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Morning Notes

Clarendon Metro station (photo courtesy George Brazier)

Billionaire Contributes to Board Candidate — “Who is Arthur Rock and why did he contribute $15,000 – a large amount by local standards – to the re-election campaign of Democratic County Board candidate Matt de Ferranti? The first question is perhaps the easier of the two to answer. Rock is a 95-year-old (to be 96 in August) billionaire who made his money over the decades in the venture-capital field and related endeavors.” [Sun Gazette]

RIP Sidney Dewberry — “Sidney Oliver ‘Sid’ Dewberry passed away peacefully in Arlington, Virginia, on July 16, 2022, surrounded by his loving family. He had a unique and purposeful life — filled with service to his community, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the nation, while being wholly dedicated to his family.” [Legacy, Dewberry, Sun Gazette]

One Arrested After Robbery — “The juvenile male victim and the three juvenile male suspects met for a prearranged sale during which the suspects assaulted the victim and stole his backpack containing a laptop. A lookout was broadcast and responding officers located Suspect One, who was carrying stolen property, and attempted to stop him. Suspect One fled on foot and following a foot pursuit, was taken into custody.” [Arlington County]

Spa Day for Rescued Beagles — “A group of rescued beagles got a special ‘spa day’ treatment after they arrived at a shelter in Arlington, Virginia. Virginia-based Homeward Trails, an organization facilitating rehabilitation and adoption for dogs and cats, is one of several groups working with the Humane Society of the United States to move about 4,000 beagles out of the Envigo facility in Cumberland County. When they arrived at Homeward Trails, the staff and volunteers there made sure the rescued pups got the full spa treatment.” [WTOP]

Yet Another I-395 Crash — From Dave Statter: “#caughtoncamera: Another 8C crash. Cars & barrels all over the place but no injuries & relatively minor damage. Plus, the driver crossing over eventually got to the exit ramp, thanks to police.” [Twitter]

ADA Celebration This Morning — “The public and media are invited to join Arlington County officials and key stakeholders… as we celebrate 32 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act [at 10 a.m. Monday] at Quincy Park (1021 N. Quincy St.). The Arlington County Board will also issue a proclamation to mark this important civil rights law.” [Arlington County]

It’s Monday — Rain and potentially strong storms in the afternoon and evening. High of 88 and low of 77. Sunrise at 6:05 am and sunset at 8:27 pm. [Weather.gov]

Photo courtesy George Brazier

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Voting at Swanson Middle School in Westover in November 2021 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) The ballot for the general election has been set, with three races to be decided by local voters.

Multiple candidates for Arlington County Board, School Board and the 8th Congressional District have qualified for the ballot. The first day of in-person early voting is Friday, Sept. 23 and the last day to register to vote is Monday, Oct. 17, according to Arlington’s election office.

8th Congressional District

In the 8th Congressional District Democratic primary, incumbent Rep. Don Beyer overcame challenger Victoria Virasingh. Beyer goes on to the general election to face the GOP nominee, Arlington resident Karina A. Lipsman, and independent candidate Teddy Fikre.

The seat for the 8th District, which encompasses Arlington, Alexandria, the City of Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County, has been held by a Democrat for decades. Beyer won a crowded primary for former Congressman Jim Moran’s seat in 2014 and the general election later that year.

Lipsman was nominated “to take on the progressive establishment,” said an email from the Arlington GOP after the nomination.

Lipsman, who is originally from Ukraine, outlines priorities such as supporting law enforcement, opposing tax increases, stopping illegal immigration and her stance against abortion on her website. She says she supports school choice and community colleges, technical schools and vocational training programs.

Among issues Beyer lists on his campaign website are climate change, housing, immigration, gun violence prevention, the federal workforce and others.

Fikre’s website says he is an IT project manager with an MBA from Johns Hopkins University, cares about inclusive justice and “implementing policies that restore fairness in America and enacting laws that are rooted in love.” Among issues he’s focused on are making taxes voluntary for the working, middle and upper-middle-class, as well as forgiving all student loans.

