Starting in the next few months, Upton Hill Regional Park is set to get a major makeover — but the process of sketching out plans for the renovation work is getting a bit messy.
Some neighbors and county conservationists see the whole project as poorly conceived and deceptively managed by NOVA Parks, the regional body that maintains Upton Hill. Plans to cut down 115 trees at the park, located at 6060 Wilson Blvd near Seven Corners, strike them as a blow to both the country’s tree canopy and a disaster for stormwater runoff in the area.
But park officials, and even some of their fellow neighbors, feel these complaints have been blown entirely out of proportion, arguing that a few malcontents are lobbing bombs against a project that will transform a park sorely in need of a facelift.
The $3 million renovation work is set to proceed over the next year or more, and with a new petition urging NOVA Parks to re-think its plans, debate over the project seems sure to intensify moving forward.
“I look at this as a phenomenal upgrade to the community… and some of the arguments being made against it are beyond ridiculous,” said Chris Tighe, president of the Boulevard Manor Civic Association, where the park is located. “Eventually, we’re going to have to ask what’s more important: a couple of voices, or the safety of park-goers and this park’s future?”
Paul Gilbert, the executive director of NOVA Parks, says his group last upgraded Upton Hill back in 2006, and decided back in 2015 to pursue some upgrades to the park.
Some of the planned changes are relatively uncontroversial: park officials hope to add a new ticket booth for the park’s batting cage, renovate some of its restrooms and build a new playground in the park’s lower half (Tighe compares the current playground there to “something out of a Stephen King horror movie.”)
The arguments start over proposed additions like a ropes course, a new entrance on Wilson Blvd complete with a small parking lot and 103 new parking spaces in Upton Hill’s upper half, near its water park.
The last item on that list has attracted the most controversy, as it would require the removal of more than half of the aforementioned 115 trees in favor of thousands of square feet of pavement — a group dubbing itself the “Friends of Upton Hill” wrote on its website that Joni Mitchell warned of just an occurrence when she sang “They paved paradise/And put up a parking lot.”
“NOVA Parks has never made a convincing case for expanding parking at Upton Hill, which has a parking lot that is barely used for nine months of the year, when the water park is closed,” said Sada Aksartova, a Boulevard Manor resident. Her husband, Josh Handler, helps run the friends group, which notes that many of the trees set to be chopped down are several decades old.
Yet Tighe argues the new parking will help ease crowds at the park, avoiding the need for so many people to park on the street, and Gilbert says there’s a bit more nuance to consider regarding the trees to be cut down.
Of the 115 trees to be removed, he says 19 trees are already dead, while 31 are non-native trees, which he feels don’t add much to the area’s ecosystem. He points out that he hopes to plant dozens of new trees, shrubs and grasses elsewhere on the park to create an “oak/hickory forest” that he believes will represent a net positive for the county’s tree canopy.
Local activist Suzanne Sundberg believes Gilbert’s thinking amounts to: “We must destroy a forest to save a forest.”
“It’s degrading a park that’s just a little postage stamp of green in an ocean of parking lots,” Sundberg said.
She also fears that removing so many trees and replacing them with asphalt will worsen the already substantial stormwater management problems in the area. The friends group posted a series of videos earlier this month illustrating how huge amounts of water already flow off the park’s grounds.
But Gilbert believes the underground cistern included in plans for the new parking lot will alleviate the stormwater problems in the area, rather than exacerbate them. Furthermore, he feels those videos are misleading, as they were taken just after a heavy rainstorm.
Certainly, Gilbert has plenty of problems with the way the Friends of Upton Hill have conducted themselves. He believes the group’s name is a “complete misnomer,” dubbing it “a couple of individuals with an ax to grind” and “not a true friend’s group.” He feels the community has been broadly supportive of the project.
“We’ve worked very hard to work with the various community groups, but that doesn’t mean every individual is going to get everything they want,” Gilbert said. “And some people can understand that and some people clearly don’t.”
Sundberg believes there are plenty of people upset with the project, pointing to the new petition and work of the Arlington Tree Action Group to oppose it. Furthermore, she says that “if there are, indeed, a low number of citizens who are outraged, it’s likely because they have no idea what the plans are.”
“This whole process has been very opaque,” Sundberg said. “NOVA Parks has gotten so used to doing whatever the heck it wants… it barely posts any documents or makes any information available about this.”
Tighe charges that park officials have been “phenomenal partners every step of the way.” Other neighbors, however, are taking more of a wait-and-see approach, rather than coming out so strongly in favor of the park.
“I understand the objections from some… even if some people may be exaggerating points to serve their own conclusions,” said Brian Hannigan, president of the nearby Dominion Hills Civic Association. “Let’s follow the facts and see where they lead.”
