Arlington, VA

Zitkala-Ša (pronounced “Zit-KA-la Sha”), an Indigenous rights activist and a former Arlington resident, is the Google Doodle today (Monday), in honor of her 145th birthday.

The writer, editor, translator and political activist of Yankton Lakota Sioux descent lived in Lyon Park for 13 years before her death in 1938.

She is featured in the doodle with illustrations of cardinals, as her name translates to “Red Bird,” as well as a violin, which she studied at the New England Conservatory of Music.

She recently received recognition from Arlington County as well. On Dec. 12, the Arlington County Board approved a request by the Lyon Park Citizens Association to rename Henry Clay Park after her. The park at 3011 7th Street N. remains closed while it undergoes extensive renovations, which the county expects to complete by April.

Born in South Dakota in 1876, Zitkala-Ša left her reservation at eight years old to attend a manual labor school. There, she was given the name Gertrude Simmons, her long hair was cut and she was forbidden from speaking her native language.

“Although she enjoyed learning to read and write, she experienced first-hand the damage of having her heritage stripped away,” Arlington Public Library wrote about her. “Feeling torn between her life on the reservation and her forced assimilation into white mainstream culture, Zitkála-Šá pursued higher education and distinguished herself as a public speaker on social and political issues.”

Before diving into political work, she attended college, taught at a boarding school for Native Americans and studied violin at a conservatory.

In 1925, she moved with her husband Capt. Raymond Talefase Bonnin to 261 N. Barton Street in Lyon Park, where they lived until their respective deaths in 1938 and 1942. Both are buried in Arlington National Cemetery and their home still stands at the corner of 3rd Street N. and Barton Street.

The couple founded the National Council of American Indians and advocated for voting rights, healthcare, legal standing and land rights, the library said.

Screenshot via Google

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(Updated at 1:30 p.m.) Arlington County has asked JBG Smith to go back to the drawing board after reviewing its plans to upgrade the Crystal City Water Park.

The privately-owned park at 1601 Crystal Drive currently includes water features, trees, and a food stand. It has frequently been used for local events and gatherings.

The project to upgrade it will be deferred two months so that JBG Smith can address pedestrian and cyclist safety concerns raised by Arlington County Board members and community members during the Board’s Tuesday night meeting.

“This is not a fully baked plan yet,” Board member Christian Dorsey said. 

The Bethesda-based real estate company is proposing a new performance area, more outdoor seating, preserving and updating the existing water fountain, and incorporating a new water feature in the center of the site. The proposal also includes a number of retail structures: small kiosks, a bar, and a trailhead restroom facility.

Most of the discussion was devoted to two paths — one ADA-accessible — that JBG Smith proposed to build to connect people to the nearby VRE station and the Mount Vernon Trail. A small pathway linked the two connections.

Community members and County Board members said these paths, as proposed, would create conflicts between pedestrians and bicyclists. People would have to cross the Mount Vernon Trail connector to get to the rest of the park and cyclists would be battling a grade change while avoiding pedestrians.

“We thought we were being helpful, but we’re hearing loudly and clearly that this is scaring people, and we should reconsider it,” said Robin Mosle, a consultant on the project.

The Bethesda-based real estate company opted out of a public design process — something that drew the frustration of some Board members, including Takis Karantonis.

“This would be a conversation that we would have had in the Park and Recreation Commission in advance of the meeting,” Karantonis said. 

The County Board is now expected to see the project again when it meets in March.  

News of a plan to invigorate the park with new retail dates back at least to 2017, when ARLnow reported that the concession stand in the park had closed. A few months later, The Stand opened in its place, hosting many pop-up eateries. In April, D.C. food truck Peruvian Brothers took it over.

Photos via Arlington County

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Architects have developed three different visions for the new park at S. Eads Street and Army Navy Drive, an open space and proposed park in Crystal City.

Through Friday, Arlington County is once more accepting feedback on the space, which borders Pentagon City and is also known as the “Teardrop Parcel.” A third online engagement period will occur in February.

“We’ve received an incredible number of questionnaires from the community, about 160 in fact,” said Mark Gionet, the Principal at LSG Landscape Architecture, during a presentation in December.

