The Arlington County Board deferred a vote Tuesday on the design of the new Lubber Run Community Center after confusion over the timing of meetings on the project.
But the Board did agree, by a 3-2 vote, to a $37 million contract to replace the center, out of a total project budget of $47.8 million.
The new center will replace the one built in 1956 at 300 N. Park Drive, Arlington’s first purpose-built community center.
The building will provide programs for youth, adults and seniors including a preschool, senior center, gymnasium and fitness center and several multipurpose rooms. It also will house about 70 employees in the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Construction could begin as early as next fall.
A meeting is scheduled for today (July 19) at Barrett Elementary School for residents to give feedback on the new building’s design. That meeting coming a day after the Board’s scheduled design vote left some members perturbed, as they wanted to see the community engagement process play out before taking action.
Before the start of deliberations, County Manager Mark Schwartz apologized for any communications that caused “confusion or anxiety” in the community.
A timeline in May provided by local resident Michael Thomas had the Board likely voting on the design in September. But Jane Rudolph, director of the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said the plan was moved up after staff found they could have the construction contract ready for July’s meeting and advertised on July 7. She also apologized for any confusion
“This is really, I think, close to a smoking gun,” said Board member John Vihstadt. “I don’t understand why we couldn’t defer to September to realize and fulfill the original intention of staff to have the board meeting after the next concept presentation and another PFRC meeting as well.”
Vihstadt was joined in voting to defer, while simultaneously approving the construction contract, by chair Jay Fisette and Christian Dorsey. The trio emphasized that no “fundamental changes” should be made to the plan during the review.
Board member Libby Garvey and vice chair Katie Cristol voted against the plan. Cristol said that the consensus on the Board that no major changes should be made, coupled with the support of many in the community for the new center, should be enough to proceed.
Of those who testified on the project, many had concerns around the project’s impact on the environment, including the need to cut down some trees and possible erosion. Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement, reading remarks on behalf of local activist Suzanne Smith Sundburg, said people wanted more open green space and more trees, rather than more pavement and buildings.
“Staff’s perception of the community’s feedback on this project continues to be at odds with the public’s perception of what it has asked for,” Clement said.
Community engagement for the project took a more modern approach than similar efforts in the past. The engagement used more technology like online surveys and looked to reach out to previously under-represented communities like the Spanish-speaking population in the county.
While Board members and staff recognized the foul-up with the timeline, some residents said the majority of community outreach was done well.
“This is textbook on how to do community engagement,” said Nathan Zee, an Arlington Forest resident. “You went above and beyond what would be reasonably expected, and should be commended. The outstanding design reflects this hard work.”
Images via county presentation
The turf fields at Thomas Jefferson Middle School are set to be replaced in the next year.
The Arlington County Board will vote Saturday (July 15) on a plan to replace the fields with synthetic turf. Staff from the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation said in a report that the current fields are “worn beyond reasonable repair.”
For the past eight years, the turf fields at TJ have been used in the neighborhood and for scheduled use by affiliated sports leagues and school programs.
The upgrades at the field are part of the county’s Synthetic Turf Program, aimed at replacing heavily-used natural grass fields. Currently, there are 15 synthetic turf fields in Arlington, although the move to add more has come in for some criticism from some.
In addition to the new turf, the fields would get new corner flags and goals for soccer games, as well as new bleachers.
The upgrades would coincide with the construction of the county’s new elementary school on the west end of the site, and staff said Arlington Public Schools will plan out activities with the two projects in mind.
APS will share the cost of the upgrades with the county. Just under $475,000 would be spent on the new field, with an extra $47,000 held as a contingency.
(Updated at 9:35 a.m.) Neighbors of Virginia Highlands Park are accusing Arlington County of ignoring a proposal they put together for the park’s future.
Last year the Aurora Highlands Civic Association submitted a plan for the permit-only softball fields on the west side of the park at 1600 S. Hayes Street to be converted into open space, without any set programming.
