Rep. Don Beyer (D) criticized a bill that would rename Gravelly Point Park for former First Lady Nancy Reagan as it passed a U.S. House of Representatives committee earlier today.
The bill failed once in the House Natural Resources Committee, but then was brought up again and passed 18-16 on a party-line vote.
It now heads to the House floor for debate and a final vote, with similar actions required by the U.S. Senate before it can be signed into law by President Donald Trump.
But Beyer, a committee member whose district includes Arlington County, took exception to the efforts to rename the park near Reagan National Airport’s main runway as Nancy Reagan Memorial Park. The bill, H.R. 553, is sponsored by Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) and has 51 Republican co-sponsors.
In remarks to the committee today (Wednesday), Beyer criticized the bill for not taking sufficient public input from residents of Arlington and Alexandria, the communities closest to Gravelly Point.
“[This] bill is the equivalent of someone coming in and changing the furniture in your house without asking you,” he said. “First, you would have liked them to ask you, and even if you do like the furniture, you probably would have wanted input since it’s your house…Gravelly Point is not a national tourist attraction, it’s where local families go to have a picnic, throw a ball around, put a blanket down and watch the planes coming in and out, and it’s also where almost every Northern Virginia Uber driver sits to wait for a pickup.”
“This is what some call Washington at its worst — when we ignore the will of the local community to appease the desire of a moneyed, special interest,” Beyer said.
In response, Hice said there was “no better way” to honor Reagan by naming the park after her.
Beyer’s full remarks on the bill, including a video clip, are after the jump.
(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) The Iwo Jima memorial is set to get a new visitor center as part of the National Defense Authorization Act that was just signed by President Trump.
It instructs the Secretary of the Interior to build a “structure for visitor services to include a public restroom facility.” It does not specify where the center will be built, but the text says it will be “in the area” of the memorial, the formal name of which is the Marine Corps War Memorial. A Beyer spokesman said this was the “final hurdle” to getting the visitor center built.
Beyer, whose district includes Arlington County, introduced a bill authorizing construction of the restrooms last year, funded by a gift from local philanthropist David Rubenstein.
Work began earlier this year to revamp the memorial, including washing and waxing the memorial and re-gilding its lettering; repairing any parts of the granite plaza that have become damaged; improving lighting; repaving roads and footpaths; and installing new signs, shrubs and trees.
Rubenstein pledged more than $5 million for the entire project and new visitor center.
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
(Updated at 1:40 p.m.) The National Park Service has approved more than $200 million in funding to repair and rehabilitate Arlington Memorial Bridge.
NPS announced today (Friday) it will spend $227 million on the repair contract. U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) helped secure the funding, alongside U.S. Reps. Don Beyer (D-8) and Gerry Connolly (D-11) and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).
Construction will begin next fall on the 85-year-old bridge, with the project set for completion in 2021. At least three lanes of traffic will remain open at all times during construction, which — thanks to the project now being fully funded — NPS will finish in one phase rather than two, to save $35 million.
Officials estimate the repairs will increase the bridge’s lifespan by 85 to 100 years. Last year, the bridge won a $90 million federal transportation grant to help with repairs, matched by $60 million from NPS, after years of deterioration and neglect led to worries it could close by 2021.
Beyer, who represents Arlington in the House of Representatives, said earlier this year he would push hard for federal money to fund repairs on a bridge that carries 68,000 vehicles each day from the county into D.C.
“After years of work to secure funding to fix Arlington Memorial Bridge, today’s announcement gives us hope that the bridge will remain safe and serviceable into the 22nd century,” Beyer said in a statement. “Our tour of the bridge and press conference in 2015 crystalized the dire need for this funding. Since then I have worked together with my colleagues in Congress, leaders from Virginia and the District, and two Administrations to secure the money for these structural repairs. This truly is great news, and I thank everyone whose efforts brought us here.”
Federal officials are scheduled to discuss the project during a press conference in the District at 3 p.m. this afternoon.
The full press release is after the jump:
The National Park Service has denied a permit to erect a 45-foot statue of a naked, meditating woman on the National Mall near the Washington Monument.
The group behind the upcoming Catharsis on the Mall festival planned to transport R-Evolution, the statue created by artist Marco Cochrane, from San Francisco to the Mall at a cost of around $100,000.
The event is being held from Nov. 10-12.
Not that anyone has proposed it, but we were wondering whether Arlington might be a more welcoming place for the statue. If it were an option, would you support the statue being erected somewhere in Arlington?
