Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Big Response to Small Biz Grant Program — “Those hit hard by the pandemic can receive help through the small business emergency grant program. More than 1,100 businesses have applied, [County Board Chair Libby] Garvey said, and at least 63% of them are owned by women or minorities. ‘With an additional $1.6 million, we can provide grants to a total of 400 businesses, more than 50% of those that… were eligible,’ Garvey said,” during her State of the County address Tuesday morning. [WTOP, Zoom]

Chamber Presents Valor Awards — Also on Tuesday, “awards were presented to honor Arlington County’s public safety personnel and first responders. Fourteen honorees were recognized for their courageous, and often lifesaving, actions in the line of duty. Leadership of all respective departments submitted nominations for the honorees, based on their performance over the past year.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce, InsideNova]

Road Closures for Grad Parades Tomorrow — “On Thursday, June 18, the Arlington County Police Department’s Special Operations Section will support Senior Graduation Parades for Wakefield High School and Washington-Liberty High School. Traffic around the schools will be impacted at the below listed times. The public can expect to see increased vehicle and pedestrian traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods.” [Arlington County]

CivFed Wants More Open Space — “The president of the Arlington County Civic Federation on June 13 delivered his message quietly but bluntly: The county government needs to put much more emphasis on acquiring land for parks and open space before the window of opportunity closes. Allan Gajadhar handed County Board members a Civic Federation resolution calling on the county government to better balance open-space and passive-recreation needs with facilities for sports and active recreation.” [InsideNova]

COVID Cases Among DCA Construction Workers — “Employees with 17 contractors working on Reagan National Airport’s massive capital improvement project have tested positive for Covid-19, according to a staff report issued ahead of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s upcoming board meeting… The most recent positive result was confirmed June 7.” [Washington Business Journal]

Juneteenth May Become State Holiday — “Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said Tuesday that he will support legislation to make Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery, a state holiday in Virginia. He gave executive branch state employees the day off Friday — June 19 — in recognition of the event. On that date in 1865, federal troops told enslaved people in Texas they had been freed, more than two years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.” [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Some currently closed amenities at Arlington County parks will be reopening Friday.

Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation announced this afternoon that park amenities which can be utilized safely while maintaining social distancing will be reopening. That includes athletic fields, batting cages, tennis courts, tracks and picnic shelters.

Organized sports, special events and organized activities, however, will remain verboten. Community and nature centers, basketball courts, dog parks, playgrounds, restrooms, including portable restrooms, spraygrounds, and volleyball courts will all remain closed.

“We are cautiously opening up some of our park amenities as we move through this unprecedented time,”  Parks and Recreation Director Jane Rudolph said in a statement. “We’re pleased to be able to give our community more opportunities to be active in our parks. We ask that people continue to stay safe and practice social distancing, which will help us stop the spread and stay open.”

Officials noted that some facilities may remain locked on Friday, as crews work to remove signs and padlocks around the county.

Arlington’s rate of new coronavirus cases has slowed dramatically over the past five days, and the risk of infection outdoors is generally considered low.

Parks initially reopened for passive recreation on Saturday, May 23, just before Memorial Day. Prior to that, only use of trails was allowed. During the parks closure, police frequently responded to local tracks and athletic fields for reports of people using the closed facilities.

More on the amenities reopening, from a county press release:

Effective Friday, June 5, Arlington County will reopen numerous park amenities for people who practice social distancing and follow the posted guidelines. Reopened amenities will include:

  • Athletic fields (with restrictions)
  • Batting cages
  • Bocce courts
  • Disc golf course
  • Pickleball courts
  • Picnic shelters (with restrictions)
  • Skate park
  • Tennis courts
  • Tracks

“We are cautiously opening up some of our park amenities as we move through this unprecedented time,” said Parks & Recreation Director Jane Rudolph. “We’re pleased to be able to give our community more opportunities to be active in our parks. We ask that people continue to stay safe and practice social distancing, which will help us stop the spread and stay open.

At this time, organized sports, special events and organized activities and instruction are not permitted. Access to various amenities, such as courts and shelters are first-come, first-served; there are no court reservations at this time. Signage in the parks outlines specific guidance for each amenity.