“The fields are significantly underused relative to other facilities and especially to open space,” the proposal says, noting that use of the fields is seasonal. “Each field is used for approximately 600 hours per year out of a potential of 4,380 hours (12 hours a day), a total of less than 14% of the time.”
The county is at the beginning of what it says is a “community-wide conversation” about the park’s future and developing a comprehensive plan.
But some residents are critical of staff at the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation, saying that staff has not adequately considered their proposal nor communicated with them, despite an “extraordinary effort” on the part of community leaders “to ensure that there was little to no miscommunication in this process.”
“Attempting to develop a long-term plan for the park that fails to openly and honestly consider the needs of all park goers over existing facilities and their usage, as well intentioned as it may be, will just reshuffle that poor planning with some prettying around the edges,” the group Friends of Aurora Highlands Parks said in its latest newsletter.
ARLnow columnist Peter Rousselot wrote in a recent opinion piece that a member of DPR staff said the softball fields “are needed” and would not be removed.
A county spokeswoman, however, said that while there is no set timeline for planning for the park’s revamp, the civic association’s proposal is still on the table.
“The Aurora Highland Civic Association did provide a plan for the neighborhood’s vision for the park,” the spokeswoman said. “When the county begins the framework plan for the park, the civic association’s plan as well as other community-wide inputs will be considered. County staff is now working with the County Board to determine next steps.”
The softball fields at Virginia Highlands Park are used by a variety of leagues across age groups, from youth to adult.
The D.C. Fray adult league — formerly known as United Social Sports — begins a new eight-week season on July 7 at the fields. Founder and CEO Robert Kinsler said the league “strongly supports maintaining and expanding the fields available for organized sports in Arlington and specifically at Virginia Highlands.”
“We permit and use the parks as much as availability and DPR allows and often have to turn away players due to lack of field space in the area,” Kinsler said. “Any loss of the softball fields would be a huge lost for the activity community that lives in the area.”
Advertising for Capital Bikeshare? — The Arlington County Board has approved a policy that would allow an advertising sponsorship for Capital Bikeshare. A corporate sponsorship of the regionwide system could generate $750,000 over five years for Arlington County, which would be used to support, expand and promote the system in Arlington. [Washington Post, Washington Business Journal]
Board Approves Climate Resolution — The County Board last night approved a resolution expressing the county’s commitment to fighting climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting energy efficiency. The resolution also states “that Arlington County supports the principles of the Paris Agreement and will continue to… advance action in accordance with the goals outlined in [it].” [Arlington County]
Arlington Taking Action to Attract Pollinators — Workers planted flowering plants in Arlington yesterday as part of a joint effort to attract more pollinators — insects like bees and butterflies. The environmentally-friendly effort was sponsored by the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation, NOVA Parks and Dominion. [WJLA]
Arlington to Update Resource Protection Map — Arlington County will hold public hearings on updating its Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Map. “The more accurate map will help Arlington protect environmentally sensitive lands near streams and ensure that the County can comply with local and State regulations,” said a press release. “It will allow the County to review development projects fairly and provide accurate information to residents and other stakeholders.” [Arlington County]
Photos from Crystal City Car Show — The annual Crystal City Fathers Day Auto Festival was held this past weekend and featured more than 100 cars. This year the show was organized in part by Carsfera.com. [Facebook]
Williamsburg Neighborhood Plan Updated — The County Board has approved an update to the Neighborhood Conservation Plan for Arlington’s Williamsburg neighborhood. Per a press release: “Residents made recommendations for improving traffic and pedestrian safety, maintaining the neighborhood’s character, protecting the tree canopy and improving neighborhood parks.” [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Valerie O’Such
Arlington Falls in Parks Ranking — Arlington and D.C. both fell in the annual ParkScore rankings of cities by The Trust for Public Land. Arlington was ranked sixth in the nation this year and D.C. ranked fourth, while last year they were ranked fourth and third respectively. [The Trust for Public Land, Washington Post]
Neighborhood Conservation Projects Approved — The Arlington County Board last night unanimously approved $5.5 million in neighborhood improvement projects, including “street improvements, streetlights, intersection improvements and a neighborhood sign.” [Arlington County]
How to Live in Arlington on $50,000 — A young woman who works as a case manager outlined her expenditures while living in Arlington on a $50,000 salary, as part of a “Money Diaries” feature. Eschewing the urban millennial stereotype of profligate spending, she manages to save $1,000 a month — although that is helped by her parents continuing to pay her cell phone bill. [Refinery 29]
County to Sell Millions in Bonds — The County Board has approved issuing up to $185 million in general obligation bonds to help fund various capital priorities, including: Metro, Neighborhood Conservation, paving, parks land acquisition, maintenance capital, Lubber Run Community Center planning, Nauck Village Center action plan and transportation. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Neighborhoods across the county are getting ready for Neighborhood Day, set to take place Saturday and feature a wide range of events and activities.