The mob assault happened around 1 a.m. this past Sunday and resulted in the victim going to the hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.
The motive for the attack is unclear. A police spokeswoman said the department “doesn’t speculate on motive.”
More from this week’s Arlington County Police Department crime report:
ASSAULT BY MOB (late), 2018-05200018, 6100 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 12:59 a.m. on May 20, police were dispatched to Virginia Hospital Center for the late report of an assault. Upon arrival, it was determined that earlier in the evening, the victim exited his residence to take the trash out and was approached by 7 unknown male suspects outside. The victim was assaulted, resulting in non-life threatening injuries that required medical treatment. There are no suspect descriptions. The investigation is ongoing.
The rest of this past week’s crime report highlights, including one that we’ve already reported, after the jump.
BURGLARY, 2018-05210225, 5700 block of Washington Boulevard. At approximately 3:54 p.m. on May 21, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect(s) forced entry to the residence, items were tampered with and numerous items of value were stolen. The investigation is ongoing.
DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY (VEHICLE) (series), 2018-05180055/05180064/05180086, 1500 block of N. Colonial Terrace/ 1500 block of N. Colonial Court/ 1400 block of Clarendon Boulevard. At approximately 7:55 a.m. on May 19, police were dispatched to the report of a destruction of property to several vehicles. Upon arrival, it was determined that between approximately 5:45 p.m. on May 17 and approximately 5:03 a.m. on May 18, numerous parked vehicles in the area had their tires slashed and some of the vehicles were keyed. There is no suspect description. The investigation is ongoing.
Hotel Planned for Pike Development — Attendees at yesterday’s Columbia Pike Progress Luncheon learned that Orr Partners — which is redeveloping the Food Star grocery store and adjacent sites at Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive — has partnered with WhyHotel for the mixed-use project. WhyHotel touts itself as an operator of “pop-up hotels in newly built, luxury apartment buildings.” [Twitter]
County Launches LGBTQ Resource Website — Arlington County has partnered with the Human Rights Commission to develop a website with local, state and national resources for the LGBTQ community. The resources cover a range of topics including housing, domestic violence, sexual assault, health and youth needs. [Arlington County]
Mitten Departing for Illinois — Arlington Deputy County Manager Carol Mitten has accepted the job of City Administrator for Urbana, Ill. “I look forward to advancing common goals for a safe, healthy, sustainable city through thoughtful growth,” she said in a statement. [Smile Politely]
Location Named for Dominion Pint — The owners of Dominion Pint, the new restaurant from the team behind the District’s Meridian Pint and Brookland Pint, have signed a lease for their Northern Virginia establishment. The restaurant is scheduled to open in December at 6035 Wilson Blvd. in Dominion Hills. [PoPville]
VHC Employee Earns ‘4 Under 40’ Award — Virginia Hospital Center’s Taryn Overman, MSN, RN, CEN, has received this year’s “4 Under 40” Emerging Leader Award from the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association. Overman is recognized for going beyond her management responsibilities to help her community, such as during a collaboration with A-Span in which two tons of cereal was collected, and in directing a program that helped train community members in hands-only CPR.
Man Struck, Killed by Blue Line Train — A man was struck and killed by a train at the Arlington Cemetery Metro station last night. Video appears to show that the man was intentionally on the tracks at the time he was struck, according to Metro. [Washington Post, WUSA 9]
Flickr pool photo by Jennifer Presser
The County Manager’s fiscal year 2019 proposed budget includes service eliminations to Arlington Transit bus routes 92 and 54.
The reductions would save the county $356,771 in 2019, according to the proposed budget. Public hearings on the budget and tax rate are scheduled for Tuesday, April 3 and Thursday, April 5, respectively.
The routes “are not meeting minimum service standards,” according to the budget document, and “service delivery can potentially be met by other transit or other modes such as Capital BikeShare.”
ART Route 92 runs weekdays from the Crystal City Metro station to the Pentagon Metro station via Long Bridge Park. Several WMATA routes also run through that area.
According to the ART Route 92 web page, “the route also serves as a shuttle for those working at Boeing and the U.S. Marshals Service.”
ART Route 54 operates weekdays during the morning and afternoon rush hours from Dominion Hills to the East Falls Church Metro station via Madison Manor neighborhood.
Both routes have “experienced low ridership (3 passengers per hour) and [have] performed below the established minimum service standards of 15 passengers per hour and a 20 percent cost recovery ratio,” according to budget documents.
The County Board is expected to adopt its final budget on April 21.