The new park 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 adjacent to the recently-built Altaire apartments and across the street from the second phase of Amazon’s permanent HQ2. The park project, with a $2.6 million budget, is funded by set-asides from the Altaire and the new residential building.

Most respondents to an earlier feedback round said they live nearby and use the park to pass through the area. They would like a place “where they can feel connected to nature,” Gionet said.

Many respondents said they would like pop-up programming, benches and attractive design features. Popular name ideas include Pentagon Park, Teardrop Park, Canal Park and National Landing Park.

“There is an overwhelming preference that this park site remain a natural refuge in character,” Gionet said, adding that respondents support preserving the mature cottonwood tree on the site.

He proposed three ideas. The first, which he called “The Meander,” is an “immersive walking experience” with a curving paved path bordered by greenery and habitats for pollinators.

The second, called “Canal Walk,” traces the historic route of the old S. Eads Street and “grounds the new park in its historical context,” he said. The park would have amenities for working out and socializing.

His third concept, “Central Hub,” focuses on passive green spaces and dog amenities, including a dog run.

After the third online engagement period, the project is expected to be reviewed by County commissions in March and go before the County Board for approval in April.

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Time is ticking down to weigh in on the initial phases of an update to the development plan for the Clarendon neighborhood.

Arlington County is inviting people to provide online feedback on proposed updates to the 2006 Clarendon Sector Plan through Friday, Jan. 8.

“We’d like to have you provide your feedback, comments, questions by visiting the project website or by contacting staff,” said Brett Wallace, principal planner, CPHD in a video presentation from mid-December. “We’d also like to get some input on online survey questions.”

The update to the 14-year-old sector plan was prompted by a series of pending redevelopments. Arlington County began mulling over these changes in February.

In this round of public comments, the County is focusing on improvements to the pedestrian and bicycle experience along Fairfax Drive and Wilson Boulevard between Clarendon Circle and Kirkwood Drive.

“As a pedestrian, what is your level of comfort when accessing and using pedestrian facilities along Fairfax Drive between Clarendon Circle and Kirkwood? How would you improve the pedestrian experience along this section of Fairfax Drive?” is one such question.

The County is also asking people to rank whether they would like to see wider sidewalks, street trees, on-street parking, café seating or other amenities. The sector plan currently recommends preserving two “historic” buildings on the north side of Wilson Boulevard, which the County says will make it difficult to realize all these improvements.

The process for changing the sector plan started in September, followed by the first of five engagement session. The next online engagement opportunity will be posted in late January or early February.

The County cites multiple projects in the Clarendon Circle area that do not meet the sector plan’s requirements. They include changes to St. Charles Catholic Church, as well as mixed-use buildings where Joyce Motors used to be and on the Wells Fargo/Verizon Site.

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Kids who want to talk to Santa Claus can drop off letters at the Gulf Branch Nature Center through Dec. 14.

For the first time, the park is collecting letters to send to St. Nick, rather than facilitating a weekend of in-person visits with the jolly one himself. In non-pandemic years, Santa visits typically drew up to 300 kids and families, park manager Rachael Tolman said.

So far this year, about a dozen kids come each day to drop off letters, she said.

Collections will end on Dec. 14, a Monday, to allow the snail mail ample time to reach the North Pole before Santa gets too busy, she said. Kids are encouraged to include their return address so he can respond with a postcard, and to bring canned goods that will go to the Arlington Food Assistance Center.

“Due to the pandemic, Santa won’t be visiting, so he very kindly let us set up a mailbox,” she said. “We tried to come up with other ways to have Santa in person, but we figured that this would be the best option because everything is so up in the air from week to week.”

A mailbox is not the same as an in-person visit, but it feels vintage — “a little old school,” Tolman said.

The park manager said she “absolutely” remembers writing to Santa as a kid.

“I can’t remember what I asked for, but I remember asking about Mrs. Claus and the reindeer, and I would leave carrots out for reindeer — along with the milk and cookies — because they were doing all the work,” she said.

Tolman said she has received many emails thanking her for the mailbox from people who had always brought their kids to see Santa, and this year, were not sure what to tell them.