Due to health safety concerns, these park amenities continue to be closed: community and nature centers, basketball courts, dog parks, playgrounds, restrooms, including portable restrooms, spraygrounds, and volleyball courts. While previously planned to be opened during this phase, dog parks will remain closed because the number of people who use them would prevent proper social distancing.

As the County looks towards reopening additional park amenities, staff will continue to monitor guidance from national, state and local health officials. Park visitors are asked to adhere to the physical distancing and small group guidelines. Don’t use any closed park amenities. Face masks are recommended where proper distancing is not possible. People who are sick or who have recently been exposed to COVID-19 should stay home.

Through Friday, June 5, Department of Parks and Recreation personnel will be working to replace signage, unlock and prep amenities, and conduct general park maintenance. Work may not be complete in every park by Friday. If you see an incorrect sign or a facility that should be unlocked, email [email protected]

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Exactly two months after closing amid the pandemic, Arlington’s parks are partially reopening in time for Memorial Day weekend.

Arlington County made the announcement shortly before 1 p.m., noting that a number of park amenities will remain closed.

“While parks will reopen, amenities in the parks such as playgrounds, picnic shelters, athletic courts, restrooms and dog parks will remain closed,” said a press release. “The County’s nearly 49 miles of trails and community gardens remain open, as they have throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Spraygrounds, tracks and skate parks are also still closed, the county said in a Q&A page. Some facilities may reopen early next month.

“Arlington anticipates a phased reopening of its Parks and Recreation facilities, with open spaces as a first step,” county officials wrote. “In early June, the County plans to reopen athletic fields (with restrictions), batting cages, dog parks, pickleball courts, shelters (with restrictions), tennis courts and outdoor tracks. As the County looks towards reopening additional park amenities, we will continue to monitor guidance from the national, state and local health officials.”

Summer camps and programs, however, remain cancelled.

Park-goers are being asked to maintain physical distancing — staying at least 6 feet apart — and groups of visitors should not exceed 10 people. Organized sports are still banned.

“Arlington County Police, park rangers, and park rovers will be monitoring parks, trails, playgrounds and fields to ensure people are social distancing and that groups are no bigger than 10 people,” the county said.

A growing scientific consensus suggests that the risk of coronavirus transmission outdoors is very low, though those who cannot maintain a safe distance from others are still encouraged to wear masks. Brief exposure from walking and jogging is likewise thought to carry few risks, though talking or singing in close proximity to one another for a sustained period of time may still be risky, even outdoors.

More on the park reopening from the county press release, below.

Read More

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Arlington officials are asking residents to refrain from dumping their yard waste in county parks.

The request, which is being made via neighborhood newsletters, comes after the county suspended the curbside collection of yard waste due to the pandemic. Collection crews have been strained by significant increases in residential trash and recycling collection volumes, necessitating the temporary suspension.

With no more curbside collection of twigs, lawn clippings, leaves and other organic material, some residents have apparently been illegally dumping their yard waste in local parks. But that can be harmful to the environment, the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation said in a note to residents (below) to be published by local civic associations.

The parks department is instead requesting that residents bring their yard waste to designated drop off sites, request a brush pick up, or start a compost pile.

More from the parks department (some formatting has been modified by ARLnow):

As you know Arlington County has suspended the pickup of yard waste collection and bulk trash pickup due to health and safety concerns of the crews who had been doing it. While it may be tempting to dump excess yard waste in a nearby park, it is actually harmful to the environment (and illegal). Most yard waste contains non-native plants which may grow and take over, thereby decreasing support for native wildlife. Help us by being good stewards to the environment and good neighbors.

Here are options if you have excess yard waste:

1. Temporary Drop-off Yard Waste Sites

Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-noon (no appointment necessary, identification required)

  • Earth Products Yard at the Trades Center (4300 29th St. S.)
  • Mulch pick-up site at 26th St. N. and Yorktown Blvd.
  • Pick up free paper yard waste bags weekdays at the Bozman Government Center or Earth Products Yard at the Trades Center (4300 29th St. S.)

2. Curbside pickup is still available for large-scale material (like brush and limbs). Schedule your pickup here.

3. Consider a compost/brush pile. It reduces yard and food waste!

Thank you to everyone taking these extra steps to make sure that not only our neighborhood, but our beloved parks are clean and neat.

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Arlington County’s parks are closed, a safety precaution intended to prevent overcrowding and the spread of the coronavirus.

