Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

A Few Flakes Expected Tonight — “In the evening, precipitation will probably take the form of scattered snow showers over most of the region, ending before midnight. Little to no accumulation is expected.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter/@NWS_BaltWash]

Kudos to the Leaf Collectors — “Hats of to these guys. Leaf collectors jumping out of their truck to help my elderly neighbor rake her leaves.” [Twitter/@KathieNotnow]

Heavy Traffic at DCA — Sunday, which was said to be the busiest travel day of the year, saw big backups on the roads at and around Reagan National Airport. [Twitter/@LukeBerndt, Twitter/@EvanLambertTV]

Arlington Seeking Park Ranger — “Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) currently has a vacancy for Park Ranger… Park Rangers patrol designated Arlington County Parks; provide visitor information and programming services; support other County programs (maintenance, sports, recreation); and… help ensure park security and visitor safety.” [Washington Post]

Yorktown Falls in Regional Final — “It was no easy path for the Yorktown Patriots finishing second in the region tournament. After a five-point first-round victory, third-seeded Yorktown (11-2) knocked off the host and second-seed Madison Warhawks, 25-10, in the semifinals. Then Nov. 30, Yorktown fell to the juggernaut, top seed, host and undefeated Westfield Bulldogs, 35-7, in the 6D North Region Tournament high-school football title game.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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A $2.6 million project to renovate Benjamin Banneker Park will close the park and a portion of the W&OD Trail starting the week after Thanksgiving.

The project, which was given the green light in September, will widen the trails from 8 to 12 feet and upgrade the athletic field, playground, picnic area, dog park and more.

The park closure and trail detour were originally advertised as starting this week, but everything is still open, for now.

“We are giving people a two week notice to make adjustments,” said Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish. “The trail and park will close December 3. We’ve provided detour recommendations on sandwich boards around the park as well as online. We are putting up a banner at the dog park directing people to the web to find an alternative dog park.”

Not everyone is happy about the trail detour, which will redirect pedestrian and bike traffic from the park — near the East Falls Church Metro station — to the busy intersection of N. Sycamore Street and 19th Street N., which has traffic lights and pedestrian crossing signals.

“Many of us are caught off guard with the total closure of the trail between the creek and the soccer field for the duration of the project,” said Kelly Alexis, a local resident, in an email to county staff that she also sent to ARLnow and other concerned residents.

“Arlington County has provided only one re-route option — funneling all pedestrian and bicycle traffic to the most congested possible intersection; passing across the entry and exit to the EFC Metro Kiss-and-ride lot,” Alexis continued. “This was not part of the plan that was presented to us at the open meetings and has a major impact on bicycle and pedestrian traffic.”

In response to a request to complete trail construction first, before the other park changes, a county staffer said that was not a viable option for a number of reasons. Among them: the need to fence off the trail from the rest of the under-construction park — thus creating “a safety concern for users who would then have very limited egress through a long confined corridor in the park if they were endangered or injured.”

Kalish said she is not aware of any plans to make changes to the detour.

Construction is currently expected to wrap up between July and September of 2020, according to the county website.

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Arlington County has made progress in repairing infrastructure damaged in the July 8 flash flood emergency.

Last week Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services reopened a portion of the Four Mile Run Trail that runs under Wilson Blvd. The underpass was partially washed out by the force of the raging flood waters.

Crews “completed the work to repair the bike trail underpass by replacing the curb that was undermined by the stream and placing new concrete slab on the sidewalk surface,” DES spokeswoman Jessica Baxter tells ARLnow. “We also painted the curb on the outer perimeter towards the stream. Overall, it took about two weeks to complete.”

Arlington reported around $6 million in damage to county infrastructure from the flooding. Baxter said DES has completely most of its repairs, though some work remains to be done.

“In terms of repairs, we have substantially completed our tasks — we have minor items to address, such as catch basin repairs,” she said.

A number of footbridges were swept away by floodwaters. At least one, near 38th Street N. in the Old Glebe neighborhood, was recently replaced. Arlington’s parks department is currently evaluating the replacement of others.

“As of Oct. 2, County contractors have removed bridges that were destroyed by the storm, including the bridges at 38th St. N. and N. Chesterfield Street, Bon Air, Glencarlyn and Gulf Branch. Lubber Run will follow,” parks spokeswoman Susan Kalish said. “All bridges and fords damaged in the storm are being assessed for safety and next steps.”

