extra special for him. That’s because he grew up in the Ashton Heights neighborhood and has known the Roberts family for decades.

“We knew him when he was a seven or eight-year-old and on the [Fort Myer] swim team with our girls. At the time, he sorta viewed Andrew as family,” said Roberts. “This was our opportunity to give him a chance to show off his artwork.”

The idea came when Roberts and his wife, Marilyn, had a 12-foot oak tree in the front yard of their house that needed to be taken down due to safety reasons. While they regretted needing to take the tree down, they also saw it as an opportunity.

They contacted Mallon and collaborated with him to come up with the concept of “Sunshine and Moonlight.” For the artist, as well, this project held additional meaning.

“It’s always a pleasure doing for people I know. Any time, I get to be back in my hometown neighborhood, it’s just a blessing,” Mallon told ARLnow. “To be able to fill that neighborhood with my work where I grew up and used to run around and play, it really means a lot to me.”

“Sunshine and Moonlight” in Ashton Heights (photo courtesy of Jim Roberts)

It took him about five days of work to complete the carving and, for a lot of it, he had an audience. People came “dozens at a time,” said Roberts, to watch the artist work. Both Mallon and Roberts didn’t mind it, though. It gave the homeowner a chance to meet and catch up with neighbors, while Mallon says he’s used to it and “really enjoys” a crowd.

“It brought the neighborhood together,” said Roberts.

Roberts loved watching the artist work as well, particularly when he got into carving the sun’s and moon’s details. But he did worry about the noise and mess.

“It was extremely loud and I had to apologize to my neighbors,” he said. “But they understood and appreciated [the artwork].”

There was also a lot of sawdust and the couple had to hire a landscaper to remove “hundreds of pounds” of sawdust and wood.

But the final product came out great, according to everyone. Roberts calls the work a “masterpiece” and a “tribute to the neighborhood.” Mallon said he thought it turned out “spectacular.”

As for Mallon’s run on “A Cut Above,” he can’t share much due to the show still being in the middle of the competition series. He did say that one of the biggest challenges was quickly coming up with something unique and creative for each competition. When he’s working on an individual project, there’s often more time to work through a design and not the added pressure of needing to finish in a set period of time.

Also, being away from home was tough. He has young children and most of his work is in the region, so it’s rare he has to be away from home for long. Mallon does recommend to keep watching the show because it “has some twists to it.”

Roberts hopes that “Sunshine and Moonlight” become an Ashton Heights landmark and part of his legacy — as well as Mallon’s.

Said Roberts, “We wanted it to be something that he could be proud of and something that he would want all of his neighbors, former neighbors, and everybody to see.”

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Mark Riley as Chief Turkey (photo courtesy of Arlington Turkey Trot)

Arlington Forest native Mark Riley has been managing the Arlington Turkey Trot for a decade and enjoys being called “Chief Turkey.”

“It’s fun. And if you are having fun, you can do great things,” Riley (or Chief Turkey) told ARLnow. “If you are not having fun, it’s very difficult to get people to want to do anything.”

The annual Thanksgiving 5K is set to take place on Thursday, Nov. 24 at 8 a.m. this year, starting on N. Pershing Drive in Lyon Park. The race is likely returning to the course — through the Lyon Park and Ashton Heights neighborhoods — that was run prior to the pandemic, per the event’s website.

Wherever this year’s race may trot through, Riley plans to be there donning a turkey costume as he has since 2013.

“This community loves to get together in a festive, heartening, helpful, friendly, joyous atmosphere. [The turkey trot] has become a tradition in Arlington County over the years,” Riley said. “People keep coming over, over, and over again. They bring their kids. Then, the kids who grow up bring their kids. And it just keeps going on and on.”

The Arlington Turkey Trot was first started in 2006 by Christ Church of Arlington Pastor Brian Webster and his wife Diane. That first run had about 300 joggers, runners, and walkers. This year’s race is expected to attract about 4,000 trotters and raise about $120,000 for assorted local charities, equivalent to pre-pandemic numbers.

Riley said that initially the trot only supported a few organizations, but last year they expanded the number of charities that received funds to 18. Those include Path Forward, Arlington Thrive, R.E.A.D., Phoenix Bikes, and others.

“A number of nonprofits, typically smaller budgeted non-profits, have been knocking on [our] door to say we want to be included,” said Riley. “We did not know how to say no to any of them. So, we included them all.”

For his work over the years, Riley is being presented with a “Spirit of Community” award by the Arlington Community Foundation next week. The acknowledgment had him “tearing up,” he said because it’s a reminder of how passionate the community is about helping others.