(Updated at 5:35 p.m.) Fifty years ago today — on August 25, 1967 — the leader of the American Nazi Party was gunned down at the Dominion Hills Shopping Center while trying to do his laundry.
George Lincoln Rockwell was shot by former neo-Nazi John Patler from the rooftop of the shopping center when he went out to his car to go and get bleach to clean his clothes with at the laundromat. Patler was arrested half an hour later, after throwing his gun into Four Mile Run nearby, when he was spotted with wet trousers waiting for a bus by a police officer.
From the American Nazi Party’s headquarters in Ballston, Rockwell and his followers called for black people to be returned to Africa and for Jews to be gassed. Local historian Charlie Clark, who writes the “Our Man in Arlington” column for the Falls Church News-Press and wrote a magazine article about the history of Nazis in Arlington, said a lot of people found the group’s views troubling.
“For many people, it was pretty shocking,” Clark said. “It was only 15 years after World War II, when a lot of veterans who lived in Arlington who had fought the Nazis would have to put up with this group.”
Members marched in a local parade and picketed places as varied as the White House and an Arlington pizza restaurant owned by a Jewish family. Rockwell also ran for Governor of Virginia in 1965, but only received 1 percent of the vote.
Clark said that more than anything, Rockwell was a publicity seeker, who received press coverage for a while before most reporters of the time lost interest in his antics.
“His bark was much bigger than his bite,” Clark said. “The Nazis never really committed any violence, never assassinated anybody. They just liked shocking people.”
The Commonwealth’s Attorney at the time pushed for Patler, who Clark said changed his name from John Patsalos as a homage to Adolf Hitler, to receive the death penalty. But the jury gave him a 20-year prison sentence, and he was released on parole after eight years. Patler then violated his parole and received an additional six years in jail.
The American Nazi Party never quite recovered from Rockwell’s assassination, although remained in Arlington until the 1980s — based in what is now a coffee shop in Courthouse — before moving to Wisconsin. Since the dawn of the internet and social media, the group has appeared to gain more visibility again.
Clark said that the policy of not giving the group much publicity in the media in the 1960s seemed to work well, and that could be a lesson for today.
“I think there must be a way for the news media and average citizens to keep an eye on it, because it can explode or it can grow in a subterranean way,” he said. “But there is an argument for not putting it on the front page, not alarming people.”
However, today there was a reminder that Rockwell’s Nazi beliefs did not die with him. A group of at least five men and one woman arrived in the parking lot, set up a small swastika-adorned wreath and a Nazi flag, and gave the “Heil Hitler” salute in memory of Rockwell, according to a photo tweeted by NBC 4’s Mark Segraves.
A small group of Nazis just showed up in Arlington to honor George Lincoln Rockwell on 50th Anniv at site of his murder. pic.twitter.com/hib7oTdXkh
— Mark Segraves (@SegravesNBC4) August 25, 2017
As of 1:45 p.m., the group was no longer at the shopping center and shoppers were going about their daily business. One passerby said she was surprised at the boldness of the Nazis demonstrating openly in a diverse community like Arlington
“It’s shocking,” she said. “You don’t expect to see it in this area. It’s normally so quiet.”
Late Friday afternoon the Washington Post reported that the Nazis were with a group called the New Order, the successor to the American Nazi Party. All but one were local to the Washington area.
A small grocery store at the Dominion Hills Centre shopping plaza will close at month’s end, another business to depart the neighborhood strip mall.
The Dominion Hills Grocery & Deli at 6035 Wilson Blvd will close at the end of July after 13 years. The store’s owner said the closure is because of a sudden rent increase by the property owner.
A sign on the store’s front door reads:
To our friends, neighbors & customers at Dominion Hills Centre,
This is to inform you all that Dominion Food-Mart will be closing on July 31, 2017. We deeply appreciate the loyalty and the support from you all for the past 13 years.
It has been a great pleasure knowing and being friend[s] with you.
We will miss you all very much!
The store is the latest to depart the shopping center, months after Little River Yoga Studio, Great Harvest Bread Company and the florist all shuttered.
Those storefronts are still listed as being for rent by the property’s owner, Rosenthal, but all are still vacant.
A reader emailed to say that she and others in the Dominion Hills community are concerned that the shopping center will “go the way of Clarendon,” which has seen the departure of long-time businesses as rent has increased.
(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) A construction crew hit a gas line in the Dominion Hills neighborhood this afternoon.
Trucks from the Arlington County Fire Department and Fairfax County Fire and Rescue responded to the 6000 block of 9th Road N. after reports of the gas leak just after 2:30 p.m.