Photo (1) courtesy Dennis Dimick, (3) courtesy @btj/Twitter

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Some referees who worked for Arlington’s youth basketball games have still not been paid for the winter season.

The lack of pay continues five months after officials said they were “looking into” the issue caused by the company Mid-Atlantic Coast Referees, which Arlington contracted with to manage referees.

“Arlington County does not know the number of officials who haven’t been paid, as the officials are not employees of the County and Mid-Atlantic is responsible for payment,” county spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said Tuesday, when asked how many referees are still awaiting wages.

During Saturday’s County Board meeting, one 16-year-old girl asked the County Board to help her get paid.

“Like a lot of the other teenage referees, this was supposed to be my first paying job,” she said. “Yet I was never paid.”

“I believe Arlington County owes me the $255 in wages and it is not the responsibility of teenage workers to chase down this county contractor,” she said.

“I’m really sorry that you had this incredibly negative experience with what I presume is one of your first jobs,” replied Board Chair Christian Dorsey.

Dorsey said that officials found out that the head of Mid-Atlantic suffered “a catastrophic health issue” that caused a backlog of payment requests, among other record-keeping issues. The county is in contact with relatives of the company’s founder, who have helped with the business and paid all of the unpaid referees they were aware of, Dorsey said.

“What is challenging for us… is that we paid the vendor,” said Dorsey, adding that Board has a duty to prevent taxpayers from “paying twice” for the service.

In total, the Department of Parks and Recreation paid Mid-Atlantic $163,269 for the season through April, according to records ARLnow obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. County spokeswoman Erika Moore said Arlington did not seek any money back from the company, explaining that the county’s “payment obligation was to Mid-Atlantic for services rendered to Arlington County.”

Arlington’s Resident Ombudsman and Director of Constituent Services Ben Aiken told ARLnow that he also recently contacted the company.

“As a courtesy in my role as Ombudsman, I emailed on behalf of two constituents, including the former referee who spoke at the September public comment,” Aiken said. “Those messages were sent yesterday (Monday, Sept. 23), and I have not yet received a response.”

Mid-Atlantic could not be reached for comment.

Smith said the county terminated its contract with the company in May and put out a bid for a new contractor this fall. In the meantime, the county tapped NOVA Refs (which also provides youth football flag referees in Arlington) for the job.

“The County procured interim services using a Quick Quote contract method to ensure the summer and fall season were not impacted,” she said.

“We’ve learned some lessons on how we contract outside vendors,” Dorsey noted Saturday. “We do learn our lessons when things go wrong.”

The youth basketball leagues are offered to students in grades 1-12 and are run by volunteer coaches, according to the county’s website. For the 1st and 2nd grade level league, the volunteer coaches also act as referees, per the website.

“Don’t be afraid to be a ref again, please, we need refs,” said Board member Erik Gutshall to the teenager who took to the podium on Saturday. “I hope you enjoyed the experience, although not the aftermath.”

Image via Flickr/Karl Baron

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Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation is hosting a campfire series for families, staring this week.

The series starts this Saturday, September 7, at Gulf Branch Nature Center (3608 Military Road) from 6-7 p.m. and offers attendees campfire stories, games, and s’mores.

The theme of this Saturday’s fire is “Nice Mice,” followed by an “Insect Chorus” event next Saturday 14 at the Long Branch Nature Center (625 S. Carlin Springs Road) from 7-8 p.m.

“The whole family is invited to join in our campfires, for lots of old fashioned fun,” wrote organizers on the event’s website. “You’ll hear campfire stories, may meet some animal guests, play games, sing songs and, of course, enjoy s’mores! Each campfire has a nature theme and promises to entertain.”

The series alternates on Saturdays between Gulf Branch and Long Branch until November 23, and each event costs $5 per person.

The county has hosted single-event campfires before, celebrating the Solstice in 2016, New Year’s Eve in 2011, and Memorial Day in 2010.

Image via Flickr/Kevin Smith

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Arlingtonians have a “can-do” attitude but the county is asking residents to refrain from cleaning up flood debris in local parks.

Residents have been taking matters into their own hands following the July 8 flooding, according to Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish, but it’s a job best left to the professionals.

The flooding caused $3.5 million in damage to county infrastructure, particularly in local parks, and the cleanup effort is still in progress. Officials are asking residents for patience while the work continues.