There was some gobbling that Riley may be hanging up his feathers as the Chief Turkey after this year’s race, but he said those rumors are fowl.

Yes, 2021 was particularly tough due to the lingering impact of Covid and a shortage of police officers, but this year has proven ​​Riley still has the energy of a poult. With a bit of extra support and taking on fewer tasks, he said that the plan is to keep on gobbling as Chief Turkey “for the foreseeable future.”

Besides being able to provide for those less fortunate in the community, what Riley really loves about the trot is seeing the joy it brings so many people. On often-chilly Thanksgiving mornings, watching families run together and kids darting across the finish line fills him with warm feelings.

Adding to the good vibes, every kid that finishes gets a medal.

“The thing that really resonates for [me] when I think of the trot is… joy. I think of joy probably more than anything else,” Riley said. “People who have big, joyous smiles on their faces. They love the turkey trot.”

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The residents of N. Jackson Street in Ashton Heights have again outdone themselves.

The street, which traditionally hosts some of the most elaborate Halloween decorations in Arlington, scaled back its festivities during the pandemic but does not seem to be holding back this year, with witches, pumpkins, skeletons and ghosts galore.

“Halloween is a treasured tradition in our community,” Scott Sklar, president of the Ashton Heights Civic Association, told ARLnow in 2020.

Those who want to view the spooky street in its full frightful foliage can walk the blocks between Wilson Blvd and N. Pershing Drive, which are not far from both the Clarendon and Virginia Square Metro stations.

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A local chainsaw artist made his buzzy debut on a new reality TV show last night.

Ashton Heights native Andrew Mallon is a contestant on the Discovery competition show “A Cut Above,” in which some of the best chainsaw wood carvers in the world compete against one another.

“The competition will test contestants’ artistry, stamina, and carving skills. Each week, the carvers will compete in Quick and Master Carve challenges while racing against the clock in hopes of avoiding elimination,” reads a description of the show. “At the end of the grueling twelve-week competition, the artist who out-carves the rest will win a cash prize and be named ‘A Cut Above.'”

The show debuted last night at 10 p.m. on the Discovery Channel and, yes, Mallon did make it to the next round, so he will continue to carve in the weeks ahead.

Mallon was contacted to be on the show a few years ago, pre-Covid, by the show’s producers, he told ARLnow. They shot the show earlier this year.

Mallon is known locally for his playful tree carving in Oak Grove Park near Washington-Liberty High School as well as carvings at a number of private residences in Arlington. That includes a bear, an owl, a dragon, and a scene from Greek mythology. He first started carving about a decade ago while working as a carpenter and remodeling houses in Arlington.

“And I just started whittling on pencils. From there, I learned [how] to do it,” Mallon told ARLnow. “Then, I started whittling on some pieces of wood. But I thought that it took too long and… really wanted to do it faster. And I saw some people on tv doing it with a chainsaw and thought ‘Hey, I could do that.'”

A majority of his work is commissioned by private citizens, including many Arlington residents, who have trees that may have fallen or died in their yards. He calls these “stump jobs” and they typically take about four days to complete.

Like a lot of wood carvers, Mallon often finds himself creating “critters” that live in the area like foxes, raccoons, owls, and hawks.

“You’d be surprised by how much detail I can get with a chainsaw,” he said. “I can put hair on a horse and fur on a bear.”

Recently, he’s been doing more “abstract” carvings — a style that has been more in vogue locally.

“I take it to another level where I carve it really far with a chainsaw and then I come back with a sander and sand it really smooth. It makes a lot of my pieces really elegant,” he said. “Most of what I use are large trees… it just lends itself to a beautiful product.”

For those who want to see the newly-minted television star in action, Mallon is currently working on a carving at a private residence near the intersection of N. Pershing Drive and N. Monroe Street in his home neighborhood of Ashton Heights. He says folks are welcome to stop by to watch him work. Mallon is also in the midst of planning a potential new sculpture in Lyon Park.

For those who may want to take up the art of chainsaw wood carving, Mallon’s advice is to “just go for it.”

“Chainsaw is just another tool in the hand,” he said. “Just learn the rules of the tool and… give it a shot.”

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Driving west on Wilson Blvd from Clarendon, there’s a new addition to the landscape near Mario’s Pizza: a large cement block wall.

The wall is the rear of a new CVS going up along the 3330 block of Wilson Blvd, the former site of the Highlander Motor Inn. The nearly 20-foot-tall, windowless monolith is oriented so that it faces the street. The entrance to the new CVS is set for N. Kenmore Street.

