The opening festivities are set to take place this Saturday from noon-3 p.m. at 3630 27th Street S. in Green Valley, down the street from Shirlington.
It will begin with a “mini-parade” featuring the Crossroads Riders Motorcycle Club and the Young Divas Dance Team, who recently performed at the opening of the John Robinson Jr. Town Square. The program will include remarks from Arlington County Board members and the Green Valley Civic Association, as well as a recognition of the park’s baseball history.
A number of the former semi-pro and amateur players who took their swings at Jennie Dean Park during the mid-20th Century will gather as well.
There will also be a ribbon cutting, a snow cone stand, food, music from JoGo Project, and a basketball tournament for teenagers, a county spokesperson tells ARLnow.
“Due to the projected weather forecast on Saturday with high temperatures in the mid-90s, a water fill station will be set up at the event with cold, filtered water,” the spokesperson noted.
The Shirlington Dog Park parking lot on the 2700 block of S. Oakland Street will be closed during the event, but the dog park itself will remain open.
More than two acres were added along with an updated, ADA-accessible playground that now has age-separated areas. The new restrooms are all-gender, in keeping with a county ordinance, and moved to the front of the park. The picnic shelter has a sustainable, green roof, which is next to renovated basketball and tennis courts.
The two baseball diamonds were moved out of the Four Mile Run floodplain and have new efficient LED lights. The fields are also now named after two long-time community stalwarts, Ernest Johnson and Robert Winkler.
The diamonds will also display pennants of historic Green Valley teams, designed in collaboration with the civic association, that played at the park over the last 70 years.
Along the sidewalks near the diamonds is a history walk, embedded with plaques marking significant moments in the park’s and neighborhood’s history.
There’s a new site-specific work of public art in the western portion of the park. Wheelhouse is a stainless steel multi-sectioned pavilion that “explores the industrial history of the Jennie Dean Park site through the lens of the great American pastime — baseball.”
The park is named after Jennie Serepta Dean, a formerly enslaved woman who opened the Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth in the late 19th century.
It was initially set to reopen late last year, but permitting delays pushed it back a few months.
The $15.5 million renovation of Jennie Dean Park in Green Valley is nearly complete, poised to open to the public in the middle of next month.
The renovations included adding more than two acres, updating and moving the playground, rebuilding the restrooms, renovating the picnic shelter, relocating and modernizing the baseball fields, and commissioning a site specific work of public art.
Last week, ARLnow got an exclusive tour of the park, which is in the midst of getting final landscaping and aesthetic touches.
The new, re-designed playground is now closer to S. Four Mile Run Drive to make it more “visible and accessible” to the community. It’s ADA accessible with age separated areas and state-of-the-art safety features, like poured-in-place rubber. The look is “heavily inspired by the industrial character of the area,” says landscape architect and county project manager Jeremy Smith, with lots of exposed wood and bolts.
The new all-gender restrooms, now a county-wide ordinance for all county facilities, have also been rebuilt and relocated closer to the front of the park due to safety reasons. The bathrooms are designed to be open year-round and will be open from sunrise to the park closes at 11 p.m.
The two baseball diamonds, one for youth leagues and the other for adult softball, are now moved further away from Four Mile Run. Previously, the diamonds were in the floodplain, so the move is to help mitigate flooding and over saturation. The diamonds are also now equipped with more efficient LED lights that will “focus the light on the fields and not the neighborhoods,” Smith tells ARLnow. First priority for field use are for scheduled and permitted activities.
If the fields are not scheduled, they are available for drop-in and free use.
The two fields have also been renamed after long-time community activists. Ernest Johnson was the leader of one of Arlington’s first African American Cub Scout Packs while Robert Winkler was a long-time employee of the county’s parks and recreations department. He was also a youth coach who helped provide financial support to local athletes.
To celebrate the park’s long history of baseball, the diamonds will display pennants of historic Green Valley teams that played on the fields in the mid-20th century. The pennants were being designed in collaboration with the Green Valley Civic Association but, as of last week, had not yet been installed.
Near the baseball diamonds is a history walk, with plaques embedded in the ground displaying some of the significant moments in the park’s and Green Valley’s history.