According to scanner traffic, the crew hit a two-inch gas line while doing work on the road, but the gas leak was stopped within about a half hour, as police were preparing to evacuate homes in the area. The odor of natural gas was still in the air shortly after the leak was stopped.
Fire trucks and traffic cones blocked off 9th Road N. between N. Livingston Street and N. Liberty Street. As of 3:30 p.m., Washington Gas crews were on the way to make repairs.
Updated 11:30 a.m. — Police have reopened Patrick Henry Drive.
Earlier: Emergency crews have closed part of Patrick Henry Drive in the Dominion Hills neighborhood due to downed power lines.
Patrick Henry Drive is closed between 9th Street N. and 9th Road N. where the live wires fell into the road just after 9:30 a.m.
A police officer at the scene confirmed that a truck or similarly high vehicle pulled down the power lines, which are laying in the roadway.
Workers from Dominion Virginia Power are on the way to the scene, but they had not arrived as of 10 a.m. Drivers should seek alternate routes.
Three businesses have closed in short order at the Dominion Hills Centre shopping plaza, worrying some local residents — but remaining businesses say there’s little cause for concern.
A tipster emailed ARLnow.com earlier this week lamenting the shuttering of the Little River Yoga Studio at 6025 Wilson Blvd. The tipster said it was the “latest to go,” following the departure of the Great Harvest Bread Company as well as the florist nearby.
But expiring leases and other circumstances were behind the closures, not a larger trend, we’re told. Business owners that have remained say foot traffic and sales remain healthy.
Great Harvest closed at the end of January. Franchisee Brad Hurst, who operates the bakery’s Alexandria location alongside his wife, said that it proved difficult to run two stores, especially as the larger Alexandria one took up more time.
After taking over the franchise’s five-year lease with approximately two years remaining, Hurst said they made the decision to close and focus their energies in Alexandria.
“Probably for the last year or so, we knew it was a lot of effort for what we were getting as far as traffic and sales,” Hurst said. “When the lease came up, we let that expire, much to the disappointment of several customers. We have to make sure our effort is rewarded with the business, so it was hard to keep it going.”
The shopping center’s florist had been in business for several decades at 6035 Wilson Blvd, but multiple business owners in the plaza said it closed when its owners retired and let the lease expire. It is now being marketed for another tenant.
Then Little River Yoga relocated its classes to Faith Lutheran Church at 3313 Arlington Blvd and rebranded as Ashtanga Nation. It made the move in mid-January.
Katie Gilman, owner of Taste by Katie, which provides reheatable meals to bring home, said business appears healthy for the dozen-plus stores that remain, including her own. When a reporter visited on Thursday afternoon, the plaza’s parking lot was about two-thirds full.
“Three [closures] seem like it could be a big percentage, but it’s really not when you consider all the stores open along here,” Gilman said.
A car and an Arlington County school bus carrying students collided Tuesday afternoon near Upton Hill Regional Park.
A red SUV and the school bus collided just after 3 p.m. at the intersection of Wilson Boulevard and Patrick Henry Drive. Neither vehicle appeared to sustain much damage other than a few small dents and scratches.
A police officer at the scene told ARLnow.com the crash was “very minor.”
Four police cruisers arrived at the scene and closed one lane of traffic behind the two vehicles. All other traffic proceeded as normal. Another school bus arrived around 3:30 p.m. to pick up the students, who remained on the bus after the crash.
Olympic medalist and former figure skating world champion Michelle Kwan is slated to attend three Clinton campaign events in Northern Virginia, two of which will be in Arlington, according to a press release.
Kwan will make stops at a phone bank in Arlington’s Dominion Hills neighborhood and at a Thai restaurant in Ballston “to discuss Clinton’s agenda for tax fairness and help launch ‘Asian American and Pacific Islander Virginians for Hillary.'”
