Arlington, VA

A pandemic is raging, the country is sharply divided, and many people and businesses are struggling.

Despite the gloom and doom, however, every once in awhile a glimmer of hope, joy and humanity manages to shine through. Such was the case on Friday, when a couple enjoyed a white tablecloth dinner, complete with wine and flowers, outdoors… at Gravelly Point.

The plane-watching and picnic destination just north of Reagan National Airport became the couple’s date spot, as captured by a Twitter user who posted a photo (below) on Sunday.

“At Gravelly Point day after Thanksgiving. Was it the first in-person date? Guy was waiting for a long time. I think he’s a keeper,” the user wrote.

“Planes on a first date? Definitely a keeper!” the Twitter account for the airport responded.

Know the couple? Please contact us, we’d love to tell their story.

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This content was written and sponsored by The Keri Shull Team, Arlington’s top producing residential real estate team.

As the days get shorter and the air gets crisper, it’s not surprising that people want to savor the remaining good weather as much as possible. And one of the best ways to easily have some outdoor fun in Arlington is to have a picnic in one of Arlington’s many parks!

For today’s Neighborhood Spotlight, we want to specifically highlight 3 of our favorite places for picnicking. All of these spots are great options for soaking up the final vestiges of the summer sun — and even once winter is fully here, these Arlington picnic spaces are great ways to enjoy Northern Virginia (while remaining socially distant, to boot)!

Do you have a hidden (or not-so-hidden) gem of a park, restaurant or entertainment spot that you want us to highlight? Just let us know down in the comments!

Let’s get started!

Gravelly Point Park

If you are looking for a truly unique picnic setting, look no further than Gravelly Point Park. Located just north of Reagan Airport along the George Washington Parkway, this bankside green space is perfect for picnickers.

The main runway at Reagan (known as Runway 1/19, in case you’re interested) points directly towards the park. This means that planes using these runways soar directly over the heads of onlookers, often as low as just a couple hundred feet in the air. Because Gravelly Point is less than 1,000 feet from the end of the runway, it is one of the most stunning spots for airplane spotters in the entire country.

Getting to Gravelly Point

Unlike many other green spaces in Northern Virginia, it can be a bit tricky to take your car to Gravelly Point Park. Although the picnic space is located along the George Washington Parkway, parking is somewhat limited.

One alternative to parking and walking is to bike to Gravelly Point using the Mount Vernon Trail!

Gateway Park

With its views of Washington, D.C. and gorgeous, cultivated green areas, Gateway Park is another of our favorite places for a picnic in Arlington. This park is located in the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington and features 3 acres of beauty, both natural and manmade.

Gateway might not sit directly on the Potomac, but visitors can still enjoy a breathtaking vantage of the river and Georgetown, the popular D.C. neighborhood, from Gateway Park’s Skywalk.

In addition to being a great place to lay out a prepared meal, Gateway Park hosts a lot of events to enjoy. The amphitheater at Gateway Park is home to the Rosslyn Jazz Fest. Currently, the park is hosting its O2 (Office Outside) program. This allows locals to get a taste of the outdoors while still taking care of business with open-air desks and complimentary WiFi!

Getting to Gateway Park

The Arlington picnic space is located at 1300 Lee Highway, right at the base of Key Bridge. Please note that parking in the area can be somewhat limited, so you might have to park farther away and walk.

As an alternative, you can easily access Gateway via the Rosslyn Metro Station. The park is just a short walk from the Metro stop.

Dark Star Park 

In terms of basking in planned, artistic beauty, there aren’t many things to do in Arlington that rival Dark Star Park. This green space/art installation was originally built in 1984, designed and overseen by the famous sculptor Nancy Holt.

Once per year, on August 1, the natural shadows cast by the Dark Stars line up with these pre-set markings at exactly 9:32 a.m. Holt chose August 1 to commemorate the anniversary of William Ross’s 1860 purchase of the land that became Rosslyn.

But the question remains — how is Dark Star Park as a picnic spot?

In a word: lovely. Dark Star Park offers a welcome respite from the urban environment of Rosslyn, with shrubbery and grass that are a vibrant contrast to the sea of glass and concrete that marks much of the Arlington neighborhood. Large trees ring the park, providing a pleasant shade to enjoy your spread of food and drink.

Getting to Dark Star Park

Dark Star Park stands at 1655 North Fort Myer Drive in Arlington, sandwiched between Fort Myer Drive and N. Lynn Street. There are 2 separate parking garages immediately adjacent to the park, so getting to Dark Star by car is convenient. Otherwise, the Rosslyn Metro stop is only a few blocks away, for those who prefer taking the train.

There are a ton of great places to enjoy a picnic when living in Arlington — in fact, far too many to cover in a single article. The ones listed above are just a few of our favorites… but we want to get your input, too! What is your favorite spot to have a picnic in Arlington? Let us know down in the comments below!

Do you know anyone who is interested in buying or selling a home now in Arlington or anywhere else in the DMV? Just click here or email [email protected] today for a free real estate consultation!

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Arlington County may be moving forward with plans to build the long-awaited boathouse in Rosslyn, but some are wondering why a site at Gravelly Point wasn’t chosen instead.

National Park Service spokesman Aaron LaRocca tells ARLnow that Rosslyn was chosen because “it best meets the purpose and need statement in the [environmental assessment] to enhance waterfront access and provide a boathouse facility along the Virginia shore of the Potomac for non-motorized, water based recreation” better than Gravelly Point.

The County Board voted Tuesday to allow County Manager Mark Schwartz to sign a programmatic agreement that ends NPS’ environmental assessment of the decades-long project. This means NPS can now start start designing the boathouse in consultation with the county government and other local stakeholders, LaRocca said.

The environmental assessment examined several alternative sites for the boat house, including Gravelly Point, just north of Reagan National Airport.

Local activist Suzanne Smith Sundburg argued Gravelly Point should have been chosen instead in a letter to the Board before the vote, citing the trees on the Rosslyn site at 2105 N. Lynn Street (formerly known as 1101 Lee Highway) that would need to be cut down. Sundburg also cited the “highly destructive dredging of 52,000 square feet of precious Potomac River wetlands” also needed.

LaRocca said that the Gravelly Point site was unsuitable from an environmental perspective because it lies within a floodplain, whereas the Rosslyn site does not.

In addition to better access to public transit, he added that the Rosslyn site is also “the preferred alternative” because the water is calmer, which would improve boater safety and allow for more days on the river as compared to the Gravelly Point location.

Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement echoed Sundburg’s concerns Tuesday night, and added that the Rosslyn site would also require a parking lot and an access road to be built, whereas Gravelly Point already has parking and ready access to the GW Parkway.

“Gravelly Point was proposed to avoid potentially sensitive resources and reduce the amount of road infrastructure needed to access the site, compared to other locations along this part of the Potomac River,” says the NPS environmental assessment.

The 106-page study notes that Gravelly Point has turf grass, not trees, and existing parking facilities, but it also notes that wildlife like small rodents, fish, and birds were recorded in “statistically lower” amounts at the Rosslyn site than at Gravelly Point.

LaRocca said NPS recommended the Rosslyn site after weighing the environmental impact and service needs, along with other factors.

Board member Erik Gutshall said he expects improvements to the boathouse plan to be made in the next design phase, and that the current plan’s shortcomings were not a reason for the Board to reject “broad brush” of the project Tuesday night.

Image 1 via County Board, Image 2 via National Park Service

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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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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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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.

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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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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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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

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