Instant Runoff Bill Passes Committee — A bill that authorizes the Arlington County Board to use instant runoff voting for Board elections has passed a state committee. The legislation from Del. Patrick Hope (D) is intended to “encourage consensus candidates and eliminate the likelihood that a fringe contender could sneak through with 25 or 30 percent of the vote in a crowded field.” [InsideNova]
Foxcroft Heights Fire — Arlington County and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall firefighters battled heavy fire in a townhouse near the eastern end of Columbia Pike Saturday evening. No injuries were reported but the home sustained serious damage. [Twitter, Twitter]
Fire at Willston Centre — A fire broke out Saturday night at a store in the Willston Centre shopping center in Seven Corners. TV news reports said the fire started in the Steven’s Shop tuxedo shop. Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze. No one was injured. [Patch]
Community Foundation Gala Set — The Arlington Community Foundation will be holding its annual gala on Saturday, April 21 at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City. The theme for this year is “This Is Us.” The event will feature a performance by “Arlington’s own Amy Wilcox and her band from L.A.” [Arlington Community Foundation]
Pushback on Naming Gravelly for Nancy Reagan — The pushback to the pushback against naming Gravelly Point park for First Lady Nancy Reagan has arrived. Writes a conservative website: “Opposition to the name change is… mean-spirited, petty partisanship. Nancy Reagan deserves better.” [Daily Signal]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Rep. Don Beyer (D) criticized a bill that would rename Gravelly Point Park for former First Lady Nancy Reagan as it passed a U.S. House of Representatives committee earlier today.
The bill failed once in the House Natural Resources Committee, but then was brought up again and passed 18-16 on a party-line vote.
It now heads to the House floor for debate and a final vote, with similar actions required by the U.S. Senate before it can be signed into law by President Donald Trump.
But Beyer, a committee member whose district includes Arlington County, took exception to the efforts to rename the park near Reagan National Airport’s main runway as Nancy Reagan Memorial Park. The bill, H.R. 553, is sponsored by Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) and has 51 Republican co-sponsors.
In remarks to the committee today (Wednesday), Beyer criticized the bill for not taking sufficient public input from residents of Arlington and Alexandria, the communities closest to Gravelly Point.
“[This] bill is the equivalent of someone coming in and changing the furniture in your house without asking you,” he said. “First, you would have liked them to ask you, and even if you do like the furniture, you probably would have wanted input since it’s your house…Gravelly Point is not a national tourist attraction, it’s where local families go to have a picnic, throw a ball around, put a blanket down and watch the planes coming in and out, and it’s also where almost every Northern Virginia Uber driver sits to wait for a pickup.”
“This is what some call Washington at its worst — when we ignore the will of the local community to appease the desire of a moneyed, special interest,” Beyer said.
In response, Hice said there was “no better way” to honor Reagan by naming the park after her.
Beyer’s full remarks on the bill, including a video clip, are after the jump.
A U.S. House of Representatives committee will discuss a bill to rename Gravelly Point after former First Lady Nancy Reagan.
It would rename the park, located to the north of Reagan National Airport’s main runway, as Nancy Reagan Memorial Park. But the park’s use by cyclists, runners, recreational team sports, picnics and for those watching planes land and take off would not change.
A memo on the bill said it would honor Reagan’s “life and legacy,” and as a champion for various causes.
“Nancy Reagan Memorial Park would recognize First Lady Nancy Reagan for her dedication and support of important causes throughout her life,” the memo reads. “The re-designation would act as a tribute to the First Lady’s legacy while maintaining the current status and uses of the park.”
Hice’s bill has 51 Republican co-sponsors, but no Democrats. The memo describes the Trump administration’s position on the renaming as “currently unknown.”
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Gravelly Point may be renamed after Nancy Reagan, if a newly-introduced House bill passes.
Gravelly Point is just north of the main runway at Reagan National Airport, which was named after President Ronald Reagan, Nancy’s husband, in 1998. It’s a popular spot for cyclists, runners, recreational team sports, picnics and for those watching planes land and take off.
Hice’s bill has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources for further consideration.
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.
Affordable Housing Crisis in Arlington? — “Arlington County is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis,” writes reporter Michael Lee Pope. The county has lost more than half of its affordable housing units in the last decade, a time when the average rent increased by 47 percent while the average salary increased only 37 percent. The “crisis” has led the Arlington Green Party to propose a referendum on the creation of a new housing authority, a move that many existing affordable housing organizations in Arlington oppose. [Arlington Connection]
Gravelly Point Still Busy Despite Shutdown — Gravelly Point has remained a popular destination for picnickers, fisherman and airplane watchers, despite the fact that it’s officially closed and its parking lot barricaded. Despite being a potential safety hazard, a number of park-goers have been parking on the grass adjacent to the GW Parkway. [WJLA]
Columbia Forest Tops for Female Divorcees — Arlington’s Columbia Forest neighborhood has the highest concentration of female divorcees among census tracts in the county, with 355. According to census data, Shirlington and Pentagon City are No. 2 and 3, with 339 and 298 respectively. As previously reported, Crystal City has the highest concentration of divorced men, 297. [Patch]
Stink Bug Season in Washington — It’s stink bug season once again. While a few of the insects have been reported around Arlington, the stink bug population seems to increase as you go west, beyond the Beltway. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Runneralan2004.