Kwan’s full schedule of appearances is below:
Small Business Retail Walk
WHEN: Thursday, August 18th at 12:00 PM
WHERE: Eden Center, 6751 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church, VA
Arlington Phone Bank
WHEN: Thursday, August 18th at 4:30 PM
WHERE: 6035 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA
AAPI Virginians for Hillary Launch Happy Hour
WHEN: Thursday, August 18th at 6:00 PM
WHERE: Tara Temple Thai Restaurant, 4001 N. Fairfax Dr., Arlington, VA
Photo via Twitter / Hillary for Virginia
VDOT Awards I-66 Contracts — VDOT has awarded $61.3 million in contracts to build tolling infrastructure on I-66 inside the Beltway. “The work is expected to begin by late summer with all construction completed no later than mid October 2017.” [WTOP]
Stop Arm Camera Enforcement Resuming — After having to pause enforcement and seek a legislative fix in order to issue tickets to violators, Arlington’s school bus stop arm enforcement program will resume July 1. Drivers who drive by a stop sign on a school bus will face an automatic $250 fine. [Arlington County, Arlington Public Schools]
Clinton Opening Arlington Office — Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is reportedly opening a new office at 6035 Wilson Blvd, in the Dominion Hills shopping center. That’s the same shopping center in which American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell was shot and killed in 1967. [Patch]
Local Latino Leaders Talk Trump — At a press conference on Columbia Pike yesterday, former County Board member Walter Tejada said presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump may regret his rhetoric on immigration come November. “In a tight election, the Latino community can decide who wins,” Tejada said. “To Mr. Trump, we want to declare a message that hate will not win.” [Washington Post]
Hernick Calls on Trump to Tone Down Muslim Remarks — Republican congressional candidate Charles Hernick, who’s challenging incumbent Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), wants Donald Trump to tone down his “divisive rhetoric” on Muslims, saying it “won’t help us unite with peace-loving Muslims against our common enemy.” He continued: “We need to stand together against hatred, violence and terrorism.” [InsideNova]
Local Startup Expanding — Fast-growing Arlington-based startup ByteCubed, a government tech consulting firm, is expanding with a new office in Crystal City for its now 150 employees. [Technical.ly DC]
Tired of waiting for county plows to show up in their no-outlet residential street, a group of neighbors in Dominion Hills took matters into their own hands.
We’re told that neighbors banded together to shovel off N. Arlington Mill Drive, near Bon Air Park, all the way to Wilson Blvd.
As of early Tuesday morning, county snow crews had plowed 30 percent of residential streets, with a focus on especially hilly roads and streets near schools.
The incident happened around 9 a.m., at the intersection of N. Madison Street and 9th Road N., in the Dominion Hills neighborhood.
Police say the garbage truck was turning right onto N. Madison Street, but was waiting for a pedestrian to cross the street. A driver in the high-end electric sports sedan apparently became impatient and attempted to go around the truck, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
With the Tesla in the truck’s blindspot, the truck driver proceeded forward and ran into the car, Sternbeck said.
A county worker on the garbage truck was transported to the hospital for “precautionary reasons.” The woman driving the Tesla was determined to be at fault for improper passing but did not receive a traffic citation, according to Sternbeck.
File photo via Twitter
(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) Ashlawn Elementary School is facing a lack of faculty parking after its parking contract with the Dominion Hills Area Recreation Association was not renewed this year.
The contract between Dominion Hills and Ashlawn allowed the school to lease parking spaces in the pool’s parking lot.
Without the renewed contract, Ashlawn Elementary School is facing a shortage of parking with 30 spots for 130 faculty members, according to a PTA statement from Ashlawn PTA President Carlin Schwartz. Currently, teachers are being told to park at the Powhatan Springs Park (6020 Wilson Blvd) and walk over to the school.
“As you can imagine, this will be burdensome to our staff,” Schwartz said.
The decision to not renew the contract was a “difficult” decision, according to a statement from the Board of Directors at Dominion Hills. Trash in the parking lot, delays in payment, increased traffic in the parking lot and “an inordinate amount of time spent by our Resident Manager attempting to enforce the terms of the agreement,” were among the Board’s reasons for not renewing the contract.
The pool also needed the parking lot spaces for the last four weeks of the pool season, which overlap with the beginning of the school year. The frequent use of the lot was also causing wear and tear damage, and the pool was using funds to resurface the lot instead of using them for maintenance of the pool, according to the statement.
“A large part of our decision came down to the fact that we are in the swim club business, not the parking lot business. As such, we need to focus our energies on safety issues, grounds maintenance and infrastructure related to that — a huge year-round task,” the Board of Directors said.
Arlington Public Schools and Ashlawn President Judy Apostolico-Buck asked Dominion Hills to reconsider, but the Board of Directors did not overturn its decision, according to the PTA statement.
“It is unfortunate that APS did not plan for sufficient parking for Ashlawn Elementary School. We strive to be good neighbors with Ashlawn, and have been, particularly through its construction period,” the Board of Directors said. “However, a renewal of the prior parking agreement is not in the best interests of DHARA.”
Schwartz and the PTA parents are encouraging Ashlawn families to call or email the school board with any concerns or questions. Suggestions for parking can be emailed to Schwartz or Apostolico-Buck.
“Ashlawn families, staff and neighbors have been incredibly patient, gracious and supportive through the many challenges that the construction process has created and it is greatly appreciated. I hope we can face this newest challenge with the same with mindset,” Schwartz said.
Ashlawn Elementary was not notified about trash issues in the parking lot, APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said.