There’s also new public art. Wheelhouse, a green stainless steel multi-sectioned pavilion, “explores the industrial history of the Jennie Dean Park site through the lens of the great American pastime — baseball,” according the county website.
The design is supposed to look like a mill that once stood in this location in the early 18th century, as well as the heart of a homeplate’s strike zone that is often called a batter’s wheelhouse. It was designed by artist Mark Reigelman with community input and was budgeted at $200,000.
(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) It was a seemingly uncontroversial item on the County Board agenda: shifting a temporary parking lot for television station WETA down the block, in order to allow renovations to Jennie Dean Park to proceed.
But the proposal, which was approved unanimously last night after a detailed discussion, ended up raising questions about race, equity and public engagement. It was the subject of a recent op-ed published by the Sun Gazette entitled “Arlington government again fails Green Valley,” accusing the county of repeatedly ignoring the wishes of the historically Black neighborhood.
“While millions marched for equity and racial justice last week, the Arlington County government posted a board agenda item that turns these actions into mere slogans,” wrote Green Valley Civic Association members Robin Stombler and Portia Clark. “A license agreement would have the county government turn a newly acquired $1 million property in the Green Valley community into a parking lot for WETA. This action is but one in a series of events that draw attention to the inequity systemic within the county.”
The discussion at Tuesday’s County Board meeting did not include much talk of race or equity. Instead, it mostly addressed the practical matter at hand: about 10 employees of the nearby WETA facility, which produces the PBS NewsHour, were parking on a temporary, county-owned lot that is set to become a playground in Phase 1 of the Jennie Dean expansion. To allow construction to move forward, they would be moved to a lot a short distance away on S. Four Mile Run Drive, between a small commercial building and the Weenie Beenie.
Demolition of the building that will become the new WETA lot started last week, a county staffer said. Heavy construction on the park is set to begin in late summer or early fall. Without use of the current temporary lot, “we would not be able to build out the project as designed,” the staffer said.
The Green Valley neighborhood didn’t want the current WETA lot and doesn’t want the new lot, said Stombler. And notification of the change — it was advertised in the lightly-read Washington Times newspaper, as are Arlington’s other public notices — was inadequate.
“Publishing notices in the Washington Times and considering it an outreach method is very telling of how the county regards Green Valley and community input in general,” Stomber said. We deserve much better… The county’s engagement processes must be improved.”
The remarks echo complaints from Green Valley residents two years about the lengthy design process for Jennie Dean Park.
“This community has been ignored repeatedly by the Arlington County Board while the requests and desires of several other, predominantly white, Arlington neighborhoods are being placed ahead of those of the people who live here,” one resident told ARLnow at the time.
“I feel like we’re second class citizens,” said a resident during the public comment period last night.
Nonetheless, under an agreement approved by the Board, WETA will be granted temporary use of the newly-created lot for a year, after which its use can be reevaluated. Eventually, the lot will become part of park, in the second phase of its expansion. And the county will get something in return for the temporary use.
“The compensation to the County for the Amended and Restated License Agreement will be in the form of 12, 15-second promotional underwriting credit spots on WETA’s radio programs during each calendar year,” a staff report says.
Stombler and Clark — who support the expansion of WETA’s Shirlington headquarters that will see its aging NewsHour studio eventually demolished — said that the radio ads will not do anything to benefit the neighborhood.
“The county government must reassess its engagement processes to correct these actions, and must be held accountable for practices that marginalize segments of our community,” the op-ed said. “More innovative and compassionate solutions should be encouraged. Local hiring, paid internships, job fair hosting and community clean-ups beat 12 ego-boosting radio spots any day.”