The day looks to bring together neighbors to strengthen bonds on blocks and across the county.
This year’s events are:
Jennie Dean Park Historical Markers Unveiling Ceremony
At noon, the park’s new historical markers will be unveiled, followed by a tour of Arlington Food Assistance Center’s new office at 2708 S Nelson Street.
Seventh Annual Turtle Trot 5K Race
A chip-timed 5K race at Bluemont Park on a certified course. The race begins at 10 a.m.
International Migratory Bird Day Festival
From 9-11 a.m., celebrate International Migratory Bird Day by learning about migratory birds such as hummingbirds and osprey with hands-on activities, games, crafts, bird walks and more. Meet at Lacey Woods Park Picnic Shelter, 1200 N. George Mason Drive.
Tuckahoe Home and Garden Tour
The self-guided Tuckahoe Home & Garden Tour showcases recently renovated Arlington homes that solve common space and design challenges through creative remodeling.
Fairlington Home and Garden Tour
Tour a variety of renovated homes and gardens in Fairlington Village. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased in advance or on the day.
Remove Invasive Plants
Increase native species diversity by helping with the return of ferns and wildflowers, and the animals that depend on them, in areas once covered in destructive invasive plants. The Gulf Branch Nature Center will host the event from 2-4 p.m.
Tara-Leeway Heights Community Day
From 1-3 p.m. at Big Walnut Park, the Tara-Leeway Heights community will host an event complete with food vendors, games and more.
LBCCA Celebration and Movie Night Series Kick-Off
The Long Branch Creek Civic Association will bring the community together to celebrate from 5-9 p.m. at Troy Park. The event will include a moon bounce, games and activities, potluck dinner, snacks, beverages and an outdoor movie screening.
Ashton Heights Neighborhood Yard Sale
From 8 a.m.-noon, visit the Ashton Heights neighborhood for a community-wide yard sale.
How to Fix a “Stuck” Homepage — A few users have been reporting that our homepage has been “stuck” for the past few weeks, frozen in time after March 31. This is a browser caching issue that is affecting a very small subset of users. To resolve it, press the “refresh” button on your browser.
Park Volunteers to Be Honored — Two Arlington residents will be recognized as “outstanding park volunteers” at tonight’s Arlington County Board meeting. This year’s honorees are Paul Holland and Yu-hsin Hsu. [Arlington County]
Two Added to Business Hall of Fame — Attorney and former County Board member John Milliken and former Arlington Chamber of Commerce president Rich Doud are being inducted into the Arlington Business Hall of Fame on May 2. [InsideNova]
Video: Morning Activity at Trades Center — A time-lapse video shows the bustle of early morning activity at the Arlington Trades Center near Shirlington, where the county’s school buses and maintenance crews are based. [YouTube]
Flickr pool photo by GM and MB
The County Board will consider a $370,000 plan Saturday to convert the Gunston Park diamond athletic field to synthetic turf.
The park at 1401 28th Street S. has three lighted tennis courts, a multiuse field, a lighted softball field and basketball courts.
The nonprofit Arlington Sports Foundation proposed a grant of $180,000 to convert the field, and the county sports commission’s Diamond Field Fund would pay the additional $190,000. This extra $370,000 is on top of a previously-approved $1.4 million maintenance and improvement project at the park. That project’s funding was approved in a 2014 bond referendum.
