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BREAKING: Body Found in Potomac River Off Gravelly Point

Police discovered a body in the Potomac River just off Gravelly Point this afternoon (Monday).

A D.C. police spokeswoman says the department’s Harbor Patrol made the discovery, but did not have any additional details on the incident. Arlington County police spokeswoman Ashley Savage added that her department is assisting in the investigation, as are the U.S. Park Police.

The area is located just off the G.W. Parkway and sits across the river from Reagan National Airport.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Roosevelt Island, Gravelly Point to Get Bikeshare — The County Board approved a deal with the National Park Service to allow Capital Bikeshare stations on Theodore Roosevelt Island and at Gravelly Point. Although the stations are on NPS land, the county will install and maintain them. [Arlington County]

Arlington, Falls Church Men Arrested in Drug Bust — Williamsburg police arrested 10 people at the College of William & Mary — including one student from Arlington, two from Falls Church and a professor — during a large drug bust during which they confiscated LSD, cocaine, mushrooms, opioids, amphetamines, steroids, hashish, marijuana and $14,000 in cash. Police launched a months-long investigation when they heard that increased drug use was causing unreported sexual assaults. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

Tree Canopy Dispute Grows — Environmental activists have intensified their cries about the county providing misleading information on the size of Arlington’s tree canopy. Activists confronted County Board members at their Saturday meeting, armed with claims of “alternative facts” and a “war on science.”  [Inside NoVa]

Outstanding Park Volunteers Honored — The County Board gave awards to Joanne Hutton, John Foti and Friends of Aurora Highlands Park for their efforts to support county parks and natural resources. The honorees have led service projects, helped to expand field use and promoted public open spaces. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Capital Bikeshare May Come To Roosevelt Island, Gravelly Point

Arlington may get two new Capital Bikeshare stations, at Roosevelt Island and Gravelly Point.

The County Board is set to approve a “memorandum of understanding” with the National Park Service, which has to approve the bikeshare stations since they would be located on NPS land.

The approval would further the goal of an expansion of the bikeshare network along the Mt. Vernon Trail.

Responsibility for the installation and maintenance of the bikeshare facilities on NPS land would fall on the county, according to the memorandum. It also restricts any advertisements on the stations, and sets requirements for site preservation and, should the stations be removed in the future, restoration.

The office of the County Manager has recommended that the memorandum be approved at Saturday’s County Board meeting (April 21).

Currently there are about 440 stations and 3,700 Capital Bikeshare bikes in the region. As of 2017, 85 Bikeshare stations were in Arlington.

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Morning Notes

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

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Beyer Blasts Bill Renaming Gravelly Point Park for Nancy Reagan

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.”

Beyer also called the bill a “pet project” by conservative advocacy group Americans For Tax Reform, which looks to minimize “the government’s power to control one’s life.”

“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.

“Mr. Chairman, with true regret I rise to speak in opposition to this bill.

I have great respect for Nancy Reagan, and my opposition to this bill must not be interpreted as my having any personal animus towards our former First Lady.

But this bill is the equivalent of someone coming in and changing the furniture in your house without asking you. 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.

First and foremost, this bill does not have local support and did not have any local input.

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.

In this committee I constantly hear from my Republican friends that local communities know how to manage their land better, and that the feds should stay out of local decisions. I hope that this doesn’t only apply to Republican districts. This bill is Congress unilaterally forcing a decision on a local community — Arlington and Alexandria — without any local say or input.

And why? Because this bill is the pet project of Americans for Tax Reform, a special interest group. 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.

While I understand the desire to honor political figures, something like this should not be done without involving the local community. This would be the equivalent of my offering a bill in Mr. Hice’s district to rename the Oconee National Forest’s campground the Hillary Clinton campground or the Michelle Obama campground. I’m sure Mr. Hice would like his constituents to be able to weigh in on a decision like that.

The other reason this is concerning is the process with which it was handled. My understanding typically is that when offering legislation that impacts another Member’s district you either work with them or at least notify them. That respect was not extended to my office.

When we discovered it was Americans for Tax Reform and not our constituents that wanted the bill, we asked the sponsor’s office to not move forward, and my requests via staff were ignored. I was deeply surprised to find this bill before us here in markup. I asked the committee if they would remove it from markup, but that request was also denied.

This also [gets to] the process of how we consider bills. This bill had no legislative hearing. This is the first time that I have an opportunity to formally speak expressing my concerns.

And the other reason we needed a legislative hearing is because there is a potential technical impediment to the bill that needs airing.

Memorials, monuments and other commemorative works in Washington DC and its environs are governed by the Commemorative Works Act, which lays out a series of guidelines for the establishment of memorials and requires consultation with the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission. The Commission reviewed H.R. 5457 – the identical bill [introduced] in the 114th Congress – and determined that the proposal to establish Nancy Reagan Memorial Park potentially violates several guidelines established by the CWA.

First, Congressional authorization for memorials to individuals is not supposed to occur until the 25th anniversary of the death of the individual. Since space is limited and memorials should not be established without careful consideration, this provides time for reflection on the individual’s contributions. Since Mrs. Reagan passed away less than three years ago, the designation of a memorial park in her name violates the CWA.

