Benjamin Banneker Park could open sometime before Christmas, about one year after work started and a few months behind schedule.
“We just have a few final items that we are working on,” said Arlington County Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish in an email. “When the park opens, you’ll find a bigger park.”
The new park is 1.8 acres larger, the W&OD and Four Mile Run trails are four feet wider, and the park’s amenities have been upgraded, she said. The $2.5 million project was given the green light in September 2019. Work started in December 2019 and was originally slated to finish in the third quarter of 2020, according to the project page.
“Due to COVID-19, the manufacture and shipping of the play equipment was delayed, necessitating the projected opening of the park to fourth quarter 2020,” said Erik Beach, a Parks and Recreation staff member, in an email.
The playground for children ages 2 to 12 got new equipment, including an obstacle balance course, rock climbing, and “soaring play towers with sky-high slides,” Kalish said.
The athletic field, meanwhile, has been expanded to the west to allow parts of the turf to rest while other parts are used, she said. Spectators will also find updated seating.
The parking lot was resurfaced and striped to improve connections between amenities and to make the dog park, fields and trail more accessible for people with disabilities. The two widened trails include a new pathway configuration around the playground, she said.
Upgrades to the picnic area include new seatings and furnishings, canopy trees and native plantings, and the dog park has new entrances and structures for dogs to explore.
While work has been ongoing, pedestrians and bicyclists using the W&OD trail had to take a detour to the busy intersection of N. Sycamore Street and 19th Street N.
After recent heavy rains, some residents have noted that part of the park tends to flood.
“Like most County parks, Benjamin Banneker Park is predominantly in a floodplain and there will always be lingering moisture due to the geographical nature of its location,” Kalish said.
But Beach said some of the drainage issues people saw during construction have been addressed as work finishes.
“Stormwater management and mitigation measures to treat pollutants include permeable pavement at the walkways and bench seating areas in the playground and a stormwater facility to treat runoff in the parking lot,” Kalish said.
These measures meet the state stormwater management requirements, and the site is graded and designed for water to flow towards Four Mile Run, she said.
Kalish said the department is still fixing a separate drainage issue in the playground’s sand pit, so the sand pit will not be available “for a bit” after the park opens.
“Once we have everything completed the park should run as smoothly as any park that in a floodplain,” she said.
Other mitigating efforts Kalish listed included planting more plant beds around the dog park, field and playground, and adding more than 600 sapling trees. A natural safety surface was installed in half of the playground area for better drainage.
“The County rejected some small areas of the safety surfacing installation, which has since been corrected,” Beach said.
A $2.6 million project to renovate Benjamin Banneker Park will close the park and a portion of the W&OD Trail starting the week after Thanksgiving.
The project, which was given the green light in September, will widen the trails from 8 to 12 feet and upgrade the athletic field, playground, picnic area, dog park and more.
“We are giving people a two week notice to make adjustments,” said Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish. “The trail and park will close December 3. We’ve provided detour recommendations on sandwich boards around the park as well as online. We are putting up a banner at the dog park directing people to the web to find an alternative dog park.”
Not everyone is happy about the trail detour, which will redirect pedestrian and bike traffic from the park — near the East Falls Church Metro station — to the busy intersection of N. Sycamore Street and 19th Street N., which has traffic lights and pedestrian crossing signals.
“Many of us are caught off guard with the total closure of the trail between the creek and the soccer field for the duration of the project,” said Kelly Alexis, a local resident, in an email to county staff that she also sent to ARLnow and other concerned residents.
“Arlington County has provided only one re-route option — funneling all pedestrian and bicycle traffic to the most congested possible intersection; passing across the entry and exit to the EFC Metro Kiss-and-ride lot,” Alexis continued. “This was not part of the plan that was presented to us at the open meetings and has a major impact on bicycle and pedestrian traffic.”
In response to a request to complete trail construction first, before the other park changes, a county staffer said that was not a viable option for a number of reasons. Among them: the need to fence off the trail from the rest of the under-construction park — thus creating “a safety concern for users who would then have very limited egress through a long confined corridor in the park if they were endangered or injured.”