While trails are open, the closure of parks has reduced recreation options for those seeking to get outside as the weather gets warmer. That, along with the county deciding against closing vehicle lanes for extra space, may be factors contributing to more crowded sidewalks and trails.

“While we recognize how important our parks are to our community, we also recognize the trust the community has in us to do the right thing,” Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said. “Arlington parks remain closed for play; crossing through parks to get to a trail or non-park destination is allowed. Our trails and community gardens are open as long as people practice social distancing.”

Kalish said that the county is working with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments to arrange a safe reopening of amenities on a regional level.

“It is essential that we continue to coordinate across borders to combat this virus and plan for our economic recovery,” Kalish said.

In Maryland, state parks and beaches are reopening today. Parks have reopened recently for passive recreation — walking, sitting, etc. — in parts of New Jersey and Florida.

In Arlington, the park closures are being lightly enforced, with police issuing warnings and working to remind residents about the closures instead of making arrests.

Might it be time, however, for Arlington to consider loosening the park closures? Specifically, do you think it would be a good idea to open parks for passive recreation?

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One year after Robert E. Lee’s name was stripped from what is now Washington-Liberty High School, Arlington County is preparing to name a new park after an enslaved person Lee’s household.

Selina Gray Square is a park planned for the north end of a residential development called The Trove, an addition to Wellington Apartments at 1850 Columbia Pike that was approved in 2016.

More about the park from a county staff report (emphasis added):

The park will be located at the north end of one of the new residential buildings and adjacent to a new segment of 12th Street South the developer will construct (See Attachment I, Figure 2). It is within the Columbia Heights Civic Association and adjacent to the Arlington View Civic Association boundary. The 8,700 SF (.2-acre park) will be a publicly accessible, privately owned park and will have a bocce court, plaza, benches, walkways and landscaping. Per the recommendation of the HALRB, the Developer will create and place a plaque in the park to commemorate Ms. Selina Norris Gray.

Selina Norris Gray was a second-generation slave in Arlington and was owned by Mary Anna Custis Lee, the great-granddaughter of Martha Custis Washington and wife of Robert E. Lee. Gray worked as a maid and was the eventual head housekeeper of Lee’s Arlington House.

At the outbreak of the war, when Lee’s family fled south, Gray was left the keys to the house and its care entrusted to her. She is credited with saving George Washington artifacts from looters.

According to A Guide to the African American Heritage of Arlington County, Virginia:

Unable to remove all the Washington artifacts from the house prior to fleeing to the South, Mary Custis Lee entrusted the household keys to Selina Gray. For six months she actively protected the items from pilfering soldiers. In December 1861, she requested that General McDowell safeguard the collection. McDowell subsequently removed the items to the patent office.

The staff report on the project noted that some of the items from the Washington collection had disappeared, despite Gray’s efforts, but General McDowell was able to secure them.

“The continued existence of family heirlooms that had once belonged to Martha Custis Washington, and President George Washington can be attributed to Selina Gray’s courageous actions,” the staff report said.

After the war, Gray and her husband purchased a 10-acre property in Green Valley and remained there for the rest of their lives. Their descendants provided first-hand accounts of Arlington House during the 20th century restoration and some still live in Arlington.

The new park is located near The Harry W. Gray House, a historic home built by Selina Gray’s son, Harry Gray.

The naming of the park is docketed for consideration at next weekend’s County Board meeting.

Images via Arlington County

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Despite repeated reminders to stay out of closed parks and keep a six-foot distance from others while outside, police are still getting calls to report violations in various parts of the county.

Yesterday, with warm and sunny weather encouraging outdoor recreation, police received numerous calls to report people congregating in closed parks, from Virginia Highlands Park near Crystal City to Williamsburg Middle School in North Arlington.

An Arlington County Police spokeswoman was unable to say how many social distancing-related calls the department received yesterday, but noted that nobody has been charged for hanging out in a closed park or violating Gov. Ralph Northam’s order against congregating in groups of more than 10.

“ACPD continues to seek voluntary compliance with the order and social distancing through education,” said spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “At this time, no criminal enforcement has been sought.”

Both the police department and the county government have been posting reminders via social media that parks are closed and violations are a crime.

