Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Extra Brush Pickups in Arlington — “Because of recent weather events, the County has added extra brush pickups this week. Schedule a collection online.” [Twitter]

Clement Endorses Stamos — “Arlington County Board candidate Audrey Clement won’t be on the ballot until November, but she has weighed in with a ringing endorsement of incumbent Theo Stamos in the June 11 Democratic primary for commonwealth’s attorney.” [InsideNova]

Deep Pothole in Ballston — Beware of “a small — but deep — pothole at the intersection of Wilson and Randolph in Ballston.” [Twitter]

Arlington Man Wins Big Lottery Prize — “An Arlington man is now $100,000 richer after buying a Virginia Lottery ticket at a local convenience store. Robert Hilleary, a produce clerk, purchased two 10X The Money tickets at Glebe Market located at 300 N. Glebe Road.” [Patch]

Best Business Award Winners — Last week the Arlington Chamber of Commerce recognized the 2019 winners of its Arlington Best Business Awards: Dalton Digital, Pentagon Mixed Martial Arts, Bayou Bakery, Hungry Marketplace, Signature Theatre and Arlington Community Federal Credit Union. [Arlington Chamber]

Ode to Arlington’s Environmental Assessment Process — “Regulation 4.4 establishes an admirable ideal — a careful and highly-public process to ensure that civic projects are designed to identify and mitigate potential adverse environmental effects.  Though under-resourced, unevenly applied, and frequently honored only in the breach, the Regulation does reinforce and flesh out Arlington’s long commitment to both environmental sustainability and project planning.” [Blue Virginia]

Starr Hill Comes to DCA — Virginia’s Starr Hill Brewery has opened a new bar at Reagan National Airport, replacing the former Sam & Harry’s. The bar is located “near the Terminal C checkpoint pre-security.” [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Arlington County is turning trash into treasure by growing thousands of pounds of fresh produce for a local food bank using compost from residents.

Last February, Arlington’s Solid Waste Bureau began a pilot program to create compost from residents’ food scraps. Now some of that compost is coming full circle and being used in some of the local gardens that supply fresh produce for Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC).

AFAC is a nonprofit that receives around a million and a half pounds of food donations annually. The goods comes from several sources: grocery stores, private food drives, farmers markets and farms, and gardens around the region, according to spokesman Jeremiah Huston. Part of that comes from its “Plot Against Hunger” program, which cultivates the fresh produce.

AFAC staffer Puwen Lee manages this program, which she helped grow back in 2007 after noticing the food bank distributed frozen vegetables even in the summer months.

“And I thought, ‘This is really strange because I got so many vegetables in my garden,'” she said. After mentioning it to the nonprofit’s leadership, Lee said the director dropped off 600 packs of seeds on her desk and left it up to her.

Since then, Lee, who grew up gardening in Michigan, estimates the program has received over 600,000 pounds of fresh produce and has grown to include gardens from the Arlington Central Library, schools, and senior centers — and now it’s experimenting with using waste from residents themselves.

Trading trash for treasure

The Solid Waste Bureau collects food waste in two green barrels behind a rosebush by its headquarters in the Trades Center in Shirlington. The waste is then dumped into a 10-foot-high, 31-foot-long earth flow composting stem that cooks the materials under a glass roof and generates 33 cubic yards of compost in about two weeks.

When Solid Waste Bureau Chief Erik Grabowsky opens the doors to the machine, the heady smell of wine wafts out, revealing a giant auger slowly whirring through the blackened bed, turning the composting food.

Grabowsky said the final mix is cut with wood chips — something not always ideal for most vegetable gardens. But Grabowksy says it’s an “evolving” mixture that the department will tweak over time and which he plans to test in the department’s own garden next to the machine.

After the wood chips, the mix is shifted through a hulking “trammel screen” and distributed to AFAC and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

On a recent weekday, workers Travis Haddock and Lee Carrig were busy in Bobcats shuffling dirt off the paved plaza Grabowksy says will host the department’s first open house next Saturday, June 8 to show how the recycling system works. Normally, they manage repairs to the auger and the flow of compost in and out of the machine.

(When asked what their favorite part of the job was, they joked it was when the auger “stops in the middle and you got to climb in there.”)

The department’s free June event, called “Rock-and-Recycle,” will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the department’s lot in the Trades Center and will feature music and food trucks. Attendees will also be able to check out the compost for themselves, as well as the nearby Rock Crusher and Tub Grinder.

