Arlington, VA

The Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation is asking residents if they would attend indoor programs and classes this winter.

In an email sent yesterday, the parks department announced that as staff prepare for winter, they are exploring opportunities for safe indoor classes and programs.

The survey asks whether residents are comfortable attending or sending children to indoor programming, or whether they would rather stick with virtual activities.

“It’s really to take folks’ temperature,” spokeswoman Susan Kalish said.

Whether the department hosts programs this winter is “not up to us — it’s up to the guidelines,” she said, referencing state health guidelines.

One guideline in Phase 3 of Gov. Ralph Northam’s Forward Virginia plan, initiated in August, tells establishments to keep 10 feet of distance between attendees when exercise activities, singing or cheering are involved. In all other settings, the minimum distance required is six feet.

Program sizes will be smaller and in some cases, due to constraints, particular classes may not be viable, Kalish said.

Community centers will have one-way entrances and exits, be reconfigured and cleaned more frequently, the email said.

Options for physical activities range from gymnastics to therapeutic adapted services, and other suggested topics for programming include history, music, science and discovery, languages and nature.

The parks department continues to offer virtual programs for people of all ages, abilities and interests. For now, the department said outdoor spaces are open and it continues to run “Programs in the Park (while the weather is good).”

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Arlington County is asking for public input for a new park in Crystal City, just on the border of Pentagon City.

Current called “Teardrop Parcels” from the shape of the two pieces of land that form the space, the county’s working name is “New Park at South Eads Street and Army Navy Drive.”

The green space is located by the Verizon telecommunications facility site (400 11th Street S.) and the construction site for a new, 19-story residential building. It’s also adjacent to the recently-built Altaire apartments and across the street from the second phase of Amazon’s permanent HQ2.

An online feedback form is available until end of day today (Oct. 14), according to a presentation delivered on Sept. 29. The next opportunity for public feedback will be in November, while third and final opportunity will come in December. Name suggestions are welcome, according to the presentation.

The owner of the Altaire is contributing more than $1.4 million and the new apartment development is pitching in nearly $1.2 million, for a total budget of $2.6 million for the new park.

With the new developments, the park could see more activity from residents, workers and shoppers in the coming years, said Mark Gionet, the Principal at LSG Landscape Architecture.

Studies show that having retail space bordering an urban park — as is planned in this case — can help activate the two spaces, said the architect, whose firm is partnering with the county to facilitate public engagement with plans for the park.

Currently, during weekday work hours, the land is used by people walking to get groceries and lunch. On the weekends, children play while their parents watch from lawn chairs. The land is popular with dog walkers, who use the pet waste station.

The presentation notes that Metropolitan Park, Long Bridge Park and Virginia Highlands Park are all within walking distance, with a variety of existing amenities.

“A range of active, passive and social park amenities are available within a walking distance,” the presentation said. Planners will take that, public feedback, and the fact that the park is shaded by nearby buildings much of the time into consideration when mulling over what features the new park might have.

Work on the park should not harm the large, leafy tree on the land, Gionet said. Its extensive root system, however, will limit the developable area in the park, he said.

Photo (2) via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Crystal City Water Park to Get Big Upgrade — “JBG Smith Properties is pitching a major makeover for a small park at the heart of its Crystal City holdings, envisioning some new retail and even a bar atop a water feature. The developer filed plans with Arlington County earlier this month requesting an additional 6,100 square feet of density for the 1.6-acre park, located across the street from JBG Smith’s massive ‘Central District’ project at 1770 Crystal Drive.” [Washington Business Journal, Twitter]

Vote By Mail Facts — “The first round of vote-by-mail ballots have been sent to people who requested them, but it’s not too late to request yours. Ballot applications must be received by 5 p.m. on Oct. 23. To help you understand how voting by mail works — and feel confident in submitting your ballot — we’ve broken down the facts you need to know.” [Arlington County]

Deer Rescued from Country Club Fence — “On Tuesday night, a curious fawn tried to get through a metal fence in the Washington Golf and Country Club. Unfortunately her adventurous plan backfired, and the fawn ended up stuck and stranded. The country club called animal control, which is under the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, and that’s when Officer Shannon Rose sprung to action.” [Washingtonian]

Weekday Afternoon Robbery in Ballston — “At approximately 4:21 p.m. on September 23, police were dispatched to the report of a robbery just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect entered a business, approached the front counter, and passed the employee a note demanding money and threatening them if they didn’t comply. The victim complied, and the suspect stole an undisclosed amount of cash, then fled on foot prior to police arrival.” [Arlington County]

National Landing Food Program Extended — “Thanks to generous support from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), Amazon, JBG SMITH, Equity Residential and individual Arlington residents, the National Landing Business Improvement District (BID) announced today that its Farm-to-Families food assistance program will be extended through the fall.” [Press Release]

Addiction Recovery Org Rebrands — “The name will change but the mission will remain the same – working to help those struggling with addiction turn their lives around. Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic announced Sept. 16 that it would change its name to National Capital Treatment and Recovery, following its split last year from the national Phoenix House organization.” [InsideNova]

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In two days, Montgomery County will start allowing alcohol consumption in select parks as part of a pilot program.