Arlington County Board

Three familiar names are up for consideration for a County Board seat. Incumbent Matt de Ferranti was not challenged for the Democratic nomination.

During his tenure on the board, de Ferranti says he has focused on Covid response, racial equity and priorities like affordable housing, hunger, climate change and school funding.

Two independent candidates will also be on the ballot — and not for their first time — seeking a seat.

Independent Adam Theo, who is vice president of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, is running on a platform of expanding government accountability, prioritizing public safety and making housing affordable. Theo describes himself as “a fierce non-partisan free-thinking ‘progressive libertarian.'” He was previously deployed to eastern Afghanistan while serving in the Air Force Reserve as a civil engineer.

This is Theo’s second time running for the County Board in as many years. Last year, he ran in a crowded County Board race for the seat that Democrat Takis Karantonis occupies.

Civic activist Audrey Clement is also running as an independent, seeking to reduce taxes, stop up-zoning, and preserve parks, trees and historic places. She said on her website she’s running “because the Board has pushed harmful policies resulting in: overcrowded schools, gentrification, loss of green space, and a 10 year average annual effective tax rate increase that is twice the rate of inflation.”

The Westover resident has been a perennial candidate over the last decade or so and says she believes once people realize the ‘Missing Middle’ housing push will rezone some neighborhoods, they will support a candidate like her.

Arlington School Board

After some commotion surrounding the Democratic endorsement for the School Board seat up for grabs, only two names will be on the ballot: James Vell Rives and Bethany Sutton.

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Dozens of people, including a County Board member, are expected to rappel down the side of a tall building in Crystal City this week.

More than 70 volunteers associated with the non-profit New Hope Housing will be rappelling down the 14-story Hilton Crystal City at 2399 Richmond Highway on Thursday and Friday to raise funds and awareness for the organization.

That includes Arlington County Board member Matt de Ferranti, who is expected to rappel down on Thursday night at the VIP reception.

The public will be welcome to watch “14 Stories of New Hope” on Friday, though, between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the “Landing Zone,” an all-day festival with food, music, and booths.

If you are feeling the urge to safely rappel down a 140-foot-tall building, there could be an opportunity.

“All are welcome to attend and there may be opportunities for people to walk up and rappel,” says a press release.

Those that are rappelling will be doing it safely with the help of “Over the Edge,” a company that helps non-profits with events of this nature.

This isn’t the first time the company has worked with a local organization for this type of event. Back in 2012, the Special Olympics of Virginia held a similar event when folks rappelled down the Hilton Crystal City to raise funds.

First established in 1977, New Hope Housing is a non-profit with a mission of ending of homelessness in Northern Virginia. It operates a number of facilities and shelters in the region, including a 44-bed shelter on Columbia Pike that it runs in partnership with the county and a facility in Bailey’s Crossroads. The organization also runs shelters in the City of Alexandria and Fairfax County.

Those rappelling down the side of the hotel come from a variety of backgrounds, New Hope’s Director of Development Jan-Michael Sacharko tells ARLnow.

Some are newbies, some are ex-military, and at least one is a Hollywood producer. Greg Garcia, Northern Virginia native and the creator of television shows including “My Name is Earl,” is among the expected participants.

As of last week, the event has raised over $200,000 for New Hope Housing programs, according to Sacharko.

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Morning Notes

A tulip in a pot along Crystal Drive in Crystal City (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Local Unemployment Rate Still Falling — “Arlington’s unemployment rate, which bumped up at the start of the year, dropped back down in the latest data. With 149,651 county residents in the civilian workforce and 3,192 looking for jobs, the county jobless rate stood at 2.1 percent in February, down from 2.6 percent a month before and off from 3.6 percent in February 2021.” [Sun Gazette]

Tree Pollen Levels Rising — From the Capital Weather Gang: “Tree pollen spiking. Today’s count is HIGH or 429.39 grains per cubic meter. Grass pollen is low/moderate. Further rises next few days with highs well into the 70s today and near/above 80 Wed and Thur.” [Twitter]