“They were so relieved that we put the mailbox out, so that their kids could keep the tradition of coming,” she said.

Visitors can also check out the cabin, decorated for the holidays.

“We’re glad to keep the magic of the season as best we can,” she said.

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John Robinson, Jr. spent his time and energy advocating for Arlington’s minority residents, and on Tuesday (Nov. 17) the County Board will consider renaming the future town square in Green Valley in his honor.

The Green Valley Civic Association wants to rename what is currently known as Nauck Town Square, at 2400 S. Shirlington Road, to John Robinson, Jr. Town Square. The association asked the County to change the name last year, and the Planning Commission approved the recommendation.

“John Robinson, Jr., was a community activist who fought to break down segregationist barriers in housing, food counters and movie theaters in northern Virginia,” the Green Valley Civic Association said in their resolution. “Mr. Robinson coordinated with local authorities to take drugs off the streets and organized food, clothing and furniture drives for local families… Over the years, he opened his doors to hundreds of people who were homeless.”

The town square is currently under construction, with a projected completion date in the third quarter of 2021. The nearly $5 million project was approved in 2019 and will feature an outdoor stage, a plaza, and tables. Around the time the project was approved, the neighborhood changed its name from Nauck to Green Valley.

Robinson, who passed away in 2012, was the publisher of the Green Valley News, a free newspaper serving the historically Black neighborhood. He was affectionately regarded as the “Mayor of Green Valley” by neighbors.

The County Manager is recommending the Board approve the renaming.

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On Saturday, the County Board is scheduled to review an agreement with the City of Alexandria to build a connector trail near Four Mile Run and Route 1, in the Potomac Yard area.

“The Connector Trail will connect a trail to be constructed by Arlington County from Richmond Highway in Arlington County to a portion of the Four Mile Run Trail located in the City of Alexandria,” says a county staff report.

The new trail and the connecting trail are part of a development plan for Short Bridge Park. The waterfront park, adjacent to several bridges over Four Mile Run, is part of both Arlington County and the City of Alexandria.

“The first phase of development of Short Bridge Park involves the construction of the New Trail leading from Richmond Highway across a parcel currently owned by Arlington Potomac Yard Community Association and on which the County Board has a public access easement,” the staff report said.

The board will have three years to construct these paths.

“The County shall be responsible for maintenance, repair and replacement of the connector trail and the removal of trash and debris during the term of the agreement,” the report said.

Short Bridge Park was created through a site plan that the County Board approved in 2000. A master plan for the park, including a name change from the informal moniker “South Park,” was hashed out in 2018 after “extensive community engagement.”

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On Saturday, the Arlington County Board is slated to award a contract to construct a playground in Rosslyn.

Construction on the Rosslyn Highlands Park Playground will begin when construction on the new Queens Court Residences affordable housing development (1801 N. Quinn Street) nears completion, in early 2021, according to the project page. The playground could open near the end of 2021.

The playground and the new Rosslyn Highlands Park are part of a flurry of construction activity in western Rosslyn, including the Queens Court redevelopment, the massive Highlands residential project (which will include a new fire station), and the new H-B Woodlawn school building, known as The Heights.

A concept for the 9,000 square-foot playground at 1615 18th Street N. was approved by the County Board last year. Bids were submitted in October 2020, and county staff recommend awarding the contract to the Donohoe Companies, one of 11 bidders.

The overall budget for this project is $1.56 million. Donahoe bid $1.33 million to build the project, the county is tacking on $133,000 in contingency, and the Queens Court developer — the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing — is chipping in $125,000.

“The new playground will include separate play areas with age-appropriate play equipment for pre-school and grade-school age children as well as extensive seating, native planting and bioretention stormwater management planters,” the report said. In addition to standard playground equipment, there will be a prominent climbing tower in the center.

After additional community engagement in 2018, more swings and seating were added to the plan.

The 9,000-square foot playground will be located within the Queens Court property. The 12-story apartment building, with 249 committed affordable housing units, was approved in February 2017.

Rosslyn Highlands Park Playground is part of the Rosslyn Highlands Park+ open space plan, which the County Board adopted in September of 2016.

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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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