Sixteenth 9/11 Anniversary — A flag was unfurled at the Pentagon this morning as the nation marked the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford were among those expected to attend a ceremony at the Pentagon, honoring the 184 people killed in the attack there. Arlington County also hosted its own remembrance ceremony and is posting recollections from Sept. 11, 2001 on social media. [ABC News, Twitter, Twitter]
Another Police-Impersonation Phone Scam — Local residents are again getting calls from a scammer claiming to be a law enforcement officer, demanding a fine be paid over the phone. As a reminder, police never call on the phone to collect fines. [Twitter]
Arlington 9/11 5K Recap — The 2017 Arlington Police, Fire and Sheriff 9/11 Memorial 5K was held in Pentagon City on Saturday evening amid perfect September weather. Among those on hand to address the crowd were Police Chief Jay Farr, County Board Chair Jay Fisette and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore. Spotted among the runners: former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who was wearing a Navy t-shirt and was all smiles after the race as the occasional group of fellow runners asked to take a photo with him. [Facebook, Chronotrack]
Park Service May Revamp MVT Boardwalk — As part of a larger improvement project for Theodore Roosevelt Island and the TR Bridge, the National Park Service is considering rehabilitating the nearby, aging boardwalk bridge along the Mount Vernon Trail, which carries bike and pedestrian traffic. [The Wash Cycle]
County Holds Transportation ‘Pop Up’ Event — “Arlington Transportation Partners, the County’s business-to-business transportation outreach organization, held its very first ‘Our Shared Street’ Pop Up festival recently at Arlington Mill Community Center. The late August gathering brought together residents of Columbia Pike with local businesses to highlight Arlingtonians’ many transportation options.” [Arlington County]
GW Parkway Crash — Earlier this morning, northbound traffic on the George Washington Memorial Parkway was temporarily blocked near the TR Bridge following a multi-vehicle crash. [Washington Post]
Rep. Don Beyer (D) announced Wednesday he will use the coming weeks in Congress to push for safety at two roadways that run through Arlington County.
Beyer said he will introduce appropriations amendments related to repairs for Memorial Bridge and safety on the George Washington Memorial Parkway as Congress debates legislation to fund the federal government’s operations past the deadline of September 30. Beyer’s district includes Arlington and a portion of Fairfax County as well as Alexandria and Falls Church Cities.
But Beyer said he wants to require President Donald Trump’s administration to submit a report to Congress outlining a plan to fully fund repairs, as the project could cost up to a quarter-billion dollars.
And for the GW Parkway, Beyer submitted an amendment requiring the Secretaries of Interior and Transportation to carry out a study on how to improve safety in its sections south of Alexandria in Fairfax County. The parkway, which like the Memorial Bridge is controlled by the National Park Service, has been the site of several serious crashes in recent times, sending motorists to the hospital and snarling traffic.
“Arlington Memorial Bridge and the George Washington Parkway are essential hubs for my constituents in Northern Virginia,” Beyer said in a statement. “Unfortunately, like much of the country’s infrastructure, these historic roadways have not been maintained sufficiently. We need prompt action by the federal government to guarantee the continued safety and reliability of these key transportation arteries.”
Meanwhile, after Congress’ return from its summer recess, Beyer will host two town hall-style events in Arlington in the next two months, one on the future of social security and another focusing on women’s issues.
On Sunday September 10 from 3-5 p.m. at Drew Model School (3500 23rd Street S.), Beyer hosts “A Forum on Social Security in the 21st Century,” alongside Connecticut Rep. John Larson (D). A flyer for the event said the pair will discuss what they are doing to protect Social Security today and protect it in the future.
And on Saturday, October 14 from 8:30 a.m. to noon, Beyer will host his third annual Women’s Conference and Forum at George Mason University’s Arlington campus (3351 Fairfax Drive), entitled, “Moving Forward, Together – Impact & Influence.”
Crews started moving in this morning (Tuesday, August 15) to begin work to give the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial — also known as the Iwo Jima memorial — a facelift.
The work will limit public access to the memorial and surrounding parkland until next year. In signs posted near the memorial and the Netherlands Carillon, the National Park Service said the revamp includes washing and waxing the memorial and re-gilding its lettering, repairing any parts of the granite plaza that have become damaged, improving lighting, and installing new signs, shrubs and trees.
The roadway and footpath around the memorial will also be repaved.