New School Board Candidate — “Bethany Sutton, chair of the Arlington Public Schools Advisory Council on Teaching and Learning, announced she is seeking the Democratic Party’s endorsement for the Arlington School Board. Sutton, a 20-year resident of Arlington, is a former PTA president and a parent of two daughters who attend middle school and high school in Arlington Public Schools.” [Patch]

No Dem Challenger for de Ferranti — “There is one less election on the horizon for Arlington this year. The April 7 filing deadline came and went with no challenger emerging to take on incumbent County Board member Matt de Ferranti in the June 21 election. As a result, the primary will be canceled and de Ferranti moves on to the general election.” [Sun Gazette]

Library Worker Helping With Ukraine Archive — “Arlington Public Library’s Digital Archivist, Greg Pierce at the Center for Local History (CLH), has been part of global volunteer effort to back up Ukraine’s digital heritage, currently at risk of being erased by the Russian invasion. Pierce’s involvement includes database verification, task and link wrangling, and internal communications with other volunteers.” [Arlington Public Library]

Marymount Announces Commencement Speakers — “In mid-May, approximately 1,080 students will receive their degrees.. The newest graduates of the mission-based university will hear from three distinguished speakers – the first female Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S., Princess Reema; physicist and former NASA research center director Dr. Julian M. Earls; and global financier and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein.” [Press Release]

It’s Wednesday — Warm and mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 80 and low of 59. Sunrise at 6:36 am and sunset at 7:44 pm. [Weather.gov]

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County Board member Matt de Ferranti on Saturday, Feb. 12 (via Arlington County)

Arlington County Board member Matt de Ferranti says he has lots of questions for the county’s criminal justice system after an inmate died in the county jail two weeks ago.

On Saturday, he released a statement committing to figuring out why Paul Thompson, a homeless man arrested for trespassing at a place from which he was previous banned, died in the Arlington County Detention Center earlier this month. He also committed to avoiding preventable deaths at the jail.

“Typically, a number of state agencies — the Magistrate, the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, and the Public Defender’s office and our Judges — along with the Arlington County Police Department and the Department of Human Services all have a role in cases like Mr. Thompson’s,” he said. “In my oversight role as a Board Member, I share in the responsibility to make sure we are doing everything we can.”

On Feb. 1, Thompson became the seventh man in seven years to die in the custody of the Sheriff’s Office. Six of the seven have been Black.

The Arlington branch of the NAACP has been sounding the alarm on in-custody deaths in part because of their disproportionate impact on men of color since the 2020 death of Darryl Becton.

“We are failing men of color [and] we are failing people who are homeless in this community,” said Juliet Hiznay, an education and disability rights attorney and a member of the NAACP, during the County Board meeting on Saturday.

Last fall, the ongoing investigation into Becton’s death led to charges filed against a man police say falsified a patient record. It also prompted the Sheriff’s Office to change its jail-based medical provider, which was finalized within 24 hours of Thompson’s death.

And now, the death of Thompson — who did not have a criminal history but did suffer from a mental illness, Sheriff Beth Arthur told WTOP — is prompting greater scrutiny from the Arlington County Board.

“There will be follow-up in the coming weeks through the County Manager, and I personally will be following up in the short term,” de Ferranti tells ARLnow. “We do have to focus on solutions, and that’s why, I’ll be engaging with staff and subject-matter experts on this.”

Thompson’s death is being investigated by Arlington police and an autopsy is still pending, the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said today (Monday).