The large blank wall has already attracted the ire of some residents. ARLnow recently received emails from several locals calling the structure an “eyesore,” a “failure,” and “The Great Wall of Clarendon.”

This all comes after a multi-year legal battle that included an unsuccessful appeal by Arlington County to the Virginia Supreme Court. It ended with the county being handcuffed in terms of regulating what’s built at the site.

“The design for this project shows a solid wall fronting on Wilson Blvd. The store frontage will be on N. Kenmore St,” a Department of Community, Planning and Housing Development spokesperson told ARLnow. “This project is occurring through by-right development; therefore there are no Zoning requirements for the orientation of buildings or structures. In addition, the County is limited in its overall regulation of by-right development projects.”

For more than five decades, the 3330 block of Wilson Blvd was the home of the Highlander motel, owned by the family of local businessman Billy Bayne.

In 2015, Bayne made the decision to lease the land to CVS, which planned to build a new store and pharmacy. However, there were complications to the deal, with the county balking at allowing the existing parking lot on N. Kenmore Street to be used again for parking.

Decisions were appealed several times before a circuit judge ruled that Bayne, as owner, was allowed to do what he wished with the property. The case was denied consideration by the state’s top court after a series of appeals.

Bayne, who also owns the Crystal City Gentlemen’s Club and Restaurant, claimed he lost nearly $2 million while the project stalled.

“It’s not okay to do this to somebody,” Bayne said in 2018. “There will be ramifications for this.”

He ended up suing the county for civil rights violations in 2019, but the suit was ultimately dismissed.

The project moved forward, with the motel closing early last year before being torn down. Before it shuttered, though, Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services rented out the hotel as a Covid quarantine location. While it probably didn’t resolve all animosity, the county thanked Bayne as someone who “really stepped up and helped” during a time of crisis.

But now it is neighbors in the Ashton Heights and Virginia Square area who are upset with what’s being done to the property.

“After the long court battle with the owner of the Highlander, CVS is throwing its ‘f you very much’ by placing a blank wall along Wilson Boulevard,” one resident told ARLnow. “Can’t wait for the future graffiti — I mean, community arts project!”

“There is no other commercial enterprise on Wilson Blvd in the area that presents so brazenly (or more likely thoughtlessly) a facade that is so grossly inconsistent with the urban ‘smart growth’ model,” another resident wrote, calling it “unfit… for this area.”

ARLnow reached out to CVS about the wall and received the following response.

“A new CVS Pharmacy store is currently under construction on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington and is expected to be completed by the end of 2022. The wall that is currently facing Wilson Boulevard will be part of the permanent structure and is included in the overall construction and design plan approved by Arlington development officials,” a CVS spokesperson said.

So, the “Great Wall of Clarendon” is apparently here to stay and there isn’t much the county or residents can do at this point.

“It could be a major eyesore on the street for the next 30 to 40 years,” said a local resident.

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Long-time Ashton Heights resident Trudy Ensign was happy to talk about a lot of things during her 101 years. She loved to paint, bowl, watch the Washington Nationals, and was a constant presence at Clarendon United Methodist Church.

But there was one thing that she never talked about: Being an intelligence analyst for the United States Army during World War II.

“No, never,” chuckles Jane Brown, Ensign’s daughter. “Even when stuff started becoming redacted or public knowledge.”

Gertrude Carley Brown Ensign died on February 28, but this past weekend a memorial service was held in her honor at the church on N. Irving Street.

During the eulogy, Reverend Tracy McNeil Wines told all those sitting in the pews paying their respects what Ensign never would.

“She used her intelligence to gain intelligence for our nation,” Wines said. “And… we enjoyed having this secret spy woman in our midst.”

Ensign was born in Iowa in 1920, lived through the Great Depression there, and was recruited out of college by the Army Security Agency (a precursor to the National Security Agency) to move to the D.C. area to help with the war effort.

She was stationed at Arlington Hall, like so many others in the Women’s Army Corps. While she wasn’t a famed “Code Girl,” Ensign undoubtedly supported their efforts.

“She knew Morse code, so [the Army] literally sent her all over the world, to Panama, Japan, Hawaii. During the Vietnam War, she worked at the [Arlington] base too,” Brown tells ARLnow. “She was the highest grade civilian woman when she retired. It was a big deal and she got all of these awards.”

In 2018, Arlington Public Library’s Center for Local History interviewed Ensign about her time working for the Army and living in Arlington in the mid-20th century.

After the war, she stayed in Arlington, got married, bought a house in Ashton Heights, and had two children.