Photos (1-2) via Arlington County, (3-4) via Google Maps
Scooters Can Officially Ride on Sidewalks, Trails — Details about the new, William Shatner-approved permanent e-scooter and e-bike regulations approved by the County Board over the weekend: “Motorized scooters and skateboards will have a top speed of 15 miles per hour, and e-bicycles will have a top speed of 20 miles per hour on streets and trails. When operating on public sidewalks, the top speed of all the devices is restricted to six miles per hour. The devices will not be allowed to operate on sidewalks where a protected bicycle lane is available and may be prohibited from other sidewalks.” [Arlington County]
Progress on Second Ballston Metro Entrance Plan — “At long last, Arlington seems to be making real progress on building a western entrance to the Ballston Metro station — and that includes finding a path to fund the stalled project. County officials plan to set aside an extra $25 million for the Metro station entrance, then ask for $33.5 million in regional transportation funding for the project.” [Washington Business Journal]
Ballston Harris Teeter Development OKed — “A mixed-use redevelopment approved today by the County Board will replace the Harris Teeter and the American Service Center on N. Glebe Rd. with apartments, a new grocery store, other ground floor retail and a new public open space… community benefits will include a $4.1 million contribution to affordable housing; new public street connections; improvements to the traffic signals at Randolph Street and Glebe Road, and the replacement of a large water main under Glebe Road.” [Arlington County]
Talento Not Seeking Reelection — “I have decided not to seek reelection to my School Board seat. Fulfilling my duties as a public servant take first priority for me and, while it is an honor to serve on the School Board, running a campaign while simultaneously fulfilling these responsibilities is not the best way for me to ensure our students have the future they deserve.” [Blue Virginia]
Jennie Dean Park Project Approved — “The Arlington County Board today approved a $15.5 million contract with MCN Build, Inc. to begin Jennie Dean Park’s long-awaited transformation.” [Arlington County]
Caps Host TAPS Families at Iceplex — “Late Thursday afternoon, family members of fallen soldiers got a chance to skate with Capitals players in Arlington, Virginia. The Capitals hosted the event with an organization called TAPS – the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.” [WJLA]
The Arlington County Board could advance an extensive redesign of Jennie Dean Park during its meeting this weekend.
The Board is scheduled to vote to add dedicated green space to the Shirlington-area park and approve a $15.5 million construction contact during its meeting this Saturday, November 16.
The park was first built in 1949 and features two tennis courts, baseball and softball diamonds, a basketball court, a playground, and a picnic area. After a series of public meetings, the county decided to relocate one of the baseball fields near S. Nelson Street, install a bathroom near Four Mile Run Drive, and build basketball and tennis courts near a WETA production facility.
As part of the renovations, the County Board is now considering removing a stretch of 27th Street S. from S. Nelson Street to Shirlington Road “for incorporation into the expanded Jennie Dean Park” per county staffers. The removal of the section of road is not expected to impede access to the WETA building, which serves as the production studio for PBS Newshour.
In addition to vacating the stretch of road, members will also vote on whether to rezone some “service industry” parcels of land to the north of the park as “public” — a move that could add 1.96 acres to the park which would make room for the planned youth baseball diamond, among other amenities.
The design process for the park proved somewhat controversial, with a local civic association calling one proposed design a “non-starter.” The park sits within the boundaries of the Green Valley neighborhood.
County officials are scheduled to discuss the final renovation designs next Thursday, November 21 from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Charles Drew Community Center, and on Saturday, November 23 from 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m. at the Shirlington Branch Library.
Construction on the project is due to start by early 2020.
Earlier this year, officials asked residents to share their memories of the park with the Brooklyn-based artist selected to design the public art portion of the project.
Arlington County is hoping residents can help inspire the artist designing the public art component of renovations to Jennie Dean Park near Shirlington.
Residents will be able to meet the Brooklyn-based artist Mark Reigelman on two days in early September during his first visit to Arlington to share their stories and memories of the 12-acre park.
“The input gathered will inform the art work design,” said officials in a press release.
Reigelman will give two presentations about his past work on Tuesday, September at 6:30 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. at the New District Brewery (2709 S. Oakland Street) and is also expected to open the floor for stories from residents. He is scheduled to host another, open house-style, meeting on Wednesday, September 4 from 8-9:30 a.m. at Busboys and Poets (4251 Campbell Avenue).
Reigelman has worked on two park projects before in New York City and San Jose, California, according to his website — which heralds him as a “genius” whose intellect is “only exceeded by his modesty and benevolence.”
The future artwork planned is part a fiercely debated redesign of the park that includes moving a baseball field near S. Nelson Street, installing a new bathroom near Four Mile Run Drive, and building basketball and tennis courts near where a WETA-TV production building now stands. The county held a public feedback session on the renovations last month.
The park redesign itself is also part of a larger plan to revitalize the Four Mile Run Valley area, solve overcrowding at sites like the Trades Center, and prioritize storm protections for the flood–prone area.