De Ferranti said he looks forward to answers to the following questions.
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Morning Notes

The Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, the Memorial Bridge, and the 14th St. Bridge over the Potomac River in fog (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Free Outdoor Wi-Fi at Libraries — “During the month of January, 2022, two new free outdoor Wi-Fi hot spots were installed at the Cherrydale and Glencarlyn Libraries. Library patrons and Arlington residents have now 24×7 access to the free Arlington County Wi-Fi network ‘ArlingtonWireless’ at all library branches, both outdoor and indoor, and at various locations around the County. No ID or password is required for the free service.” [Arlington Public Library]

Four Arlington Joints on Best BBQ List — Post food critic Tim Carman’s new “best barbecue” list includes a number of Arlington favorites: Texas Jack’s (9), Smokecraft Modern Barbecue (6), Smoking Kow (5), and Sloppy Mama’s (3). [Washington Post]

W&OD Bridge Work Complete — “The re-decking of the bridge east of Wilson Blvd in Arlington is completed!” [Twitter]

County Conducting Satisfaction Survey — “Arlington County is conducting its sixth County-wide, statistically valid community survey to measure satisfaction with major County services and gather input about issues facing the community. The results enable County officials to assess performance across many County agencies and services.” [Arlington County]

AWLA Selling Pentagon Chicken Shirts — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “No-one asked for this but we did it anyways – get your official #PentagonChicken shirt now! With the Henny Penny stamp of approval, proceeds will go to help keep other wayward poultry out of government buildings.” [Twitter]

Beyer Delivers Boxes of Protective Equipment — “A constituent reached out notifying U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th) that Restart Partners, a West Coast-based charity involved in planning for and procuring PPE, learned of a significant amount of it available in a local warehouse. Partnering with the owner (who wishes to remain anonymous), Beyer identified two charities (Doorways and PathForward) that needed the items for those they serve and for their staffs.” [Sun Gazette]

De Ferranti Makes It Official — “County Board member Matt de Ferranti kicked off his bid for a second term on Feb. 2 with a call for Arlington leaders to accelerate efforts to enact Democratic priorities and serve as a bulwark against the new Republican majority in Richmond.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Friday — Rain before today 5 p.m., then a chance of rain and snow. Patchy fog before 1 p.m. Temperature falling to around 37 mid-afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 22 mph. Little or no snow accumulation expected. Sunrise at 7:09 a.m. and sunset at 5:35 p.m. This weekend will be sunny with highs in the 30s. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Four Mile Run and trail in the snow (Photo courtesy Niranjan Konduri)

New Restaurant Coming to Arlington Ridge — “Chef Seng Luangrath, the Laotian chef who has been recognized by Michelin and the James Beard Foundation, plans to open a new restaurant at a grocery-anchored retail center in South Arlington. Luangrath, whose restaurants include Thip Khao in Columbia Heights, has signed a lease with Edens for a roughly 3,500-square-foot space at the Arlington Ridge shopping center, according to marketing material and a source familiar with the situation.” [Washington Business Journal]

De Ferranti Looks Back at 2021 — “[Arlington County Board Chair Matt] de Ferranti’s year as chair began in early January 2021, and the surprises started early. ‘I did not expect to need to impose a curfew on my second full day as chair due to the rioting and insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6,’ he noted. But addressing COVID and its myriad implications was the issue that was at the top of the to-do list for much of the year.” [Sun Gazette]

Metro Temporarily Reducing Bus Service — “Metro’s Pandemic Taskforce is taking swift actions to protect the health and safety of its customers and employees against the recent surge in COVID-19 variants. Due to growing absenteeism rates across service areas related to COVID illness and exposures, Metro is reducing service schedules and implementing new workforce actions effective Monday, January 10.” [WMATA, Twitter]

Ebbin, Favola Unscathed from Redistricting — “Forget hand-knitted sweaters, gift cards or stale fruit-based confections: Two state senators whose districts include Arlington may have gotten the best holiday gifts of them all. State Sens. Barbara Favola and Adam Ebbin have emerged from the redistricting sausage-making process with districts that they likely are pleased with.” [Sun Gazette]

ART Bus Changes Today — “On Wednesday, January 5, ART will operate *Severe* service on *Saturday* schedules due to unsafe road conditions. Routes 41, 45, 51, 55, 77, and 87 will operate with detours and possible delays. Route 87 will terminate at Pentagon City Metro, not at Pentagon. All other ART routes, including 42, will not operate. In addition to the ‘Severe’ detour, there will be no 77 service between Walter Reed/Columbia Pike and S. Courthouse/2nd St S due to unsafe road conditions.” [Arlington Transit]