From farm to food bank

AFAC is currently experimenting with using the compost for one of its gardens. The nonprofit also makes its own mix using plant scraps and weeds pulled up from the beds.

Near AFAC’s Shirlington headquarters, volunteers run a garden that donates all its yield to the food bank. Boy Scouts originally built the raised beds that now make up 550 square feet of gardening space, and grow lettuce, beets, spinach, green beans, kale, tomatoes, and radishes, on a plot near a water pump station along S. Walter Reed Drive.

Plot Against Hunger manager Lee said the space was originally planned as a “nomadic garden” in 2013, but thanks to the neighboring Fort Barnard Community and the Department of Water and Sewer, it became a permanent fixture on Walter Reed Drive.

Certified Master Gardener Catherine Connor has managed the organic garden for the last three years. She says she’s helped set up the rain barrels and irrigation system that waters the beds in addition to supervising the planting. Now the beds are thick with greens and bumblebees hum between the flowers of the spinach plants that have gone to seed.

“Last year, we had just an incredible growing season,” Lee said. “From the farmers markets alone we picked up something like 90,000 pounds [of food.]”

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A new report says some levels of pollution are down in the Potomac River, but cautioned that the once-troubled waterway isn’t out the woods yet.

Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments analyzed data collected between 1985 and 2016 and found that “water quality improvements have reduced pollution significantly.”

MWCOG’s 27-page report said two substances in particular have noticeably decreased: nitrogen and phosphorus.

Both are common nutrients for soil and water, but runoff from farms and waste treatment facilities can lead to excess amounts flowing into waterways. When too much nitrogen enters a river it can cause plants to overgrow and choke the oxygen from the water, killing fish and in some cases making the water toxic to young children.

Too much phosphorus causes algae blooms that are deadly to fish. Blooms have been spotted north of Chain Bridge, according to the report.

MWCOG’s report released on Wednesday said its pollution analysis found that:

The amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus — which, in excess, contribute to water quality problems — contained in the discharge from wastewater plants in metropolitan Washington has declined dramatically since the 1980s and is on track for further reductions. The number and extent of harmful algal blooms in the upper Potomac estuary has declined significantly. Populations of aquatic plants and animals that live in this portion of the river, such as submerged aquatic vegetation, some fish, and some waterfowl have grown closer to their historical abundances.

“Scientists are still interpreting how much time elapses between various nutrient reduction efforts and when their impact shows up in the Potomac estuary and the [Chesapeake] Bay,” the report notes. “What is certain is that additional efforts to reduce nutrients and sediment from agriculture and urban runoff will be needed to achieve the river’s long-term water quality goals.”

The report says local governments are working to reduce other contaminants like mercury, prescription drugs, and chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Last year, Potomac Conservancy, an advocacy nonprofit, gave the river a “B” rating. That’s a big improvement from the “D” rating the group gave it 10 years ago.

Potomac Conservancy noted that with less pollution people are increasingly using the river “as a place to hangout, recreate and live.”

In the future, citizen scientists are likely to be a part of making these reports happen. Last month, people volunteered to start collecting weekly water samples of the Potomac and the Anacostia so scientists can track E. coli levels in both rivers.

Local governments have spent billions over the last three decades to clean up the rivers, mainly by redirecting sewage flows, and managing stormwater runoff better.

In Arlington, volunteers have cleaned up trash along streams and riverbanks for three decades.

Image (top) via Flickr pool user Wolfkann, chart (middle) via MWCOG

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Morning Notes

Protest in Front of Nestle Office in Rosslyn — “On Tuesday, Greenpeace activists hauled a 15-foot-tall heap of garbage, artfully crafted to resemble one of those deep sea fish that’s about 90 percent jowl, out in front of the Nestlé’s U.S. headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.” [Gizmodo, Twitter]

‘No Stopping’ Arlington’s Growth — “Historically a commuter bedroom city for Washington, D.C., Arlington, VA continues its development renaissance with a variety of mixed-use projects that will shuttle in new residents, create open spaces and make new room for more restaurants and companies.” [GlobeSt]

Arlington Ponies Up Incentives for DEA — “The Arlington County Board is set to vote later this month to grant up to $11.5 million in financial incentives to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Pentagon City landlord to keep the agency from relocating to neighboring Alexandria, just shy of half of what it has promised Amazon.com Inc. for its second headquarters.” [Washington Business Journal]

Possible Meteor Lights Up the Sky — There were numerous reports of a meteor seen over Arlington, the D.C. region and much of the East Coast around 11 p.m. last night. [Twitter, BNO News, NBC Washington]

County Touts Green Initiatives Ahead of Earth Day — “Few communities can boast Arlington’s ceaseless commitment to sustainability — which is why one day in April can barely hint at the work that happens in the months before and after.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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With newly reshuffled leadership on the Arlington County Board, local officials are pledging a focus on equity as Amazon arrives this year, particularly when it comes to housing in the county.