New art for the park could pay homage to the park’s namesake, former slave Jennie Serepta Dean, who helped found a trades school for African Americans, per a 2018 staff report for the Arlington County Board about the project.
Map via Arlington County
The “Buck Site” — a county-owned property across N. Quincy Street from Washington-Lee High School — could serve a smörgåsbord of Arlington’s needs.
Last week the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission (JFAC) reviewed proposed uses for four building renovations planned for the site to fit needs across several local departments and Arlington Public Schools (APS).
According to the Phase 3 plans, the Buck 1 building closest to N. Quincy Street would be used as a logistics hub for the Arlington County Fire Department.
Buck 3, a building farther back in the site, would be used for police storage.
According to Jessica Baxter, a spokeswoman for Arlington County’s Department of Environmental Services, the county is moving forward with renovations to the warehouse building at 1425 N. Quincy Street to accommodate the relocation of police reserve vehicles.
The police vehicles are being relocated due to the upcoming construction at Jennie Dean Park near Shirlington, where they’re currently stored.
The planned use for the two other buildings at the site is still to be determined. Baxter said the county is waiting to hear what the top priority would be from APS.
“The two office buildings at 1429 and 1439 N. Quincy Street (Buck 2 and 4) are being considered for instructional space and/or the relocation of APS’s administrative offices, trade shops, and associated white fleet vehicles from the Trades Center in Shirlington, for APS’s growing needs,” Baxter wrote. “APS will decide whether to proceed with the uses of these buildings, and is to let the county know this fall.”
Last June, the County Board approved an agreement that would allow APS to park vehicles at the property.
If APS does not proceed with classrooms or an administrative use in those buildings, the county’s plans are to convert Buck 2 into county offices and a facility for Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management (PSCEM).
The presentation at the JFAC meeting also included estimated renovation costs for each of the buildings:
- Buck 1 (Fire logistics) — $8 million-$10 million
- Buck 2 (APS classrooms or county offices) — $14.5 million-$20 million
- Buck 3 (Police vehicle and equipment storage) — $7 million-$9 million
- Buck 4 (APS classrooms, administrative, or PSCEM) — $14 million-$24 million
- General site renovations — $4 million
An alternative design for the site, also under consideration, envisions the Buck Site as a recreational field, multi-use athletic field and youth/rec baseball field was also presented at the meeting, with a $13.5 million cost estimate.
Photo via Google Maps
As Arlington officials continue to chart out the future of the Four Mile Run valley, some community leaders in Nauck feel their concerns are being ignored by the county and are demanding a louder voice in the proceedings.
The county’s worked since 2016 to craft new planning documents for the area, primarily located in Nauck but touching Shirlington and other South Arlington neighborhoods as well, in a bid to guide the gradual transformation of the valley’s parks and business district. The County Board passed a “policy framework” to provide a roadmap for that process in May, and is set to sign off on a “parks master plan” for the area at its meeting this weekend.
But even with a slew of community meetings on the subject and a working group dedicated to the valley, some Nauck leaders remain frustrated by how the county’s handled their input. While they have gripes with some policy specifics — the re-design of Jennie Dean Park, in particular — their broader concern is that residents are being left out of the process of determining their own neighborhood’s long-term outlook.
“It is confounding when the community that’s most impacted by the Four Mile Run valley is blocked from county communication,” Robin Stombler, a Nauck resident and vice chair of the Four Mile Run working group, told ARLnow. “There’s been a history of exclusion and marginalization of this community, and the county’s current actions don’t correct that history.”
As Stombler points out, the community’s roots as a historically black neighborhood add an extra level of tension to any discussion of how the county engages with people in Nauck. Even with the Board’s frequent commitments to remedying historic inequities in the community as part of the planning process, some residents can’t help but feel suspicious that Nauck’s past is still influencing its future.
“This community has been ignored repeatedly by the Arlington County Board while the requests and desires of several other, predominantly white, Arlington neighborhoods are being placed ahead of those of the people who live here,” Nauck resident Renee Greenwell wrote in an email. “It takes a lot for a historically marginalized community to speak its mind, [and] for Arlington County leaders and staff to patronize us and ignore our opinions is despicable.”