Hope for History Museum Boosters — “The new year will not bring the beginning of the end of renovation of the Arlington Historical Museum. It won’t even bring the end of the beginning. But, Arlington Historical Society leaders fervently hope, 2022 will go down as the beginning of the beginning. Historical Society officials for the past year have been taking a two-pronged approach to renovating and possibly expanding the museum, located in the former Hume School in Arlington Ridge.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Wednesday — Today there is a chance of rain or freezing rain before 8 a.m., then a chance of rain between 8-11 a.m. Mostly cloudy otherwise, with a high near 44 and a low of 26. South wind 8 to 11 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Sunrise at 7:27 a.m. and sunset at 5 p.m. Tomorrow will be partly sunny, with a high near 41 and a low of 30. Snow developing Thursday night into Friday. [Weather.gov]

Photo courtesy Niranjan Konduri

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What appears when a broken link is clicked on Arlington County’s new website (via Arlington County)

Despite promising improved functionality, Arlington County’s new website launched last month remains riddled with broken links that are frustrating some residents.

Last month, Suzanne Smith Sundburg was preparing to make public comments at an upcoming Arlington County Planning Commission meeting. As someone who is a passionate about weighing in on local issues, she uses the county website often for research and updates on county happenings.

But, starting in mid-October when the new website launched, Sundburg started having issues accessing information through the county website. She’d click a link and it would take her to a dreaded “Page or Site Not Found” error message.

“I searched for something on Google and tried to click on several of the county links that popped up. All were broken,” Sundburg writes to ARLnow in an email about her troubles. “So I then went to the site to see if I could use a more direct method to find what I needed. No dice.”

The changeover to the new site caused links from both search engines and websites like ARLnow to break. As of last week, one link-checking website listed nearly 900,000 broken links to arlingtonva.us pages.

Listing of broken links pointing to the Arlington County website

Arlington County launched its brand new website, complete with the county’s new logo, on Oct. 18. The intention was to improve the website’s security, performance, look and navigation.

“The County website is the first and sometimes only stop for important information about Arlington for many of our residents,” County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said in a press release. “This upgrade will help ensure that the website is an easily accessible, safe, and reliable resource for our residents and businesses to engage with their government.”

For website users encountering broken links, however, that’s not yet the case.

Sundburg isn’t the only one who has noticed a number of dead-end links. ARLnow has received a tips in recent weeks from other users who have encountered broken links preventing them from accessing county webpages, documents and information, such as information on how to pay a parking ticket or the county’s Community Energy Plan.

“The Arlington County revised website is horribly broken, with links that don’t work,” said one anonymous tipster. “It’s a travesty.”

The Lyon Village Civic Association says it is still working with the county to update all the county links on its own website.

“We have asked the County webmaster to get these reestablished, some have, but not all,” it said in a recent post.

Last week, Sundburg wrote an open letter to county officials expressing her displeasure about this missing information.

“This revamp of the county website has been akin to the burning down of a library with half of the books still inside,” she wrote. “In this case, the ‘books’ still exist — the community simply has no access to them.”

County officials acknowledge the issues and say they’re working on it, noting the broken links are a result of issues migrating from the old site to the new site.

“The County is aware and actively working to resolve the issue of broken links on our new website, which launched last month,” county spokeswoman Jessica Baxter said. “Website migrations are highly iterative processes and we want to thank our residents and other website users for their patience during this time.”

Searching through Google for county webpages does result in a “higher prevalence” of broken links due to a “glitch,” she said.

“Our website provider, OpenCities, worked on resolving this glitch and we are beginning to see improved external search results to County webpages,” Baxter said.

Various county departments are prioritizing fixing broken links connected to current projects, plans, programs and services, since these are accessed most frequently, Baxter said.

“Our goal is to resolve as many of these broken links as possible by Thanksgiving,” she said. “An overall website clean-up is targeted to begin by the end of the year.”

Sundburg notes that, overall, county staff has tried to help and is “relieved” the link problems are being worked on, but she remains disappointed in so much older information remaining inaccessible.