The parks and recreation department required that half of the ASF funds be deposited with the county to get the design stage underway, with phased additional payments of $45,000 each. Any unspent ASF funds will be returned to them after the project is completed and all financial obligations are met.
A county staff report said installing the synthetic turf will help the Gunston Park field be better utilized.
“The conversion of this diamond field, which is currently lighted for night play, will extend the usable seasons and times by approximately 880 hours per year, and will also be configured to allow for players of different ages, different sports, and different levels of play to utilize the field,” staff wrote.
County staff recommends the Board authorizes the funds for converting the field to synthetic turf.
Photo via Google Maps
Frigid, icy conditions have prompted Arlington Public Schools to open on a two-hour delay today.
All APS schools and offices will open two hours late today. The Extended Day program will also open two hours late and morning field trips are canceled. Essential employees and food service workers should report to work at their regularly scheduled time. All other employees should report to work two hours past their usual start time. For updates about Pool Operations, go to www.apsva.us/aquatics. For information about Arlington County operations go to www.arlingtonva.us.
Arlington County government and the federal government, meanwhile, are opening on time. Metrorail and Metrobus, likewise, were operating on a normal weekday schedule as of 5 a.m. Certain Arlington County Parks and Rec programs, however, have been cancelled or delayed.
From the parks department:
- All Congregate Meal Programs are cancelled for the day.
- All Early Childhood Programs (Preschool and Co-op) are cancelled.
- All Enjoy Arlington Classes, 55+ classes, Trips, Nature Center Programs and sports league activities with a scheduled start time prior to 11:59 a.m. today are cancelled in all APS and DPR buildings.
- All Enjoy Arlington Classes, 55+ classes, Trips, Nature Center Programs and sports league activities with a scheduled start time of Noon or later will proceed as scheduled.
- All afternoon and evening Enjoy Arlington Classes, 55+ classes, Trips, Nature Center Programs and sports league activities will proceed as scheduled.
- All community centers and senior centers locations will open on time as scheduled.
In addition to very cold temperatures, a Wind Advisory has been issued for Arlington and the D.C. region. Forecasters are warning of 45-50 mile per hour gusts which could blow down branches, trees and power lines.
From the National Weather Service:
… WIND ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 8 AM THIS MORNING TO 6 PM EDT THIS EVENING… THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HAS ISSUED A WIND ADVISORY, WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 8 AM THIS MORNING TO 6 PM EDT THIS EVENING. * TIMING… AFTER DAYBREAK THROUGH THIS AFTERNOON. HIGHEST GUSTS EXPECTED LATE THIS MORNING INTO THIS AFTERNOON. * WINDS… NORTHWEST 20 TO 30 MPH WITH GUSTS AROUND 45 TO 50 MPH. * IMPACTS… STRONG WINDS MAY BLOW DOWN LIMBS, TREES, AND POWER LINES. ICE AND SNOW COVERED LIMBS, TREES AND POWER LINES ARE MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO DAMAGE. SCATTERED POWER OUTAGES ARE EXPECTED. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… A WIND ADVISORY MEANS THAT WINDS OF 45 TO 55 MPH ARE EXPECTED. WINDS THIS STRONG CAN MAKE DRIVING DIFFICULT, ESPECIALLY FOR HIGH PROFILE VEHICLES. &&
An under-utilized park south of Crystal City is in line for some major upgrades.
Across jurisdictional lines, the planning process for South Park at Potomac Yard near Four Mile Run is gathering steam, with a projected completion date of later this year. Arlington County and the City of Alexandria both own portions of the park, located between Potomac Avenue and U.S. Route 1, along Four Mile Run.
The park currently has a publicly accessible playground and a playground exclusively used by a daycare facility, planted shrub/perennial beds, walkways, a large grassy field and a steeply sloped grassy area.
A post on the county website explains the park’s unique history.