Kalish said she is not aware of any plans to make changes to the detour.
Construction is currently expected to wrap up between July and September of 2020, according to the county website.
Plans to renovate the park have been in the works for years, capped by the recent acquisition of “the last three properties along 18th Street North” needed for an expansion of the park, according to a county staff report. In 2017, the County Board approved a long-term vision which included replaced amenities and trail improvements.
The County Board is set to approve a $2.6 million contract — which includes $238,554 as a contingency for changes — at the Saturday (Sept. 21) meeting.
The project is funded in part by $2.5 million set aside in the 2015 fiscal year for the park and an additional $750,000 for work on the trails from the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Trail Modernization Program, according to the staff report. The park is expected to have a $117,659 increase in operating costs as a result of the improvements.
Planned work for the park at the western edge of Arlington include a widening of the trails and replacement of:
- The parking lot
- Picnic area
- Rectangular athletic field
- Stormwater management
- The dog park
The staff report for the park improvements noted that most of the feedback was positive, but concerns were expressed about the permeability of the trails and the impact widening the trails from eight feet to 12 feet might have on the surrounding environment.
The report notes, however, that county staff is promising “extra attention to minimize impacts on the stream and Resource Protection Area through site appropriate and sensitive erosion and sediment control methods.”
Local Investment Firm CEO Arrested — Todd Hitt, the founder of Falls Church-based Kiddar Capital, was arrested by the FBI and charged with securities fraud last week. Hitt was developing a new company headquarters in Falls Church. He made headlines as a young housing developer in the 1990s for clashing with Arlington neighbors while building what residents dubbed “McMansions.” [Tysons Reporter]
More White Nationalist Posters Spotted — A reader says he saw more white nationalists posters around Clarendon over the weekend. The reader, who wished to remain anonymous, says he removed the posters after photographing them. [Twitter]
New 1100 Wilson Blvd Rooftop — “Monday Properties hosted a VIP event for real estate brokers Wednesday evening to showcase the 6,200-square-foot indoor-outdoor space atop the 31-story building, part of the two-building The Towers. It is being unveiled as landlords in Rosslyn and across Greater Washington seek to up their communal spaces to appeal to tenants who increasingly want more than just office space to attract and hang onto employees.” [Washington Business Journal]
Bamboo Removal This Week — “Arlington County contractors will be removing bamboo in Benjamin Banneker Park during the week of Oct. 8. Depending on weather conditions, treatment is expected to conclude by Friday, Oct. 12.” [Twitter]
Maryjane Arrested for Car Theft, Weed — “Police caught a woman named Maryjane in Ballston who they say stole a car in Fairfax County — and they also hit her with a marijuana charge.” [Patch]
Windfall for Ballston Company — “Arlington-based AvalonBay Communities Inc. expects to clear north of $450 million from the sale of a majority stake in five Manhattan apartment communities.” [Washington Business Journal]
2000th Morning Notes Post — This is Morning Notes post No. 2000. ARLnow.com launched in January 2010.
County staff are set to reveal the new design features for dog park improvements at Benjamin Banneker Park in East Falls Church.
The public will get a look at the conceptual dog park design tomorrow during a meeting at Tuckahoe Elementary School, starting at 7 p.m. Some proposed additions include new furnishings and play features.
The dog park renovations are a part of a larger plan to transform Banneker Park, which was announced in December. Besides the improved dog area, Benjamin Banneker Park will get wider trails, improved accessibility, parking lot improvements and a relocated playground that will be separated from trails and visible from the street.
Information shared at the dog park design meeting will be shared on the park project’s web page. In the future there will also be an opportunity to share thoughts on the dog park’s conceptual design and features.
Photos courtesy Arlington County
Two local parks will receive extensive renovations under plans unanimously approved by the Arlington County Board at its meeting Saturday (December 16).