Arlington officials dispute that they’ve ignored any community involved in the planning, let alone Nauck. For his part, Board member John Vihstadt, the Board’s liaison to the Four Mile Run working group, says he’s done his best to “understand and appreciate the sometimes varied perspectives of all stakeholders in our planning process, especially those from Nauck.”
County parks department spokeswoman Susan Kalish also touted the “enormous amount of community outreach” involved in the process, noting that the county has held a total of 65 meetings on the valley as well as creating “an online forum for those who could not attend” those gatherings.
Nauck Civic Association President Portia Clark, however, says the county’s “engagement process was lousy from the beginning.” While she says the county has indeed held plenty of meetings, it’s the quality of those meetings that concern her.
For instance, Clark says she invited parks officials to a civic association meeting last Monday (Sept. 10) to have a broader conversation about the parks master plan. Despite repeated requests, Clark and Stombler both say the county ultimately only sent one representative to the meeting, who couldn’t discuss the plan in the detail they were looking for.
“Where were the other county folks behind the parks plan?” Clark said.
Kalish acknowledges that the county was invited to that gathering, but noted that other officials had just held an “open house” on the parks plan on Sept. 5, calling it “robust and distributive.”
“We heard from a variety of people, including residents from Nauck and the surrounding communities,” Kalish said.
But Clark claims the meeting was sparsely attended, coming so soon after Labor Day, with county officials outnumbering community members by a hefty margin.
“How engaging is that?” Clark said. “We recommended from the beginning that they contact every household… It just went on deaf ears, because they weren’t listening.”
Clark feels that the county instead came into the process with “certain things in mind that they wanted,” and then refused to change based on community input.
Among her biggest concerns are the plans to revamp Jennie Dean Park. Eventually, the county envisions acquiring the WETA building next to the park, relocating a baseball field and adding new tennis courts to the area.
The Board ultimately endorsed a plan to move the field closer to the intersection of 27th Street S. and S. Nelson Street, even though Clark’s civic association and the county’s Park and Recreation Commission backed an option that would’ve left a bit more open space at the front of the park by locating the field elsewhere. But county staff endorsed the former alternative, reasoning it would be easier to build and maintain, and the Board is set to formalize that selection when it votes on the park master plan Saturday (Sept. 22).
To Clark, the dispute represents the perfect example of the county not listening to Nauck’s input, even though the neighborhood hosts the park itself.
“We’re concerned it will be a border to the community, and about the noise levels, what will project out into the neighborhood,” Clark said. “We just have to live with that now.”
Vihstadt noted that “Board members and staff are in continued communication with a variety of communities as we approach our Saturday vote,” and said the county is working to “build as much consensus and mutual understanding as possible” on the plan.
But Stombler is already looking a bit beyond the parks plan to what she thinks the county can take away from this whole dust-up moving forward.
“I think we need an assessment of how this process has proceeded, so future engagements are more collaborative and understanding of the community,” she said.
With a key bit of planning work on the Four Mile Run valley in Nauck wrapped up, the county is pushing ahead with the development of additional design guidelines for parks and other features in the area.
The County Board approved a “policy framework” for the area in May, sketching out general goals for the remainder of the planning process. Chiefly, the work is focused on the redevelopment of Jennie Dean Park, the evolution of pedestrian and cycling options along roads like S. Four Mile Run Drive and the promotion of the arts industry in the area.
In the framework, the Board endorsed one plan for the redesign of Jennie Dean to account for the county’s plans to someday acquire WETA’s building in the area (3620 27th Street S.).
The Board expects to approve a plan calling for two planned baseball and softball fields to be aligned closer to S. Nelson Street, with new basketball and tennis courts on the site of the WETA building, even though it attracted some fierce pushback from some in the Nauck community. Now, the public will get another chance to weigh in on the design, including the county’s plans to add a new “gateway” to the park near the Weenie Beanie on S. Four Mile Run Drive.
The plans also include details on how the county might manage stormwater in the area moving forward, and future tweaks to features throughout Shirlington Park. The area’s dog park, however, won’t see big changes under the proposed plans, after the Board declined to move forward with any reduction in size for the park.
The Board expects to vote on a final parks plan in September, and could sign off on the area plan in November.