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There are now 63 known coronavirus cases in Arlington County, up from 54 yesterday.

That’s according to the latest data from the Virginia Dept. of Health, which now lists 604 cases, 83 hospitalizations, 14 deaths and 7,337 people tested statewide. The cases in Arlington as of Friday represent a nearly four-fold increase since a week ago.

County leaders, meanwhile, continue to urge additional caution — and action — to fight the spread of the virus. But the effort is being hampered somewhat by people continuing to congregate in groups and a lack of available tests.

Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey, in her email newsletter to constituents this morning, listed the following “ongoing challenges” in Arlington.

  • Groups congregating in our parks continue to be an issue and our Police are enforcing safe distancing and activities. While our park equipment should not be used, people are encouraged to continue to take walks on our trails and enjoy the outside (maintaining at least 6 feet of social distance).
  • COVID-19 testing also continues to be an issue in Arlington as it is nationally. Virginia Hospital Center has received more kits and gotten more efficient about doing the sampling at their drive-through facility on Quincy Street. The fact remains, however, that a limited number of kits continue to be an issue and it will be that way for some time.

At the Washington-Liberty High School track this morning, police could be seen inspecting a vandalized, temporary barrier, intended to keep people out while local recreational facilities are closed.

Arlington County firefighters, meanwhile, were ordered Thursday night to start wearing surgical masks “for the entirety of their scheduled work day,” according to a memo obtained by ARLnow.

ACFD spokesman Capt. Justin Tirelli said the mask-wearing order applies when firefighters are within six feet of anyone else. It follows Tuesday’s announcement that a firefighter had tested positive for COVID-19. The firefighter’s colleagues were allowed to stay on the job, following guidance from Arlington’s health department, despite concerns from the fire union.

No other firefighters have tested positive or exhibited symptoms since, Tirelli said.

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Some people hoping to get out of the house and get some exercise are defying government efforts to maintain social distancing amid the coronavirus outbreak.

On Monday, Arlington County and Arlington Public Schools closed all athletic fields and courts, as well as playgrounds and other outdoor recreational facilities where people congregate.

On Tuesday, people could be seen climbing through a gap in the fence at the popular Washington-Liberty track, in pursuit of maintaining their exercise routines. The two missing bars on the fence appear to have been “kicked in,” a tipster said.

Experts say that people deliberately ignoring government-imposed closures and social distancing measures is a “formula for disaster” that can accelerate the spread of the virus. Such people may think they’re doing something innocuous, or that they’re at low risk of health consequences should they contract COVID-19, but the collective defiance can collectively lead to bad outcomes.

Arlington police, meanwhile, say they’re working with county park rangers to educate the public about the closures.

“Arlington County Police Department is supporting Department Parks and Recreation Park Rangers and Rovers in educating the public regarding the closures of County and APS parks, playgrounds, fields, restrooms, tracks, dog parks and athletic courts,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “The goal is to gain voluntary compliance with the closures through education and signs will be posted at all affected locations. Rovers/Officers responding to these areas are informing the public of the closures and requesting individuals to move along and practice social distancing.”

“If the public sees large groups gathering in these locations, they can contact the Department of Parks and Recreation Roving Monitor at 571-238-0265 from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays,” Savage continued. “Afterhours concerns can be reported to the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222.”

Savage said police are also working to ensure compliance with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s recent order for non-essential businesses to close.

“In accordance with the Governor’s Executive Order 53, officers are conducting proactive checks of all businesses to ensure compliance with those that are required to be closed and those permitted to be open while complying with social distancing requirements,” she said. “The County has disseminated information to the business community regarding the Order utilizing listservs, phone calls and officers personally handing out copies during proactive checks. The goal continues to be 100% voluntary compliance and no criminal enforcement action has been taken related to Executive Order 53.”

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(Updated at 11:15 a.m.) More than 800 new residential units are coming to Crystal City.

The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a site plan for a new development at 1900 Crystal Drive. Developer JBG SMITH is tearing down an aging office building and planning to build two residential towers with ground-floor retail space in its place.

More from a JBG press release:

The proposed development at 1900 Crystal Drive comprises approximately 811 residential units and 40,000 square feet of street-level retail across two new mixed-use buildings. The proposed 27-story southern tower encompasses 472 apartments, while the 26-story northern tower includes 339 apartments. In addition to a private rooftop and green spaces for residents, the approved plan calls for a retail-anchored shared street, a central park, and activated retail via an alley similar to that of Blagden Alley in Northwest DC.