“The road will be rebuilt in its current configuration, but with materials to better support the heavy weight of the many tour buses that use the road daily,” NPS said in a press release.
As of Tuesday morning, crews were putting up detour signs for road and trail users, as the access road to the memorial’s parking lot will be closed. In an announcement of the work, NPS said the memorial will be surrounded by scaffolding for much of the project, but pedestrians can still access the memorial plaza from N. Meade Street. Buses will have a small area for pick-up and drop-off on N. Meade Street also.
The $5.37 million project is funded by a donation from local philanthropist David Rubenstein, who has also used some of his multi-billion dollar fortune to fund the Washington Monument’s post-earthquake repairs, enrich the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ endowment and gave $12.35 million to the Arlington House Robert E. Lee museum in Arlington National Cemetery.
NPS said public access will be limited until February 2018. The memorial was dedicated in 1954 by President Dwight Eisenhower and receives 1.5 million visitors per year.
The National Park Service is studying several improvements to Roosevelt Island, including a proposal to combat the invasive emerald ash borer that killed trees at the site earlier this year.
Among a number of issues being examined by NPS for the island, located off the George Washington Memorial Parkway near Rosslyn, is a plan for the future of the hundreds of ash trees.
NPS closed the island in June to remove diseased trees after the ash borer came through, and is now considering if the trees should be replaced with more ash trees or another species.
“As a result of [the ash borer], one of the things we’re going to be looking at is what do we do after the borer has come through, and those ash trees have either died off or been removed,” said Simone Monteleone, chief of resource management at the GW Parkway, in a talk on Facebook Live Monday morning. “Do we replant? What type of species do we go back with?”
To help the Park Service decide how to make improvements while preserving the history of the island, which has been occupied in some form since the 17th century, it is in the early stages of producing a Cultural Landscape Report and Environmental Assessment.
Monteleone said both documents will help NPS balance the need to respect the island’s history with any improvements that are made. She added that rehabilitating what is already there will help do that.
“Rehabilitation gives us both the flexibility to preserve those historic features and make compatible uses possible for enhancement of visitor experiences,” she said.
Other improvements proposed by NPS include:
- Rehabilitating the bridge to the island
- Improving bridge safety to reduce conflicts between pedestrians and bicyclists
- Restarting water access to the island for kayaks, paddleboards and other water transport without an engine
- Making the island’s comfort stations usable year-round
- Building another comfort station off the island by the trail
NPS will host another Facebook Live presentation on the project at 1 p.m. today (August 14), and the talk will then be archived on its page for viewing afterwards.
The Park Service is taking public comment on the plans until September 8. The project is expected to be completed in February 2018.
Theodore Roosevelt Island closed for up to three weeks starting Monday while crews remove diseased trees from the nearby trails.
The National Park Service said the closures, which began yesterday, come after a survey found damage from the invasive emerald ash borer.
Sections of the island’s trails will reopen on a rolling basis as diseased trees are removed. NPS announced last week the island would close as the storms that hit the area could have brought down some of the diseased trees.
From a National Park Service press release:
Starting Monday, June 26, 2017, Theodore Roosevelt Island will be closed for the removal of diseased trees from along the maintained trails. As diseased trees are removed from sections of maintained trails, those sections will be reopened. Work is weather dependent and should last about three weeks.
A recent tree survey on Theodore Roosevelt Island found extensive damage to trees along the island’s trails from the invasive and deadly emerald ash borer. To facilitate the removal of these hazardous trees and reopen sections of the island more quickly, contracted services as well as park staff, will be working throughout the island.
Theodore Roosevelt Island is one of many parks in the Greater Washington Area hit hard by emerald ash borer. The island has many ash trees throughout its 88 acres that have been infected with the exotic beetle. The pest is highly destructive, killing ash trees within two to three years once infected. Dead ash trees rapidly become dry, brittle and hazardous. There is no known cure; once a tree is infected, it will die. Emerald ash borer is almost always fatal.
We are now more than 10 years into the emerald ash borer invasion of the National Capital Region. White ash was the tenth most common tree species in the region based on data collected between 2006 and 2009. In some areas of the region, the number of white ash trees decrease by a quarter between 2009 and 2016.
Rangers remind you to that you can do your part! To help prevent the spread of emerald ash borer and other pests, buy firewood where you intend to burn it, and do not take firewood or logs from home when you travel. Invasive species like the emerald ash borer cost the United States billions of dollars in damages every year.