“I understand prioritizing current items, that leaves out a significant portion of the site’s repository of documents,” she writes. “For those of us long in the tooth who have been around for decades, we have a greater knowledge base. But it’s not encyclopedic, and referring back to historical materials is frequently useful.”

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On a gusty, very brisk fall evening, President Joe Biden once again visited Arlington to campaign for Terry McAuliffe.

“You don’t need to imagine how great a governor Terry McAuliffe will be because you know how great a governor he was,” Biden said, standing next to a basketball court at Virginia Highlands Park near Pentagon City.

With only a week until the general election and the former — and possibly future — governor clinging to a very narrow lead in polls over his Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin, it certainly is notable that Biden is making his second Arlington appearance alongside McAuliffe in three months.

“The fact that he’s doubled down on McAuliffe is either a great sign or an ominous sign, depending on which side of the aisle you fall on,” Arlington Heights resident Tony Yang mused as he stood in the security line waiting to enter the event.

After McAuliffe made his remarks, Biden walked on the stage just after 8 p.m. and spoke for about 17 minutes. He spoke of McAuliffe’s record of Democratic leadership, often comparing Youngkin to former President Trump, and vouching for the Build Back Better plan that he’s trying to get passed in Congress.

He even dropped a specific Arlington reference about the planned new rail bridge that would replace the 117-year-old Long Bridge.

Biden also cracked the same joke he did in July about McAuliffe possibly being First Lady Jill Biden’s boss, due to her being a professor at Northern Virginia Community College, part of the state’s community college system.

Afterwards, the president did a photo line with a number of elected officials and candidates, while also taking selfies with a number of attendees near the stage.

The crowd — estimated by the White House at 2,500 people — was somewhat subdued throughout the nearly hour and a half event, perhaps due to the wind gusts and temperatures dipping into the low 50s.

Security was somewhat tight, though that didn’t stop Biden’s remarks being interrupted at least three times by protestors relating to the Line 3 pipeline, citizenship, and another matter that wasn’t immediately clear.

Prior to the event and outside of the park, a few Youngkin supporters made their case for their candidate while someone waved a giant Trump flag. There were also several PETA protesters dressed in blow-up dinosaur costumes to criticize the National Institutes of Health and the Biden administration for conducting experiments on animals.

The Younkin supporters, including Arlington GOP Communications Director Matthew Hurtt, could be seen holding signs saying “Virginia Runs on Youngkin” and “More Like Terry McAwful.”

Besides Biden and McAuliffe, a who’s who of Virginia Democrats spoke Tuesday evening in support of the ticket: Senator Tim Kaine, Rep. Don Beyer, Virginia Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn, lieutenant governor candidate Hala Ayala, Attorney General Mark Herring (who didn’t mention his lawsuit against Advanced Towing), current governor Ralph Northam, and Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti.

“Donald Trump is on the ballot next Tuesday,” said de Ferranti, also attaching Youngkin to Trump.

For some, having an event of this nature featuring a sitting U.S. president in their neighborhood was an experience that couldn’t be missed.

“It’s not a common thing that there’s a rally for a candidate you support is, literally, right by your house,” said Hania Basat, who lives in Pentagon City. “To have the president too, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Shelly Quintanilla agreed. She lives in Pentagon City with her husband and two young sons, ages six and one. For her, this rally was a chance to show democracy in action.

“We were really excited for the learning opportunity for the kids,” she said. “It’s better than school to learn about the president, the government, and our chance to get involved.”

For others, though, seeing the president — who arrived and departed via motorcade over the 14th Street Bridge — wasn’t that big of a deal.

“We have senators, congressmen, and Al Gore. He used to live up [there],” said Jim Kohlmoos, referring to the former vice president’s one-time residence in the nearby Arlington Ridge neighborhood. “We’re pretty much used to all of this.”

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Dropping nearly 40 feet from a platform above, a climber cut the ribbon on the “finest ropes course in the Mid-Atlantic.”