Second, the CWA requires a comprehensive evaluation of site locations to determine suitability. The commission noted that this hasn’t happened for this proposal and that the designation of this site after the Former First Lady could prevent the establishment of other memorials in the area, since CWA states that no new memorial shall encroach upon an existing memorial.

So as one of my constituents wrote on ARLNow.com, I ask my colleagues to “just say no.” We cannot allow a pet project of a special interest group to override local consideration or input. Just as I respect my colleagues to know what’s best in their districts, I’d ask the same curtesy be extended. Let’s allow for public comment and local input and follow the Congressionally mandated process.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back.”

[After further debate]

“I would humbly suggest that if we want to rename the park from Gravelly Point, that we engage the Arlington County Board, the Alexandria City Council, the jurisdictions that are there with all the constituents that are using this on a regular basis, and rename it after a vigorous public discussion about which of our many former First Ladies or just American leaders who should be honored in that way, rather than just unilaterally deciding that former First Lady Reagan – whom I admire very much – that this park should be named after her.”

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Bill Renaming Gravelly Point for Nancy Reagan Being Debated in House Committee

A U.S. House of Representatives committee will discuss a bill to rename Gravelly Point after former First Lady Nancy Reagan.

The House Committee on Natural Resources will mark up the bill, H.R. 553, by Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) tomorrow (Wednesday) at 10 a.m. As previously reported, Hice first introduced the bill in 2016.

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

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Bill Introduced to Rename Gravelly Point After Nancy Reagan

A plane on approach to Reagan National Airport, seen from Gravelly Point

Gravelly Point may be renamed after Nancy Reagan, if a newly-introduced House bill passes.

H.R. 5457 was introduced Monday by Georgia Republican Rep. Jody Hice. The bill would rename Gravelly Point Park “Nancy Reagan Memorial Park,” after the former first lady, who died in March.

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.

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Unhappy Park Visitors Take Frustrations Out on Yelp

Plane landing at Reagan National Airport, as seen from Gravelly Point (photo by Alex)

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 (via Arlington County)

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.

James Hunter Park Yelp review

LBJ Memorial Grove

A bike/pedestrian underpass connecting the Columbia Island Marina and the LBJ Memorial Grove with the Mt. Vernon Trail is now open

The LBJ Memorial Grove is located off of Boundary Channel Drive by the Columbia Island Marina and is one of the many National Parks Service-run green spaces in Arlington. However, despite the intention of peace and tranquility, Yelp reviewers seemed to be disturbed by other visitors and the bathrooms.

Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove

Oakland Park 

Oakland Park (via Arlington County)

The county describes Oakland Park (3705 Wilson Blvd) as a “quaint” park and a good picnic destination, according to the park’s website. This Yelp reviewer advises that visitors don’t touch the grass.

Yelp Review of Oakland Park

Benjamin Banneker Park

Shadowy jogger in Banneker Park (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

Benjamin Banneker Park (1701 N. Van Buren Street) is dog-friendly, has a playground and open, grassy space. However, the open space was a problem for this visitor who found the park muddy after it had rained a couple days before.

Yelp Review of Benjamin Banneker Park

Gravelly Point

A plane on approach to Reagan National Airport, seen from Gravelly Point
Gravelly Point is know for plane watching, as the park is located next to Reagan National Airport. However, one visitor didn’t see the point of having a park next to an airport.

Yelp Review of Gravelly Point

Theodore Roosevelt Island

Theodore Roosevelt Island

Located along the banks of the Potomac near Rosslyn, this park stands as a memorial for our 26th president. The park is close enough to Reagan National Airport that planes flying overhead may bother some visitors.
Yelp review of Theordore Roosevelt Island

Quincy Park

Tightrope walker in Quincy Park

Quincy Park at 1021 N. Quincy Street has tennis courts, baseball/softball fields and a playground. However, the park also has some lighting problems, according to one Yelp review.
Yelp review of Quincy Park

Upton Hill Regional Park

Pool at Upton Hills park (Ocean Dunes Waterpark)

Upton Hill Park is  located at 6060 Wilson Blvd. The park has a pool, batting cages and mini golf, but maintenance of the park was a problem for this reviewer.

Yelp review of Upton Park

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Morning Notes

Office building under construction in Rosslyn (Flickr pool photo by Runneralan2004)

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.

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Body of Missing Woman Found Near Gravelly Point

Victoria Kong (photo via MWAA)The body of a missing woman has been found near Gravelly Point.

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.

Kong, who suffered from memory problems, had gone missing from Reagan National Airport on Friday evening, after arriving on a flight from Miami. She was last seen walking north on the trail.

Brooks was unable to release any other information about what might have happened.

“This is an ongoing investigation,” he said.

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Changes Proposed for Gravelly Point, Roaches Run

(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.

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Shuttle Discovery to Fly Over Arlington on Tuesday

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.

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Media, Gun Rights Advocates Converge on Gravelly Point

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.

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