“The boundary line curvature represents the natural Four Mile Run channel before it was straightened and channelized by the Army Corps of Engineers after the 1972 Hurricane Agnes, which produced heavy rain and extensive flooding,” the post reads. “As a result, the Army Corps of Engineers straightened and channelized Four Mile Run and covered the stream’s natural banks with riprap. Unfortunately, this created a less than desirable condition for the stream’s ecology.”
And with money available in the county’s capital budget as well as a federal grant available to construct and improve connectivity to the Four Mile Run Trail, staff in the parks department are preparing to make improvements.
The first phase of construction is anticipated to begin early next year and link Route 1 to the Four Mile Run Trail. The second phase is slated to begin in 2022 for the remaining park elements.
Those remaining park elements will be decided through a civic engagement process led by county parks and recreation staff that began late last month with a community meeting at Gunston Middle School.
Three more meetings are scheduled — the next on March 29 at a location yet to be determined — with a view to residents helping determine the park’s design.
Attendees wrote down their desired park amenities at that first meeting, then the next meeting will bring further determination of park elements as well as staff soliciting potential park names.
“The Four Mile Run Restoration Master Plan and Design Guidelines provide a vision for in-stream and near-stream improvements,” said Bethany Heim, an associate planner at the county’s parks and recreation department. “The vision calls for public and private improvements to recognize Four Mile Run as an asset and, through design, make visual and physical connections to the water. The master plan also calls for innovative strategies to treat stormwater runoff that will improve the water quality.
“The South Park Master Plan will identify ways to connect people to the water, take advantage of view sheds, and improve the water quality of Four Mile Run.”
Alexandria, meanwhile, intends to improve its section of the site as part of the redevelopment of North Potomac Yard.
Dana Wedeles, acting principal planner in Alexandria’s department of recreation, parks and cultural activities, said she expects plenty of cooperation between the two jurisdictions on this project despite the differing timelines.
“We are working collaboratively to ensure that what is proposed through the Arlington process does not preclude complimentary future improvements to the Alexandria portion,” Wedeles said in an email. “We envision that the site will be used by both Arlington and Alexandria residents and, despite the two jurisdictions having different, timing of planning, design and implementation, we ultimately want to see one seamless improved open space.”
(Updated at 3 p.m.) Arlington County is moving forward with construction plans for Stratford Park.
The current park has picnic tables, a youth baseball/softball field (which has also been used by adult team sports), two lighted tennis courts, a rectangular field and a lighted basketball court.
The new park, which is in the final design stages and is expected to go out to bid in the first quarter of 2017, will include upgraded fields, courts, landscaping and site furnishings.
Among the planned changes: the new diamond field will be fenced in, with dugouts, batting cages and bleachers added.
While the fence around a soon-to-be-upgraded diamond field in Bluemont Park prompted a neighborhood outcry this fall, since largely resolved by removing portions of the fence, thus far there has been little public protest about the Stratford Park fence.
Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said the field’s primary purpose will be to host organized baseball and softball activities, though other uses will be allowed when the field is not otherwise being used.
“The approved plan does include fence around the diamond field, as the field will primarily be used for diamond sports (permit takes priority),” she told ARLnow.com, via email. “The fence entrances will always be open to allow people access to the area when the field is not in use.”
The parks department sent an email to residents who live near the park last month, updating them on the project’s progress. An excerpt of that email, detailing some of the changes, is below.
Construction of the park upgrades is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2017 and wrap up within the first three months of 2018. The overall design, management and construction budget is $1.7 million.
In early 2015, the County worked with the community to develop a concept plan for the site. The concept plan is a tool to inform the County, APS and the community on how new school access routes and other changes to the school site within the park boundary could impact the plan for park improvements. DPR worked closely with APS in order to coordinate pedestrian accessibility from the park to the school. In addition, a restroom facility will be provided at the school for park users. DPR may make some minor changes to the concept as final costs for the improvements are determined in order to ensure the project remains within budget.
The approved project scope includes replacing and bringing existing features to current standards and adding new amenities to the park. Below is a breakdown of each one.