Roosevelt Island near Rosslyn is closed today due to tree damage from insects and today’s impending storms.
The National Park Service made the announcement this morning.
The park service says numerous trees have been severely weakened by the invasive emerald ash borer and will be removed in the coming weeks. More from NPS:
Theodore Roosevelt Island is closed for safety in advance of expected thunderstorms, some severe with high winds, this afternoon though this evening. The island will remain closed until tree crews can assess and address damage or new hazards.
A recent tree survey on Theodore Roosevelt Island found extensive damage to trees along the island’s trails from the invasive and deadly emerald ash borer. These diseased and dead ash trees are at an increased risk of falling, especially during storms.
Theodore Roosevelt Island is one of many parks in the Greater Washington Area hit hard by emerald ash borer. The island has many ash trees throughout its 88 acres that have been infected with the exotic beetle. The pest is highly destructive, killing ash trees within two to three years once infected. Dead ash trees rapidly become dry, brittle and hazardous. There is no known cure; once a tree is infected, it will die.
In the coming weeks, crews are expected to begin the removal of the affected trees. More information will be provided in the coming days.
A project to repave the Theodore Roosevelt Island parking lot and realign a nearby section of the Mount Vernon Trail is slated to begin later this week.
The parking lot will be closed from this Wednesday, March 1, until the project is completed, which should take until late spring, the National Park Service said.
Workers will slightly raise and widen the trail in places, while the parking lot gets new curbs and gutters for better water drainage. Roosevelt Island will remain open during the work and cyclists can take a short detour on the trail to bypass construction.
With the parking lot closed, NPS said those accessing the trail should park at Daingerfield Island or Columbia Island, or use the public parking in Rosslyn, a 15-minute walk away.
NPS began the planning process to improve safety on this section of the Mount Vernon Trail in 2014, in a project it said would seek to “reduce visitor conflict and improve visitor experience.”
More from NPS:
On March 1, the National Park Service (NPS) will begin a project to repave the parking lot and realign the Mount Vernon Trail at Theodore Roosevelt Island. To ensure visitor safety, the parking lot will be closed until the project’s completion, expected to be late spring. Pedestrians will have access to the island throughout the project, and cyclists can bypass construction via a short detour on the Mount Vernon Trail.
In addition to realigning the Mount Vernon Trail, the NPS will raise the trail slightly and widen it in places. The parking lot will have new curbs and gutters for better water drainage.
Mount Vernon Trail users accessing the trail by car should use the parking lots at Daingerfield Island and Columbia Island, or consider nearby public parking options. The closest parking to Theodore Roosevelt Island is in Rosslyn, a 15-minnute walk from the Island.
Mount Vernon Trail is an 18-mile paved multi-use trail stretching from George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate to Theodore Roosevelt Island. The trail is a hub for recreational activity and connects with regional trails including the Potomac Heritage, Custis, Rock Creek, Four Mile Run, and Woodrow Wilson Bridge trails.
National parks in the national capital region provide exceptional outdoor trail experiences that help people enjoy nature and history, while providing safe and enjoyable opportunities for people to walk, run, bike, commute and have fun with friends and family.
Photo via Google Street View
(Updated at 5:10 p.m.) The National Park Service now has a plan to rehabilitate the deteriorating Memorial Bridge.
Officials announced today the selection of a comprehensive plan that would replace and refurbish some of the bridge’s components to keep it from closing by 2021. The plan was one of several others considered for the project.
The plan calls for “the repair of the concrete arches and stone facades on the 10 approach spans, the replacement of the bascule span’s steel superstructure, the reconstruction of the bridge deck and sidewalks and the resurfacing of all travel lanes,” according to a release from NPS.
The rehabilitation project was awarded a $90 million federal transportation grant for repairs last July. Virginia’s U.S. senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, are working on securing additional funding needed to complete the project.
Built in 1932, Memorial Bridge has far exceeded its 75-year life expectancy. Still, many people use the bridge each day to travel between the District and Virginia.
More on the plan, from an NPS press release, after the jump.
There’s a renewed push for action on the decades-old plan to build a boathouse in the Rosslyn area.
County and federal officials want the public to know that although the project has stopped and restarted several times, it definitely hasn’t been scrapped.
Arlington County has been working on various forms of the boathouse project since the 1990s. It has collaborated with the National Park Service because the county’s shoreline along the Potomac River technically is NPS property.