For decades, Ensign was deeply involved in the Arlington community. She was known to hand out sandwiches in the Central Library parking lot to those in need, supporting the work of A-SPAN (now, PathForward). She was president of the Maury School PTA and was a Girl Scouts troop leader, serving alongside Annie Glenn.

And she alway made time for her church. She was the membership secretary of Clarendon United Methodist for years. As former Reverend Eugene Thomas noted at the memorial service to laughs, Ensign always knew who was at Sunday services — and who wasn’t.

In September 2020, the Ashton Heights community celebrated the resident’s 100th birthday with a socially-distanced parade, signs, and well-wishes. Her positive thinking, enthusiasm, and sense of humor was on full display sitting in front of her long-time home.

“Somebody may be looking at this real estate,” she told ARLnow at the time, laughing. “But I think I’ll keep telling them how the roof leaks and they’ll go someplace else.”

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Arlington Festival Of The Arts crowd shot from 2016 (Courtesy Howard Alan Events)

If you like the arts, 5Ks or family- and earth-friendly events, Arlington is the place to be this weekend.

Three separate events in the county will make it bit harder to get around by car.

The Arlington Festival of the Arts will take pace on Saturday and Sunday (April 23-24), shutting down several roads in the Clarendon area. The outdoor event offers art for display and sale over several blocks, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

The Arlington County Police Department announced the following road closures for the event.

The following roads will be closed from approximately 3:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 23 through 9:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 24:

  • N. Highland Street will be closed from Wilson Boulevard to 13th Street N. Local traffic will be allowed to access the public parking garage to 3033 Wilson Blvd.
  • N. Hartford Street will be closed from N. Highland Street to 13th Street N. Local traffic will be able to access the parking garage for 1210 N. Highland Street.
  • The alleyway between N. Herndon Street and N. Hartford Street will be closed at N. Hartford Street

Meanwhile, starting at 6 a.m. Saturday morning, the Bunny Hop 5k Race will close streets in the Ashton Heights and Lyon Park neighborhoods. The race kicks off at 8 a.m. and involves the following road closures, according to ACPD.

The following roadways will be closed in order to accommodate the event:

From approximately 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

  • N. Irving Street, between 7th Street N. and 5th Street N.

From approximately 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

  • N. Irving Street, between 2nd Road N. and 5th Street N.
  • N. Pershing Drive, between N. Piedmont Street and N. Edgewood Street
  • N. Fillmore Street, between 3rd Street N. and Pershing Drive
  • N. Garfield Street, between Pershing Drive and 3rd Street N.
  • 4th Street N., between N. Fillmore Street and N. Garfield Street
  • 2nd Road N., between N. Irving Street and the Columbia Gardens Cemetery

A portion of the course winds through the Columbia Gardens Cemetery.  The Cemetery will be closed to vehicular traffic and have a delayed opening at 10:00 a.m.

Finally, on Sunday, the 2022 Earth Day Every Day Festival will be held off Langston Blvd in front of the Lee Heights Shops. The event will include various family activities, live music, sidewalk sales, food and drink specials, and its own art market.

“Let’s come together as a community to celebrate the beauty and promise of our local environment and the planet,” says the website for the Earth Day event. “Every year, communities worldwide uplift Earth Day to mark the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. It reminds us all to do what we can, in ways small and significant, restore, conserve and protect our environment.”

From ACPD:

The 2022 Earth Day Every Day Festival will take place on Sunday, April 24, 2022 and will be held from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The following roadways will be closed from approximately 8:00 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. in order to accommodate the festival:

  • Cherry Hill Road, between N. Woodstock Street and N. Woodrow Street
  • Northbound N. Woodrow Street, between 20th Road N. and Cherry Hill Road will be restricted to local traffic only

Additional Information

Community members should expect to see an increased police presence in the area around these events, and motorists are urged to follow law enforcement direction, be mindful of closures, and remain alert for increased pedestrian traffic. Additional closures not mentioned above may be implemented at police discretion in the interest of public safety.

Residents of the affected neighborhood areas will be escorted through the road closures to minimize the impacts on the community, only when safe to do so. Motorists should be on the lookout for temporary “No parking” signs, as street parking in the area around these events will be limited. Illegally parked vehicles may be ticketed or towed. If your vehicle is towed from a public street, call the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222.

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Jefferson Apartment Group has filed plans to redevelop the Clarendon Wells Fargo site with offices, retail space and apartments.

The company proposes to build a 128-foot tall, 12-story structure with 238 apartments, nearly 67,000 square feet of office space, about 34,500 square feet of ground-floor retail and 244 parking spaces across a two-level, below-grade garage.