From the parks department website:

Let’s be careful out there! We sustained a lot of damage in the storm. Our crews have been out to evaluate and install protective barriers around impacted areas. For your safety, do not cross the fences or caution tape in our playgrounds, bridges, walking paths and park areas. While we appreciate Arlington’s “Can-Do” attitude, debris along streams and creeks will be cleaned up by Park staff and contractors, please do not attempt to move, play or handle such debris.

“Safety is our number one concern and we have seen signs in the parks of debris and things being moved,” Kalish told ARLnow. “We are being proactive in our messaging by posting that notice as we know how much our community cares about and uses our parks.”

“Parks and Recreation hasn’t received any reports of injuries,” Kalish added.

Photo courtesy @btj/Twitter

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(Updated 10:35 a.m.) The Arlington County Board is acquiring a pair of properties in the Arlington Ridge neighborhood to expand Fort Scott Park.

The Board approved the purchase of the properties — including a home at 705 31st Street S. and an adjacent vacant lot — for just over $1.4 million at its Saturday meeting. The county plans to tear down the house, which is being sold by a trustee after its owner recently passed away.

“Recently, County Real Estate Bureau staff was contacted by the owner of the properties, who inquired whether the County would be interested in purchasing the properties because they abut Fort Scott Park,” wrote county staff in a report to the Board.

The lots are a combined 14,305 square feet and are just south of the park, which officials are planning to expand while updating pedestrian and bicycle paths, per the staff report.

Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development determined that the house, which was built in 1948, has no historical or architectural merit.

The expansion is considered part of the county’s Public Spaces Master Plan, which was updated in April and includes a goal to add a minimum of 30 acres of land to the county’s public spaces over the next 10 years.

Fort Scott Park was once a Civil War-era fort named after Winfield Scott, the General-in-Chief of the Union Army General, according to a county press release.

The full press release is after the jump.

Read More

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(Updated at 4:55 p.m.) Arlington officials estimate that Monday’s flash flooding caused $3.5 million in damage to county infrastructure, particularly bridges in local parks.

As of last night, the an Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman said the department was aware of “at least six pedestrian bridges adjacent to the Four Mile Run stream and one storage building at Bon Air Park” which have been washed away.

Restrooms, playgrounds and picnic tables along local streams also sustained damage and “a few community centers experienced minor to moderate flooding,” though the community centers all remained open with “no major operational impacts,” we’re told.

The parks department damage assessment was updated Tuesday late afternoon to include the following:

  • Six pedestrian bridges adjacent to the Four Mile Run stream — one at Bon Air Park, two at Lubber Run Park, two at Glencarlyn Park and one at Gulf Branch Nature Center — were destroyed. Additionally, a bridge near the Glencarlyn Dog Park and one at Holmberg Park were damaged
  • The following picnic shelters are closed through Friday (July 12): Bluemont Park, Bon Air Park, Glencarlyn Park
  • Playgrounds at numerous parks lost safety surface in the flooding; as a result, Glencarlyn Park playground remains closed until further notice
  • A storage building at Bon Air Park was destroyed
  • James Hunter Dog Park [near Shirlington] experienced flooding and DPR is evaluating the fountain
  • The County’s Trails saw debris and dirt; Four Mile Run Trail suffered some asphalt damage

“The Department of Parks and Recreation is working to make our areas safe and operational as soon as possible after Arlington’s parks saw considerable damage on Monday,” said spokeswoman Martha Holland. “DPR is still working on gathering damage assessments from the storm, and some facilities may be closed as cleaning and repairs begin.”

Photos and video also shows damage along Lubber Run, near the amphitheater. A torrent of muddy water can be seen rushing through the park; pedestrian bridges were washed away, though the amphitheater itself was spared.

Foot bridges along even tiny babbling brooks were no match for raging floodwaters. One such wooden bridge connecting Chesterbrook Road and N. Vermont Street in the Old Glebe neighborhood was washed off its foundation and blocked off by caution tape this morning.

A couple of Arlington libraries were also impacted.

“The auditorium at Central Library sustained water damage and all programs are canceled this week,” Arlington Public Library spokesman Henrik Sundqvist told ARLnow. “Central Library opened up on schedule today.”

“Cherrydale Branch Library closed early yesterday due to flooding and power outages,” Sundqvist added. “We expect to open on time today.”

Arlington County has closed two roads that suffered damage to the road surface as a result of the flooding: until repairs can be made, 18th Street N. is closed between N. Lexington and McKinley streets, while 20th Street N. is closed at George Mason Drive.