Benjamin Banneker (1680 N. Sycamore Street) and Fairlington (3308 S. Stafford Street) Parks will benefit. The former, near the East Falls Church Metro station, has expanded in recent years as the county has acquired more land.
For Benjamin Banneker Park, the Board approved a long-term vision for the park, which includes replacing its existing amenities and improving its trails. It will also give more protection to the Four Mile Run stream, a major feature of the 12.5-acre park.
Per a county press release, the long-term plans for the park include:
- Widening trails: Trails will be widened to 10 to 12 feet, following guidelines from the adopted Arlington Master Transportation Plan – Bicycle Element.
- Improving accessibility: A sidewalk connection from 16th Street N. to the parking lot will be added as well as a sidewalk around the parking lot perimeter, which will link internal sidewalks and trails with park amenities.
- Relocating playground: The playground will be shifted further from the stream along 18th Street N. The new location will be separated from trails and visible from the street. It will include new play equipment, more seating and tables.
- Parking lot improvements: The parking lot will be reconfigured and restriped to better accommodate up to 25 cars. The footprint of the lot will be reduced and made more efficient.
- Renovating Dog Park: The dog parks surface will be replenished and there will be new furnishings and play features.
“This plan will make Benjamin Banneker Park more accessible, provide more protection for Four Mile Run stream, which runs through the park, improve the park’s trails, and replace its playground equipment,” County Board chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “We appreciate the great work that staff and the community did in crafting this well thought out plan.”
Separately, the Board approved a construction contract for the final phase of renovations at Fairlington Park.
The final phase will include replacing the park’s amphitheater with a playground for children in the 2-5 and 5-12 age groups. It will also add outdoor fitness equipment, a picnic area, improved ADA accessibility, furniture, landscaping, and improvements to drainage and stormwater management.
Stratford School Designated Historic — The Arlington County Board has approved a historic designation for the Stratford School, the current home to the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program and the future home to a new middle school. In 1959, Stratford became the first public school in Virginia to be integrated, with four black seventh graders enrolling, thus marking the beginning of the end of school segregation in the Commonwealth. [Arlington County]
Fox Freed From Fence — A not-so-sly fox had to be freed by an Arlington animal control officer after getting its hind leg stuck in a chain link fence. The fox was uninjured. [Twitter]
Park Expansion, Land Donation Approved — The County Board last night approved the expansion of Benjamin Banneker Park, via the purchase of a 8,487-square-foot lot for $637,500. The Board also accepted the donation of 7,432 square feet of land adjacent to I-66 and a bike trail. Hitt Contracting, Inc. donated the land after figuring out that zoning restrictions prevented the company from developing it. [Arlington County]
Preservationists Worried About Tear-Downs — Local preservationists are worried about plan to tear down a number of older properties in the area of Minor’s Hill and replace them with new homes. However, it appears that the home builders will be able to proceed with their plans, as “Arlington County has no legal authority to delay or stop the demolition.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Long Branch Creek’s First Neighborhood Plan — The Long Branch Creek neighborhood, located near the Glebe Road onramp to I-395, has had its first-ever Neighborhood Conservation Plan approved by the Arlington County Board. The plan will allow the neighborhood to apply for neighborhood improvement projects. It calls for Long Branch Creek to become a “walkable urban village” while “preserving the livability and quiet, diverse character of the neighborhood.” [Arlington County]
Yorktown Student Auditions for Shark Tank — Among those auditioning for the ABC show Shark Tank at a recent casting call at 1776 in Crystal City was a 17-year-old Yorktown High School student, Zanab Farooq, who founded a custom mobile phone case company. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Some Developers Are Pessimistic About the Pike — “The mood is not good,” Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization chairman John Murphy said of developers. “Some of them made big investments, big bets based on the county saying we’re going to do the streetcar. They feel betrayed, they’re not happy at all.” [Bisnow]