The Board’s annual organizational meeting came with little in the way of procedural surprises last night (Wednesday). Vice Chair Christian Dorsey earned unanimous approval take the chair’s gavel, replacing outgoing Chair Katie Cristol, while Libby Garvey was elevated to take his place.

But the meeting still represented a major turning of the page in the county. Not only was the gathering the Board’s first since Matt de Ferranti’s swearing in, returning the Board to unified Democratic control for the first time since 2014, but it was a chance for Board members to sketch out a vision for how they plan to confront what looks to be a difficult year.

Naturally, Amazon proved to be the elephant in the room as officials delivered their annual New Year’s remarks. In kicking off the Board speeches, Dorsey framed his upcoming year-long chairmanship as one that will have “an emphasis on equity,” especially when it comes time to “expertly manage” Amazon’s growth.

Dorsey noted right away that he’s “only the third person who looks like me to ever serve as chair” of the Board — he joins Charles Monroe and William Newman, now the chief judge of Arlington Circuit Court, as the only black men to hold the gavel in the county’s history.

Accordingly, he said that history will guide his focus on “ensuring that Amazon’s gradual growth here benefits our entire community,” especially as the county prepares to confront some tough budget years while it awaits a projected revenue boom from the tech giant’s presence.

“Taken together, budget gaps today, and significant investment and commercial growth in the near term, present us with the dual responsibility of ensuring that today’s austerity doesn’t disproportionately burden the marginalized and most vulnerable, and that better times don’t leave those same people behind,” Dorsey said.

Board members agreed that a key area focus for leaders on that front will have to be changes to the county’s zoning code, as officials work to allow different types of reasonably priced homes to proliferate around Arlington. Cristol and Board member Erik Gutshall both praised the Board’s past work on housing conservation districts as a good first step, but both emphasized that the county needs to do more to meet its own goals for creating new affordable homes each year.

“Amazon’s arrival has focused our community energy on protecting our middle class from being priced out permanently,” Cristol said. “We can’t squander the opportunity to tackle this hard and important zoning reform work in the year ahead.”

De Ferranti agreed that the county should be fighting for a “significant public and private investment in affordable homeownership and rental housing” as it finalizes its incentive package to bring Amazon to Arlington.

But he and Gutshall also emphasized that a commitment to environmental equity should guide the county’s negotiations with Amazon, arguing that officials should work with the tech company to ensure its new campus in Crystal City and Pentagon City is “net-zero energy,” meaning that Amazon’s buildings generate as much energy as they consume. Gutshall even went a step further, proposing that the county join the growing calls for a “Green New Deal” from some of the newest Democrats heading to Congress, arguing that the “trade-off between the environment or the economy is a false one.”

Yet Board members pledged to keep a more local focus as well, particularly when it comes to Amazon’s impacts on the county’s already crowded classrooms.

Officials are hopeful that county schools will able to handle the gradual arrival of Amazon employees and their families, but Gutshall and Cristol both called for renewed long-range planning efforts for new school buildings.

De Ferranti was even more specific, saying the Board should build future budgets to “put the county in a position to fund the building of another high school” — the School Board is currently in the midst of hashing out plans for new high school seats at the Arlington Career Center, but whether or not that facility will provide the equivalent of a fourth comprehensive high school for county students remains an open question.

Through all of these difficult discussions, however, Garvey urged everyone — from local officials to activists — to strike embrace “civility.” The year-long debate over Amazon has already promoted plenty of tense meetings and raised voices, and the new vice chair argued that “Arlington Way has gotten rather frayed around the edges” in recent months.

“People sometimes jump to the assumption that intent is nefarious, or are all too quick to take offense when no offense was intended,” Garvey said. “We have to set some basic standards, and then follow through by not allowing people to violate those standards and stay in the discussion, or at least not to dominate the discussion so that everyone else decides to leave.”

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Arlington officials are increasingly finding that recycling some items has become a bit of a pain in the glass.