For the purpose of linking together community benefits, the project was approved as part of a Phase Development Site Plan (PDSP), which also includes two towers with residential, office and retail space at 223 23rd Street S., and a new office building at 101 12th Street S. Final approval of each of those site plans will follow, likely in 2021.

Among the community benefits offered by JBG SMITH as part of the PDSP are:

  • A 45,000 square foot public Center Park next to the 1900 Crystal Drive project, and $300,000 towards a planning effort for the park
  • A 54,500 square foot Gateway Park near where 12th Street S. turns into Crystal Drive, and $300,000 towards a planning effort for the park
  • A new 10th Street S., on the northern end of Crystal City, better connecting a portion of street grid
  • Roadway improvements, potentially including new bicycle facilities to be determined in a later community process
  • Use of about 83,000 square feet of residential space in JBG’s RiverHouse James Building as dedicated affordable housing for 30 years, affordable to renters making 60% of Area Median Income
  • About 7,200 square feet of space at 1901 S. Bell Street for a community library or similar amenities, rent-free for 20 years
  • LEED Silver sustainability certification for the new buildings

Given the coronavirus outbreak, JBG said in the press release that it “will thoroughly evaluate overall market conditions, construction costs, and other capital allocation opportunities prior to commencing construction” of the 1900 Crystal Drive project. A company rep, however, said at the meeting that work is likely to start shortly after approval, with construction expected to take 2-3 years.

“With Amazon employees already arriving in the area and many locals who want to live in a vibrant downtown, we are thrilled to reach this important milestone in National Landing’s ongoing development and transformation,” Tony Greenberg, Executive Vice President of Development at JBG SMITH, said in a statement. “New apartments and street-level retail are essential for cultivating a thriving 18-hour environment where people can walk from their home or office to their favorite restaurants and amenities.”

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A stone’s throw from Crystal City is Roaches Run, a waterfowl sanctuary on the northern flight path to and from Reagan National Airport.

The body of water, surrounded by woods, is home to birds, ducks and dragonflies. Accessible primarily from a small parking lot off the southbound GW Parkway, most human activity is confined to fishing and birdwatching.

But that may eventually change.

Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey toured a portion of woods around Roaches Run last week with the chair of Arlington’s Planning Commission and representatives of Crystal City property owner and Amazon landlord JBG Smith.

Though Roaches Run is controlled by the National Park Service and is part of the GW Parkway, JBG owns parcels of land adjacent to the waterfowl sanctuary and could help link it to Crystal City. That would give the rapidly-developing neighborhood newfound accessibility to natural spaces.

“JBG owns a lot of the land over there and is in communication with the Park Service,” Garvey told ARLnow, noting that the developer invited her to last week’s tour. “Can we take this land and turn it into an accessible, usable space for people?”

Garvey said Roaches Run is “a lost area” that’s “not very accessible for anybody” at the moment. Active railroad tracks currently separate it from Crystal City and Long Bridge Park.

JBG declined comment for this story.

Among the ideas for Roaches Run are walking and biking trails, a floating dock for boaters in canoes or kayaks, and bird observation stations. Roaches Run would remain a nature preserve, however, and is not envisioned for other sports or recreation uses.

“It’s going to take some cooperation” to see this idea come to fruition, Garvey said.

The county, the Park Service, JBG and even the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority would likely be involved. That’s not to mention local civic associations, which have floated the idea of establishing connectivity to Roaches Run from Long Bridge Park and the Mt. Vernon Trail as part a series of improvements to the Crystal City and Pentagon City are dubbed Livability 22202.

“I think it’s an advantage for everybody…. making that whole area spectacular for people,” Garvey said. “You could get on an airplane and go hiking and boating within a mile radius.”

While discussions about Roaches Run have been informal in nature so far, with Amazon moving in nearby and demand for recreational opportunities growing it’s likely to advance to a more formal planning process at some point in the near future.

“It’s all very tentative but this is how ideas start, you have to start somewhere,” Garvey said. “Nothing is happening tomorrow or even next year… it’s probably 5-10 years out.”

Map via Google Maps

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