The bank at 3140 Washington Blvd is situated on a parcel bordered by N. Irving Street and N. Hudson Street. Next door is the 97,000-square foot Verizon building at 1025 N. Irving Street.

Jefferson proposes only to redevelop the bank property for now. Wells Fargo — the seller of the property at 3140 Washington Blvd — is requiring the developer to keep the bank open for business during construction.

“The project must take a phased permitting and construction approach, first constructing a new bank branch on the northwest corner of the site, followed by demolishing the existing Wells Fargo building and constructing the new mixed-use building once Wells Fargo is operational in the new bank branch building,” writes Sara Mariska, an attorney for the project.

Including the Verizon site in the overall plan will “facilitate development of the Wells Fargo property, while also facilitating preservation of critical telecommunications infrastructure on the Verizon property,” Mariska continues.

The Verizon site “is not going to redevelop any time soon,” noted Brett Wallace, a county planner, during an Arlington Committee of 100 discussion about Clarendon area development projects on Wednesday.

The new filing comes comes a week before the Arlington County Board is set to consider adopting an update to the 2006 Clarendon Sector Plan, which targets the western portion of the neighborhood. The Committee of 100 panelists discussed the plan and potential changes to the area.

The sector plan update was precipitated by multiple property owners expressing a “strong interest” in redevelopment around the Clarendon Metro station area, Jennifer K. Smith, a county planning supervisor, told attendees.

Forthcoming developments include: the Silver Diner/The LotJoyce Motors and Wells Fargo/Verizon sites, as well as projects proposed by the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, the YMCA and George Mason University.

Clarendon Sector Plan update area (via Arlington County)

“The process would provide an opportunity to showcase preliminary proposals that were being contemplated and share them in a broad way with all the civic associations and other stakeholders who may be reviewing those individually over time,” she said. “Some of the developers were seeking alternatives that diverged from sector plan guidance and zoning regulations that apply in this area and [Planning Commissioners] wanted to provide forum for review and consideration of those potential changes or divergences from the sector plan.”

She added that the county felt “it was important that we consult with the community on new ideas to meet public facility and public space needs going into the future.”

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Two cats were rescued by firefighters after a smoky fire inside a local apartment building.

The fire broke out Sunday afternoon at the Ballston Park apartment complex in Ashton Heights.

“On April 10th at around 4:15 p.m. units from the Arlington County Fire Department were dispatched to a reported structure fire in the 3900 block of 5th Street N.,” ACFD spokesman Capt. Nate Hiner tells ARLnow. “Units quickly arrived on scene and found smoke [coming] from the second floor of a two-story apartment building.”

“The fire was quickly knocked down and contained to the apartment of origin,” said Hiner. “Two pets were rescued from an adjacent apartment, and the fire remains under investigation.”

The pets that were rescued were cats, according to scanner traffic. The fire broke out on a busy day for ACFD that included a large response to a car fire behind a restaurant in Courthouse.

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Trapped coyote that was freed by animal control officers (photo courtesy Animal Welfare League of Arlington)

(Updated at 11:40 a.m.) Coyote sightings are not uncommon in Arlington, but it’s also not every day that a coyote gets stuck in someone’s yard.

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington says its animal control officers were able to free a coyote that recently became stuck between two fences.

In a social media post, AWLA said the frightened coyote was able to run away unharmed after being being freed.

When two local residents went out to see what their dogs were both barking at near their fence line, they were NOT expecting to find a coyote stuck in between their fences! Thankfully, they called us right away and Officer Elpers was able to safely maneuver him out and he ran away unharmed. While residents don’t spot coyotes often in Arlington, they are naturalized to the area. If you catch a glimpse of a coyote in your neighborhood, there’s no need to be alarmed, but you can always give us a call if you spot an animal that is injured or in distress!

The coyote incident happened south of Clarendon, well away from Arlington’s more wooded areas.

“It was on the border of the Lyon Park and Ashton Heights neighborhoods,” AWLA spokeswoman Chelsea Jones tells ARLnow.

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(Updated at 11:20 p.m.) Arlington County police are investigating a possible shooting in the Ashton Heights neighborhood near Ballston.

The investigation seems to be centered around the intersection of N. Piedmont Street and 5th Street N., about two blocks from Mosaic Park to the north and the Buckingham Center shopping strip to the south.

The gunfire happened around 3:45 p.m. Multiple people called 911 to report hearing 2-3 shots fired and seeing an SUV fleeing from the scene, along with a man fleeing on foot, according to scanner traffic.

So far no injuries have been reported, but officers say they found some broken glass, potentially from the SUV’s back window.

Photo via Google Maps

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