In October, the county requested that the Commonwealth of Virginia quitclaim any interest it has in the street that fronts the property at 1101 Lee Highway. The county had purchased the Lee Highway land parcel in 2014 for $2.4 million with the listed intent of using the land for possible boathouse-related purposes.
The county requested the quitclaim because it’s unclear exactly who owns and maintains this small portion of the land along the former Lee Highway right of way. VDOT now has to approve the quitclaim — which has no fiscal impact to either party — and the county believes that should happen by or shortly after the new year.
The county points out that this section of land also is the only service vehicle access point if a boathouse is built. Public parking and drop-offs would be located in a safer area further away from the busy intersection with N. Lynn Street and the I-66 off-ramp.
Any progress on the boathouse plan is theoretical until NPS completes an environmental study — as required by law — showing how such a project would impact the area’s natural and cultural resources.
NPS launched an environmental impact statement (EIS) in 2012, with funding secured by former Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.). The study involved getting community feedback on locations for a potential boathouse.
But the EIS was put on hold and NPS is investigating whether it can instead do an environmental assessment, which is a similar but less intensive study that takes less time to produce. The EA would incorporate the information already gathered during the now-stalled EIS.
NPS launched a transportation study last year to determine what impact a boathouse would have on the area’s existing transportation network. The agency has been collaborating with Arlington County and VDOT for that study and in compiling a final report on the transportation impacts.
Although 1101 Lee Highway was intended to be a location for a boathouse facility, that’s actually not set in stone. That parcel of land is called an “upper site” and cannot effectively host a boathouse on its own without a nearby “lower site” near Theodore Roosevelt Island where boats could be stored and launched. If NPS deems another site better suited for a boathouse, Arlington County could use the Lee Highway land for something else.
“In addition, or as an alternative use, the county may put other passive or recreational uses on the parcel,” said Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter. “We need to wait until a final determination is made by the National Park Service on the parcel, so other uses aren’t actively being pursued.”
A study for another hot project — the Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola — in relatively the same area was released last month, but Baxter says it’s far too early to consider that an option for the land parcel. In fact, she said it’s premature to even comment on the feasibility of a possible gondola project because the study hasn’t even been reviewed or vetted by county staff.
As far as the next steps for moving forward with the boathouse, NPS hopes to announce a decision about the environmental study and its possible transition to an environmental assessment by early 2017.
If the agency announces it is able to go forward with an EA instead of an EIS, it could potentially reveal a preferred boathouse site at that time as well, although the location decision is not required until the final environmental study results are released.
Cemetery to Start Screening Visitors — Arlington National Cemetery will begin security screening of visitors and random inspection of vehicles in November. Visitors, particularly those in large groups, are being advised to allow extra time to go through screening. [Dept. of Defense]
Police: Dog Walker Stole from Residents — A dog walker who served clients in Arlington has been charged with stealing from them. Police say 34-year-old Margarita Denison and an accomplice stole valuables from watches to jewelry to baseball cards from homes in Arlington and Fairfax. Denison worked for the dog walking service Time for a Walk, which said it runs background checks and checks references but will be tightening security. [NBC Washington]
NPS Recommends Trail Projects in Arlington — Among the 18 regional trail-related projects recommended by a new National Park Service study are two in Arlington: connecting the Roosevelt Bridge path to the Mt. Vernon Trail, and improving safety at the so-called Intersection of Doom in Rosslyn. [Greater Greater Washington]
ACPD Lauded for Crisis Intervention — A father whose son spit and cursed at police as he was taken into custody in Arlington has written an op-ed to praise the Arlington County Police Department for its crisis intervention training. The father called police after his neurologically-disabled son got drunk and left the house. Officers could have hurt the son and threw him in jail, but instead used the minimum amount of force necessary and took him to a hospital, the man said. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
A “Junior Park Ranger Ride” is set to kick off this Sunday at 9:30 a.m., according to Kidical Mass Arlington, the event’s organizers.
During the 60-90 minute trip, riders will hit several stops along George Washington Memorial Parkway, including the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, the Netherlands Carillon and Lyndon B. Johnson Memorial Grove. The ride will end up at Theodore Roosevelt Island, according to Kidical Mass.
The event will also include activities from BikeArlington and the U.S. National Park Service. All young riders will earn Junior Park Ranger credentials for the GW Parkway once the ride is complete, according to event organizers.
Photo via Facebook / Kidical Mass