The Arlington County Board has signed off on a new policy framework to guide the redevelopment of the Four Mile Run valley in Nauck, a long-awaited step in the lengthy planning process for the area.
The Board voted unanimously to approve the planning document Saturday (May 19), highlighted by a recommended redesign of Jennie Dean Park (3630 27th Street S.) that’s prompted fierce debate among community groups working on the issue.
Broadly, the policy framework is designed to guide the Board as it works in the coming months to develop a final area plan and parks master plan for the area. Most of the focus of the document is on plans for green space in the area — including Shirlington Park, Shirlington Dog Park and portions of both the Four Mile Run stream and trail — in addition to future pedestrian and cycling options along nearby roads like S. Four Mile Run Drive.
The framework is also designed to help the county promote the arts alongside the industrial buildings that have long dominated the area.
“It is not a rigid codification,” said Board member John Vihstadt. “It’s a scaffolding, a framework so we can work out the details together.”
The Board is hoping that the document helps county officials as they plan around a potential acquisition of PBS member station WETA’s building in the area (3620 27th Street S.), a possibility the county has long discussed with WETA without any resolution in sight.
Currently, the building sits adjacent to Jennie Dean Park and its athletic fields and tennis courts. The new policy framework assumes that the county will eventually buy the property and use it to expand some of the park’s amenities — County Manager Mark Schwartz told the Board that WETA’s hired a consultant to evaluate its future in Arlington, and that firm will deliver a report to WETA leaders by the end of the year.
The County Board had to choose between two options for redeveloping the park, and taking advantage of the hypothetical acquisition of WETA’s space. One called for two planned baseball and softball fields to be aligned closer to S. Nelson Street, with new basketball and tennis courts on the site of the WETA building; the other involved putting those courts closer to S. Nelson Street and one of the athletic fields near the WETA building site instead.
The second option won the support of some community groups examining the issue, as they expressed concern about having the baseball fields so close to S. Nelson Street and 27th Street S. The county’s Park and Recreation Commission voted overwhelmingly to support that concept, as did the Nauck community’s representative on a working group convened on the issue. The Nauck Civic Association unanimously endorsed the second option, writing that it better provides “a gateway for the community to enter the park” by leaving some additional green space near the neighborhood along S. Four Mile Run Drive.
Yet the county staff endorsed the first option, reasoning it would be better to have those fields closer together for maintenance and construction purposes. (The Shirlington and Douglas Park civic associations also supported option one.)
The public will get a chance to give feedback on the draft Four Mile Run Valley policy framework at two upcoming hearings.
The two park concepts detail proposed outlines for redeveloping the area. Both propose two different developmental phases, and at first glance are quite similar. They concepts initially maintain PBS member station WETA’s building, but both anticipate eventually acquiring the space for redevelopment.
The main difference between the concepts is the location of a small baseball field. In concept two, the field ends up where the WETA building currently stands. In concept one, it’s closer to Four Mile Run Drive. The basketball and tennis courts are in different locations in both concepts, and the second concept shows a large shelter in a more southerly spot than in the first concept.
The study aims to codify a long term plan for the area, and its focus includes Jennie Dean Park, Shirlington Park, Shirlington Dog Park, and portions of both the Four Mile Run stream and trail.
According to the county staff document, Jennie Dean Park already has two lighted athletic fields, two lighted tennis courts, a lighted basketball court, a picnic shelter and restroom area, a playground, open space, and natural areas.
The first concept would flip the diamond fields so that the smaller field is closer to Four Mile Run Drive, with a new fenced-in playground and restrooms along Four Mile Run Drive.
During work on the latest two concepts, there was still division. Representatives with the Jennie Dean Park Committee were concerned that the first concept situated the small baseball field’s third baseline is 70-80 feet from Four Mile Run Drive. Nauck’s working group representative “voiced that breaking up [this] open space… along Four Mile Run Drive was undesirable to the community.”
The JDPC also had several concerns with the second concept, according to the county document, including that the overall design had “particularly fewer opportunities for connected casual use… along the riparian area.”
The first public hearing will take place before the Planning Commission on May 7, and the County Board hearing will be on May 19.
Photos via Arlington County
Reporting contributions from Anna Merod