The county is encouraging residents to recycle metal, plastics, paper and cardboard like always, but people could soon be discouraged from adding glass to the mix.

“The county is conducting an analysis on glass and will likely suggest removing it from household and county facilities recycling streams,” said Katie O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services. “We anticipate sharing our findings and providing guidance to residents in mid-to-late November.”

While Arlington pays $4.66 per ton to process recycled materials, compared to $43.16 per ton to dispose of trash. The cost of recycling is typically offset by the sale of those raw materials. But the difficulties of glass recycling mean the material disproportionately weighs down the total value of Arlington’s haul.

According to a newsletter put out by the Department of Environmental Services, glass comprises 22.4 percent of recycled goods in Arlington but is the only material that comes in at a negative value for Arlington on the recycled material market. Aluminum cans are valued at $1,520 per ton while glass’s recycle value is negative $12.50.

The high cost comes from the lack of nearby facilities able to process glass and the high cost of separating it from other recycled materials. In meetings with the County Board, County Manager Mark Schwartz said most of the collected glass is already incinerated or sent to a landfill despite being marked for recycling.

In the meantime, Arlingtonians are encouraged to seek aluminum containers for beverages first, plastic bottles second and to avoid glass if possible.

Photo via Department of Environmental Services

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Anyone looking to get a little recognition for their favorite tree can now ask the county to designate it as a “notable tree.”

Nominations are open for the next month, through Nov. 15, for trees to earn the designation.

The county has accepted nominations since 1987 to honor notable trees “and those who care for them,” according to the county’s website. Officials will evaluate trees for inclusion based on the following categories:

  • Maturity (Size/Age)
  • Historical or community interest
  • Uniqueness of species
  • Special significance to the neighborhood

Notable trees will earn a certificate or plaque, placement on a county register of trees and could be included on neighborhood walking tours.

Anyone can submit an online form to make a nomination on the county’s website. However, if a tree sits on private property, the county encourages people to contact the property owner for permission first.

County staffers will evaluate each tree, then make recommendations to the Urban Forestry Commission, which has the final say on the matter. The county identified 28 notable trees earlier this year.

Even if a tree earns such a designation, the county notes that private property owners still have a large amount of discretion about the tree’s future.

County officials took quite a bit of flak recently for allowing a large dawn redwood tree, which earned a whole host of local and state commendations, to be chopped down as part of a redevelopment in a Williamsburg neighborhood. Arlington leaders said they worked to avoid that outcome, but said their hands were tied, as the tree was indeed on private property.

File photo

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Planners say they hope to save dozens of trees originally slated to be cut down as part of an overhaul of Upton Hill Regional Park, a move viewed by environmental advocates as a small, but meaningful concession to their concerns about changes at the park.

NOVA Parks, the regional body that manages Upton Hill, wrote in a letter to the county’s Urban Forestry Commission last week that it hopes to save as many as 49 trees on the site, nixing plans for a new parking lot in the park’s lower half and new vehicle entrance from Wilson Blvd.

As many as 115 trees were originally set to be chopped down at the park, located at 6060 Wilson Blvd near Seven Corners, when a $3 million renovation of Upton Hill gets moving later this year. That’s prompted some fierce pushback from neighbors and conservationists alike, who have rallied to reverse what they see as a blow to the county’s tree canopy and stormwater management.

Even though the County Board won’t have any direct say on the project’s design, the outcry convinced the Urban Forestry Commission to pen a letter to the Board about the project on Aug. 29.

Paul Gilbert, the executive director of NOVA Parks, wrote back on Sept. 6 to say that his staff had managed to make some changes to save 35 living trees and 14 dead ones on the property. Rather than building a new parking lot, he plans to create more handicapped-accessible street parking spaces, while also making street parking on Wilson Blvd “time-limited during the day.”

“This change will allow us to achieve the goal of a more inviting lower park area that the Civic Associations had requested, while eliminating the lower parking lot and vehicular access off Wilson Blvd,” Gilbert wrote. “The Upton Hill Improvement Plan is a win-win for both the natural resources and active users of the park.”

A group critical of the park’s redevelopment known as the Friends of Upton Hill hailed those changes in a Sept. 9 email to supporters, attributing it to mounting “public pressure and scrutiny” of the plans. Local environmental activist Suzanne Sundberg was also cautiously optimistic.