Located at Upton Hill Regional Park on Wilson Blvd in Arlington, Climb UPton was formally opened this morning at a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by local officials as well as those from the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority which operates the course.

“We gather to celebrate this magnificent cutting edge recreational ropes course… and one of the finest examples of regional and local collaboration,” said Cate Magennis Wyatt, chair of NOVA Parks board. “This is the finest ropes course in the Mid-Atlantic. That’s what you have given back to the citizens.”

Officials are touting this ropes course as the biggest and best in the area. With 90 elements and reaching nearly 40 feet high, the course is intended for beginners and those more advanced alike. It features three zip lines, a 40-foot controlled freefall, tunnels, an Everest ladder, and an observation deck.

The course also has a “parks theme,” hence the suspended picnic table that climbers can ostensibly sit and eat lunch at.

The course actually has been open for climbers since July, but the admissions building wasn’t finished until now due to “supply chain issues,” NOVA Parks Executive Director Paul Gilbert told ARLnow.

The ropes course is the major addition of the $4 million, at times contentious, renovation of Upton Hill Regional Park that was first presented to the Arlington County Board in late 2017.

There’s also a new playground at the bottom of the hill, parking improvements (including ADA-accessible parking on Wilson Blvd), more walking trails, a large underground cistern to capture stormwater as well as soon-to-be opened bathrooms and a picnic shelter next to the playground. The renovations were paid for with revenue bonds from the Virginia Resources Authority.

These additions join slow and fast pitch batting cages, Ocean Dunes Waterpark (which is currently closed for the season), and a 18-hole mini-golf course already at Upton Hill Regional Park.

A big reason that some residents and conservationists initially disapproved of the project was the plan to cut down more than a hundred trees to make room for the ropes course and parking lot improvements. Not only were some of those trees saved, but a new native hickory and oak forest was planted in the park, officials said.

“We brought in the right trees, the right shrubs, the right grasses to create the ultimate succession of forest to kind of jumpstart [the growth process],” Gilbert told ARLnow. “We don’t have to wait a hundred years for it to get there. We can grow it from the ground up.”

Chris Tighe, president of the Boulevard Manor Civic Association during much of the project’s development, said in remarks that this was a “testament” of how government, non-profits, and the community can come together to build something that works for all.

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A man died Tuesday after being found unresponsive in the medical unit of the Arlington County jail, prompting a regional law enforcement investigation and statements from local leaders.

Clyde Spencer, 58, was rushed to Virginia Hospital Center, where he later died. He is the sixth inmate at the jail to die over the past six years.

The last reported inmate death, in October 2020, remains under investigation. A regional body called the Northern Virginia Critical Incident Response Team is now investigating Spencer’s death.

Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti, Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and Sheriff Beth Arthur — whose office runs the jail — all issued expressions of sympathy for Spencer’s family and support for the CIRT investigation in statements released Friday morning.

From a county press release:

Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti, along with the Sheriff and Commonwealth Attorney, issued the following statements today regarding the death investigation at the Arlington County Detention Facility earlier this week.

“Mr. Clyde Spencer passed away Tuesday at the Virginia Hospital Center after he was taken there when he was found unresponsive at the Arlington County Detention Facility. Our thoughts and sympathies are with Mr. Spencer’s family and friends in this time of loss,” said de Ferranti. “We support the decision to call for an independent investigation from the Northern Virginia Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT), a regional team that investigates deaths or serious injuries involving law enforcement officers in participating jurisdictions in Northern Virginia.”

“We offer our condolences to the Spencer family,” said Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur. “Incidents like these are taken very seriously by my office, and me personally. We will fully cooperate with the investigation.”

“My heart goes out to the families suffering from the loss of their loved ones,” said Commonwealth Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti. “We are diligently working with the CIRT and the ACPD on these cases and hope the community and the families involved understand that we cannot reveal the content of the investigations, and the Virginia rule of professional conduct 3.6 prohibits me from commenting on a pending case.”

At the completion of a comprehensive, thorough, and impartial investigation, the CIRT will present the facts and evidence to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office.

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