Board to Buy Bungalow to Bolster Benjamin Banneker — The Arlington County Board this weekend is expected to approve the purchase of a $637,500 property on 17th Street N. in order to expand Benjamin Banneker Park, near the East Falls Church Metro station. [InsideNova]
DCA Flight Path Changes — The Federal Aviation Administration is considering changes to flight paths for planes departing Reagan National Airport, in response to complaints from D.C. residents. Meanwhile, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is organizing a community meeting to discuss “recent changes to departure procedures for aircraft taking off to the south of the airport.” [WTOP, Rep. Don Beyer]
Chaplain at DCA Mourns Son — Rev. Nace Lanier, the chaplain at Reagan National Airport, is mourning the loss of his 10-year-old son to a brain tumor. [Washington Post]
Sehkraft Makes ‘Hottest New Bars’ List — Sehkraft Brewing in Clarendon is one of the 10 hottest new bars in the D.C. area, according to Zagat, which writes: “This sprawling, pulsating Arlington brewhouse, gastropub, butcher shop, beer garden and live-music venue is powered by the brilliantly colored art on the walls, robust smoked and grilled American fare and curated craft beers.” [Zagat]
Free Smoothies Today — Tropical Smoothie Cafe, which has a location at 3811 Fairfax Drive in Virginia Square, is celebrating National Flip Flop Day by raising money for charity and giving out some free smoothies. The store will offer free smoothies to customers wearing flip flops from 2-7 p.m. [Tropical Smoothie Cafe]
Photo courtesy @rydaka
The property at 6616 18th Street N., near the park’s existing playground and adjacent to the W&OD Trail and Four Mile Run, is approximately 8,250 square feet.
The homeowner has already signed an Agreement of Sale with the county at a purchase price of $637,500. The agreement needs approval from the County Board to be finalized.
There’s a house on the property that is occupied by tenants of the owner. If approved, it will be demolished as part of the acquisition as it was not found to have historical significance.
According to the agenda item about the purchase, the county first expressed interest in this land in January. It is one of several parcels along 18th Street North identified in the 2005 Public Spaces Master Plan as land that could be acquired for the expansion.
It is also the second piece of land the County has moved to purchase this year.
In February, the County Board unanimously approved the purchase of 8,375 square feet of land at 6608 18th Street N., which is one property away from the one now awaiting purchase approval. That plot sold for more than $688,700 and also had a house on it when the county purchased it.
The incident was reported around 11:30 a.m. in Benjamin Banneker Park, near East Falls Church, according to Arlington County Police.
Police say “an unknown male subject was seen standing naked in the bushes” along the W&OD trail. A man walking his dog saw the man and called police.
The suspect is described as “a Hispanic or Middle-Eastern male, with dark hair and a slim-build.” There were no additional reports of the man being seen by other trail users.
“It appears to be an isolated incident at this point,” said Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
The temperature in Arlington around 11:30 Saturday morning was a chilly 55 degrees.
Police do not believe this incident is connected to any other previously-reported crime along the trail. Earlier this year a man tried to sexually assault a woman on the trail in Glencarlyn Park, and a few years ago a string of indecent exposure incidents along the trail prompted police to issue warnings to trail users.
Despite the cries of many residents for more open, green space in the county, not all park goers are happy with the parks that currently exist in Arlington.
Among otherwise glowing reviews, there are a number of one, two or three star Yelp reviews of parks in Arlington, detailing the numerous problems some visitors experience.
Complaints ranged from the park’s design, lack of proper cleanup by park employees or that the park just didn’t have enough to offer.
Parks in Arlington aren’t alone in receiving negative comments. In honor of the National Park Service’s 99th birthday, the publication Mother Jones this week shared some not-so-nice reviews of national parks across the country, in a post entitled “I Can’t Stop Reading One-Star Yelp Reviews of National Parks.”
James Hunter Park
James Hunter Park (1299 N. Herndon Street) — the Clarendon dog park — is dog-friendly, and has an open lawn, water feature and a “plaza terrace,” according to the park’s website. However, one reviewer claims the park was not designed with dogs in mind.