“Is the current plan ideal? No,” she told ARLnow. “Is it enough to prevent increases in runoff and erosion down that hill? Probably not. But it is an improvement. And I’m grateful for any improvements to a plan that is about as ill-conceived, wasteful and destructive as it could possibly be.”

Both Sundberg and the friends group are also anxiously awaiting the formal release of NOVA Parks’ newly revised tree removal plans. For instance, Sundberg is suspicious that “possible other trees not on the existing removal list are now being counted as ‘saved’ to make the numbers appear better.”

“For example, trees less than three inches in diameter at breast height were not included in the existing tree-removal plan/list, even though they, too, would have been removed,” Sundberg said. “I have to wonder whether some of these ‘saved’ trees might actually represent some of these smaller ones not originally identified.”

The friends group also expressed hope that some three mature maple trees near the lower playground set to be renovated — previously described by Boulevard Manor Civic Association President Chris Tighe as “something out of a Stephen King horror movie” — will also somehow be saved.

“It would also be tough for kids to enjoy the new playground equipment while being baked in the hot summer sun,” Josh Handler, a lead backer of the group, wrote in an email. “Reasonable alternatives to the playground renovations would preserve at least some of the existing trees — if NOVA Parks chooses to be flexible.”

Handler reiterated in the email that his concerns linger about how the removal of so many trees in favor of a new parking lot in the park’s upper half will impact stormwater on the site. But Gilbert believes that a cistern built underneath the new lot will adequately address those worries, arguing in his letter that the lot will “far exceed county building standards.”

“Upton Hill has long been a park with a combination of great natural resources and popular features for the public,” he wrote. “This balance will continue with these improvements, making for a great urban park.”

Ultimately, plans call for a new oak/hickory forest at the park, as well as a ropes course, renovated restrooms and a new ticket booth for its batting cage.

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Workers began cutting down a 114-foot-tall dawn redwood tree in front of a Williamsburg home today (Tuesday), just a few days after county officials announced they couldn’t find any way to save the tree and meet the demands of local conservationists.

Activists with the Arlington Tree Action Group told ARLnow that workers are now on-site at the property along the 3200 block of N. Ohio Street, removing branches from the massive tree in preparation for removing it entirely.

The developer Richmond Custom Homes plans to demolish the single-family home on the lot, then build two more in its place, prompting the tree’s removal.

Yet environmentalists had hoped that the County Board might intervene to save the tree, recognized as one of the largest of its species by both the county and the state.

The dawn redwood is also located within a “Resource Protection Area,” given the tree’s proximity to a stream that feeds into the Chesapeake Bay, giving them further hope that officials might be able to prevent the tree’s removal.

But the Board revealed last week (Aug. 15) that it felt it didn’t have any recourse to stop the tree’s removal and alter the property’s redevelopment, prompting condemnations from county conservationists.

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A local environmental group is launching a slew of new advocacy efforts to eliminate the use of plastic products of all kinds in Arlington.

The newly re-branded EcoAction Arlington is hoping the new campaigns can convince restaurants and everyday Arlingtonians alike to abandon plastic straws, bags, bottles and more, as part of a growing national movement to keep plastic out of oceans and other waterways to protect sea life.

“We’re hoping to give people a whole spectrum of ways to reduce how much plastic they use,” Executive Director Elenor Hodges told ARLnow.

One effort involves EcoAction joining a regional campaign dubbed the “Plastic Free Challenge,” which kicked off yesterday (Monday) and will run through Oct. 19. The campaign will include a range of activities over that time period to help people think about avoiding plastic in their daily lives.

But EcoAction is also focusing on Arlington specifically with its “Straw Free Arlington” push, designed to cut back on the roughly 345,000 straws they estimate that Arlington residents use each day. While they hope the effort convinces people to rely on reusable straws instead, it’s primarily focused on pushing local restaurants to embrace paper straws or even reusable straws instead.

EcoAction is offering resources for restaurant owners looking to make the switch, and plans to list any eateries refusing plastic straws on a map on its website for plastic-free consumers. The group will also hand out window stickers for restaurants swearing off plastic, and promote the companies involved among its followers on social media and elsewhere.

But the effort won’t be solely focused on straws — Hodges notes that she also wants restaurants thinking about other one-use items, like plastic carryout containers, and her group plans to rate each restaurant based on what sort of commitment it makes to turning away from plastic.

So far, EcoAction has already convinced two Rosslyn restaurants — Ben’s Chili Bowl and the Kona Grill — to take the straw-free pledge.

Photo via EcoAction Arlington

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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.”

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