“There’s no other significant damage to facilities at this time, but assessments are ongoing,” said county spokeswoman Jennifer K. Smith.

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Madison Manor Park (6225 12th Road N.) will close starting next week for renovations.

Arlington County Board members began considering updates to the park back in 2017 and finally voted in May to begin construction.  

Planned updates include “a new nature-themed playground with loose play elements for kids to create their own spaces,” plus added greenery, sheltered picnic areas, a new basketball and volleyball court, news sidewalks, a change in fencing and upgraded irrigation system and an update to the multi-purpose sports field at the park.

More from Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation:

The existing combo-field (i.e. a field where both diamond and rectangular sports can be played) will be renovated with a new relocated backstop to improve water runoff. The combo-field will also have new dugouts, spectator seating, irrigation and sod. The Resource Protection Area, a space that helps filter water into our streams, will be planted with new trees and shrubs to help protect our natural resources. The project also features new native plants with pollinators in the park, as well as minimal fencing, new ADA-accessible walkways, a new picnic shelter and new site furnishings.

Over the last year, the county hosted public forums for residents to share input or raise concerns about the project. Capital maintenance funds are paying for the project.

Completion of the Madison Manor Park project is slated for spring 2020, according to the county website. 

Photos via Arlington County

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Aspire! Afterschool Learning is planning to open its new facility in the Arlington Mill Community Center.

A ribbon-cutting celebration of the new program is planned for 4:30 p.m. on Thursday (June 6), according to a press release.

Aspire! launched a campaign in 2016 to finance a 7,300 square-foot expansion. The expansion ultimately cost $1 million.

“Words can’t express how thrilled and grateful we are to achieve this amazing feat, thanks to the incredible generosity of our partners, donors, and supporters,” said Aspire! Board Chair Steve Manlove in the press release. “This truly has been the most amazing public-private partnership between Aspire! and Arlington County, with invaluable support [of sponsors].”

The summer camp at the facility is planned to open on July 1 for 120 children. Aspire!’s Learning ROCKS! Program for upper-elementary students is planned to return in the fall.

“Aspire!’s new home at the Arlington Mill Community Center is the next step in a great partnership with Arlington County,” said Jane Rudolph, Arlington County director of Parks and Recreation, in the press release.”As a permanent fixture at Arlington Mill, Aspire! will continue to empower students through their after school and summer programs and bring energy and inspiration to this well-loved intergenerational community center.”

Photo courtesy Aspire! Afterschool Learning

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Oliver Freeman’s goal is to have at least one Arlingtonian on a World Cup-winning team by 2030.

Freeman’s soccer program, Love the Ball, is launching its first Arlington camp this summer in a partnership with the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation.

The four-day camp is planned to run from July 22-26 at Kenmore Middle School (202 S. Carlin Springs Road).

“Most of the time, we are doing soccer, but one thing that really interests me when we came to this country is soccer is not number one,” said Freeman. “It’s not the most important sport. Looking outside, I don’t see kids playing that. Back home in England, that’s all kids do.”

Every day is themed around a different country and technique, like a Brazil-themed day focused on dribbling or a Germany-themed day focused on passing. Freeman said kids are encouraged to wear clothing or colors from that country on those days.

The camp is aimed at kids ages 4-12 and costs $250 for full-day classes.

According to the program’s website, Freeman coached with the famous Chelsea Football Club in the U.K., coaching players in community sessions, holiday camps and advanced centers.

The Love the Ball program started in Britain in 2012 and came to the U.S. in 2016. Freeman said over the last few years they’ve seen growth and currently have 10 coaches working in about 20 schools throughout the region, but this is the first year the program has operated in Arlington.

Freeman said being chosen as a partner by the parks department is a strenuous process, but he’s hoping if this year goes well the program can expand with more camps. The partnership promotes Love the Ball through Arlington’s summer camp catalog and gives them access to the Kenmore Middle School field.

“I really hope to instill a love for the game,” Freeman said. “It’s not just a camp. Hopefully, they go home and start kicking the ball around. They have to do stuff on their own time if they’re going to be good at it.”

For the most part, Freeman said he’s also yielded to the American terminology of “soccer” rather than “football.”

“You have to choose your battles,” said Freeman. “Unfortunately, kids get too confused. If you say football, they’ll start trying to grab the ball. Sometimes I have kids from South America or Europe, and I call it football to them and their parents.”

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