Arlington, VA

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.

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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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On the heels of being named the fittest “city” in America, Arlington has also earned a fourth-place ranking in parks from the Trust for Public Land (TPL).

The national ranking has been fairly consistent for Arlington, while neighbor D.C. surpassed Minneapolis to take the first place spot. The “ParkScore” rankings rank the quality of the park system of the top 100 cities in the United States, including Arlington.

Arlington scored in the top percentiles for access, investment and amenities, though it scored fairly low in overall acreage.

The TPL noted in its report that 98 percent of Arlington residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park — exceeding the national average of 54 percent — and that park access was consistent across all income levels.

“Parks build community. Our mission is to promote wellness and vitality through dynamic programs and attractive public spaces. And it looks like we are right on track,” Jane Rudolph, Director of Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation, said in a statement. “Our public spaces, which include parks, playgrounds, trails, fields and nature and community centers, bestow a unique and irreplaceable benefit to everyone in Arlington. Our public spaces make us happier and healthier.”

The assessment noted that Arlington has a particularly high amount of basketball hoops — 7.8 per 10,000 people — and playgrounds — 4.4 per 10,000 people.

Arlington was commended for the amount the county spends on parks: $267.23 per resident.

But with 11 percent of Arlington’s land used for parks and recreation, the TPL noted this as being below the national median of 15 percent and D.C.’s 21 percent.

The TPL also pointed to locations across Arlington in need of a new park, mainly locations around the northwest periphery of the county.

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The Arlington County Board voted last night to advance long-awaited plans for a new public boathouse in Rosslyn.

Members unanimously voted to allow County Manager Mark Schwartz to sign an agreement with the National Park Service, which will allow the federal agency to end its environmental assessment of the project and kick off the design phase.

Board Chair Christian Dorsey said the vote “sets the stage” for the next steps in the process, which will be “subject to further testing and analysis.”

The current design plans call for a 14,000-square-foot boathouse and a 300-foot-long dock along with lockers and bathrooms in another building with parking and road access.

Prior to the vote, several residents expressed concerns that building on the proposed site at 1101 Lee Highway would lead to trees being cut down, among other environmental impacts that NPS also initially feared. Three residents asked why Gravelly Point could not be considered as an alternative location, but officials did not directly respond to the question.

Board member Erik Gutshall said the future design process will wrestle with many of those details, so there was no reason not to move forward with the “broad brush” of the project Tuesday night.

Some residents also expressed concern that the boathouse could “turn Key Bridge into a traffic nightmare during rush hour,” as independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement put it.

Environmental & Energy Conservation Commission member Claire O’Dea said the commission did not have an official recommendation to offer, but that “because of the likelihood of significant environmental impact” the group urged the County Board to involve all stakeholders throughout the development process.

Erik Meyers, Arlington resident and president of the Arlington Boathouse Foundation, said the foundation has brainstormed ways to build the boathouse “to sit as lightly as possible on the land and with respect to the river.” He added that signing the agreement would help “a community that has been long separated from its historic shoreline.”

Another resident said she’s travelled to the Georgetown boathouse for the last 12 years to row and would welcome a facility on the Virginia side of the Potomac.

“It would be fantastic to have facilities in Rosslyn,” she said. “It gives Arlington County residents and high school rowing programs closer and safer access to the river.”

The county has been in talks to build the boathouse for over 20 years. NPS’ environmental assessment began in 2012 but stalled soon after before being revived in 2016.

Images via Arlington County

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