More from Washingtonian:

Beginning Thursday, September 24, alcohol consumption will be allowed in nine designated parks as part of a pilot program approved by the Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday. It will run at least through May.

The change is one facet of the county’s “Picnic in the Park” initiative, which aims to bolster takeout business for nearby restaurants while providing venues for safe social distancing. The MoCo Eats website shows picnic-goers which restaurants will deliver to them, and each park has drop-off spots for drivers.

In Arlington, alcohol consumption is banned in parks, with the exception of serving beer and wine during permitted events in two parks: Rosslyn Gateway Park and Clarendon Central Park. On top of the restrictions, Arlington has a program called Park Safe in which repeat offenders of rules like the alcohol ban — often homeless individuals with substance abuse problems — can be temporarily banned from all county parks.

Montgomery County’s program is specifically aimed at boosting outdoor dining during the pandemic and does not legalize public intoxication. But it’s the latest example of how long-standing laws concerning where you can buy and consume alcohol have become malleable as a result of COVID-19, allowing restaurants to deliver cocktails and parking lots to turn into watering holes.

Arlington has thus far declined to close streets to give restaurants more room to seat diners outside, as D.C. is doing, but perhaps adopting Montgomery County’s new temporary park rules could be the thing to give local eateries a boost.

What do you think?

Courtesy photo

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After delays in planning and over a year of construction, Arlington’s ambitious overhaul of Mosaic Park (538 N. Pollard Street) is about a month away from its debut.

The park is planned to open, in part, in late September, according to Susan Kalish, spokeswoman for the county parks department.

The renovations convert the park behind the Gold’s Gym in Ballston to an urban plaza with an interactive water feature, children’s play area, casual use lawn, multipurpose court, and basketball half-court. Some of those new features won’t be active at the start, however, due to the pandemic.

“When the park opens the water feature, two electrical circular play elements, park lighting and multipurpose court lighting won’t be available until later in the fall,” Kalish said. “The water feature is official called a splashpad, as you can walk into it and play around. According to the Governor’s Forward Virginia guidelines, splashpad (and our spraygrounds) cannot be turned on due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The county website said the park is designed with casual “drop-in activities” in mind rather than specific sports or engagement with nature.

“Mosaic Park is specifically designed to bring a diverse community together,” the county said. “Whether laying out to soak up some rays or challenging a neighbor to a friendly game of frisbee, this park is uniquely positioned to support impromptu, casual usage.”

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As renovations are underway for Henry Clay Park, some local residents are hoping for one more additional change: getting rid of the name honoring slave-owning former Secretary of State Henry Clay.

Clay, who represented Kentucky in Congress before and after serving as Secretary of State under President John Quincy Adams, fought a duel in Arlington: at Pimmit Run in 1826. Neither participant was wounded and no Broadway musicals were written in Clay’s honor. Though he owned slaves and had a negative view on a multiracial society, Clay was opposed to slavery and freed those he enslaved upon his death.

The Lyon Park Civic Association is now hoping to change the name to one honoring Zitkala-Ša, a Native American writer and political activist who lived in the neighborhood from 1925-1938, the Falls-Church News Press first reported.

“The Lyon Park Civic Association has requested that the park be renamed the Zitkala-Ša (Red Bird) Park,” confirmed Susan Kalish, spokesperson for Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation. “They presented their request at the July 28 Park and Recreation Commission meeting.”

Kalish said after receiving the request, the proposal will be reviewed by the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board and the Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee.

“The Park and Recreation Commission will consider the renaming request again after they receive comments from these citizen advisory groups and adjacent civic associations,” Kalish said. “Once the commission approves the name, the County Board will make the final decision on the proposed park name.”

Henry Clay isn’t the only slaveowner in Arlington whose name could be removed from public property. Arlington County is also currently considering renaming Lee Highway, named for Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

Whatever its name will be, Kalish said renovations to the park at the corner of 7th and N. Highland streets are still on track to be completed by the end of the year.

“While the pandemic caused delays in procurement and site furnishing manufacturing,” Kalish said, “it all came together and the community will see a new basketball court, playground, open field and picnic shelter with updated site circulation, site furnishing, fencing, drainage and landscaping.”

Image via Arlington County

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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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