Victoria Kong, 83, was found deceased around 2:00 p.m. just south of Gravelly Point, about 30 feet from the Mt. Vernon Trail, according to U.S. Park Police spokesman Sgt. Paul Brooks. Her body was found by a Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority search and rescue team, Brooks said, in a wooded area north of the airport.
Brooks was unable to release any other information about what might have happened.
“This is an ongoing investigation,” he said.
(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) The National Park Service is seeking public input on a series of changes proposed for Gravelly Point and the Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary, which are located along the George Washington Parkway near Crystal City.
The proposed changes, which have been in the works since 2008, are intended primarily to improve access to Roaches Run and reduce trail use conflicts along the Mount Vernon Trail at Gravelly Point. Other changes will “enhance the visitor experience… and enhance the safety of pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists.”
The proposal includes:
- The addition of a boardwalk/pedestrian trail from the Crystal City pedestrian underpass to Roaches Run
- A removable, floating boat launch at Roaches Run
- Either widening the congested trail area at Gravelly Point or building two separate trails — a “through route” and a “pedestrian route”
- A permanent “waterless restroom” located in the southwest corner of Gravelly Point
- Converting the dusty, over-used field at Gravelly Point into two rotating fields or one permanent field with either reduced use or more intensive turf management
- “Interpretive sites” at Gravelly Point that will include “signage detailing cultural and natural histories of the area”
- Improved landscaping at Gravelly Point that will remove invasive species and “frame parkway views across the Potomac to Washington, D.C. based on historic planting plan”
- Additional safety features along the Mount Vernon Trail where it parallels the GW Parkway near Reagan National Airport. Safety features may include reflective lines, protective barriers, or protective plantings.
The National Park Service will be holding a public meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 5 to gather input on the options for the Gravelly Point field and the Mount Vernon Trail safety improvements. The meeting will be held at the Indigo Landing Restaurant on Daingerfield Island, located off of the GW Parkway near Alexandria.
Interested parties can also submit comments via the project website. Comments will be gathered through June 22. There will be another opportunity to comment on the options later this year, after an environmental assessment is released for the project.
Once the environmental assessment is released and final project decisions are made, park planner Thomas Sheffer says it could “take a number of years” until the entire project is complete. The timeline is still very much up in the air, and depends on the project’s ability to receive federal funding. Some work, however, may be completed sooner.
“Smaller actions would be considered for more immediate completion by Parkway work crews,” Sheffer told ARLnow.com.
Eyes will be on the skies tomorrow, when the space shuttle Discovery flies to its new home at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport. There are actually some spots in Arlington that are being touted as great places to watch the flight.
NASA listed of some of the top places to see the shuttle in the DC metro area. Long Bridge Park and Gravelly Point in Arlington both received mentions. The Memorial Bridge, which covers ground in both Arlington and DC, is also on the list.
The shuttle is expected to pass near a number of landmarks in the area, including Reagan National Airport. Although not on the official list, some places like the Air Force Memorial and Mount Vernon Trail might also make decent viewing locations.
The shuttle will depart from the Kennedy Space Station in Florida around 7:30 a.m., and is expected to fly over Arlington between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., before landing at Dulles. The exact route and timing of the flight will be weather dependent.
Discovery will be mounted on the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, which is a modified Boeing 747, during its journey. On Thursday, the shuttle is scheduled to be moved from Dulles to the Udvar-Hazy Center for permanent public display.
Discovery was retired after completing its 39th mission in March 2011. NASA’s final space shuttle mission ended with Atlantis on July 21, 2011.
The Air and Space Museum will be updating its website regularly to list the shuttle’s locations. Those who don’t have internet access can receive updates via a phone hotline. Information about receiving updates can be found on the museum’s website.
Around noon today at Gravelly Point, there they were, together at last: about 65 flag-waving, sign-holding and gun-toting Second Amendment advocates, swarmed by a slightly larger crowd of photo-snapping and microphone-wielding members of the media.
Off to the side, under the shade of some tall trees, about two dozen police officers looked on. Further in the distance, CNN’s John King chatted up a young man wearing nylon cargo pants, a florescent vest and a large rifle.
Nearly all the rally participants had rifles or handguns, and a solid minority had both.
From the bed of a pickup truck, in the middle of the park’s large grass field, people started giving speeches.
“I want to thank the media for coming out, as much as I dislike the media,” said Tom Fernandez, co-founder of a group called Alarm & Muster.
Two counter-protesters held handmade signs criticizing the timing of the rally — on the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. Fernandez thanked them for exercising their First Amendment rights.
Further into the program, another speaker compared the government’s bailout of banks to the hijacking of United Flight 93.
“Does our government not act like suicidal hijackers?” he asked, later shouting the newly-minted term “commie-kazies” as a commercial jetliner roared overhead (it was, at best, a poorly thought-out venue for speeches).
As the speeches continued, reporters conducted one-on-one interviews. Pointed questions were asked.
“What constitutional rights do you think are being violated?”
“What do you think about President Obama?”
“What kind of gun is that?”
Amid the media circus, joggers and bicyclists continued on with their daily routines, some shooting quizzical looks at the gathered crowd.
“I think it’s another Tea Party,” one bicyclist said to another.
Lot of photos, after the jump.