Existing to be Replaced:
- Tennis Courts
- Basketball Court
- Court Lighting
- Diamond Field
- Players Benches
- Fencing (split rail)
- Stairs and Walkways
- Trash Receptacles
- Trees and Shrubs
New to the Park:
- Drinking Fountain
- Pedestrian Lighting
- Batting Cages
- Outfield Fence
- Retaining Walls
- 50/70 Intermediate (50/70) Diamond Field Layout with Irrigation
- Additional Trash Receptacles and Seating
- Picnic Area
- Storm Water Management Facility
- Additional Landscaping
(Updated at 7:10 p.m) Jack Posobiec, the Security and Special Projects Director for a group called Citizens for Trump, took to Twitter today to complain about Arlington County’s parks department.
The department, he said, told him he would not be able to hold a pro-Trump rally next month at Long Bridge Park.
The Arlington County Parks Dept just told me I was not allowed to hold a Rally to Support the President
— Jack Posobiec (@JackPosobiec) December 6, 2016
I said, so no one holds events on Saturdays? And they said, "We are not issuing you a permit."
— Jack Posobiec (@JackPosobiec) December 6, 2016
While Posobiec implied that politics may have played a role (see below for more of his tweets), Arlington County Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said it was simply a matter of when he wanted to hold the event.
“The staff person he talked to said he was looking at Long Bridge Park for the inauguration,” Kalish said. “The park is closed on the 20th, but she said it was open on the 19th.”
Inauguration Day — Friday, Jan. 20 — is a county holiday and Parks and Recreation staffers have the day off.
“Our outdoor parks are open during their normal hours” on holidays, Kalish clarified, but “generally we don’t allow rentals on holidays as the staff that would support/monitor the facility are off.”
Following his phone call to the county on Monday, Posobiec has not yet followed up to file a permit application for another day, according to Kalish.
“He never submitted a formal request,” Kalish said. “We tried to call him back today but his voice mailbox was full. We reached back to [him] to contact us so we can see if space is available at the time and location he is interested in.”
“We can’t deny a permit for something we don’t have an permit application for,” she added.
Should Citizens for Trump successfully apply for a facility rental, an hourly rental fee would apply, as it does for any other person or group. The group may also need a Special Event Permit, Kalish told ARLnow.com.
“After we see what he needs we will try to accommodate it,” she said. “This sounds like a special event, and thus will also require a Special Event Permit. There is no cost for the Special Event Permit, however, this application helps us share the event information with all our County services (trash, public safety, street closures) so that we can better support the event organizer with his needs.”
Responding to an earlier request for comment, Posobiec said the parks department’s account of his call was “incorrect.”
“When I heard there was no way to apply for a permit on the 20th, it was I who suggested holding it on the 19th,” he told ARLnow.com in an email just before 7 p.m. “They asked what sort of event it was, and I told them it was a small rally of about 50 people to support the president. She then immediately told me that those types of events would not be allowed. I asked to speak with the director, but was only allowed to leave a message. Call was not returned.”
Posobiec said the event he wants to hold would be dubbed a “Rally to Support the President,” would take place at Long Bridge Park and would involve “a small stage for Citizens for Trump speakers.” He reiterated that he still would like to apply for a permit for the event.
(Posobiec says he is holding a separate event called the “Deploraball” on Jan. 19 at a private venue. Deploraball is not the name of the proposed Arlington event, as earlier reported.)
More of Posobiec’s tweets, after the jump.
Undeterred by the fact that the Arlington County Board already approved a contract for the project earlier this summer, a group of Bluemont and Boulevard Manor residents are continuing to fight the planned construction of a baseball and softball field in Bluemont Park.
Opponents of the project faced off with youth baseball and softball boosters — who support the new field and say it’s necessary to meet demand — at a community meeting Wednesday night. The “listening session” was organized by Arlington County, in response to opposition to the field that has been building since late summer.
A primary concern of the opponents: that the field will be fenced in, thus precluding other uses of what’s currently a poorly maintained but open baseball diamond. A temporary construction fence is already up at the site.
In a presentation during the meeting, county staff said the renovation will bring the field to “County and industry standards and address accessibility, safety and stormwater requirements.”
A county spokeswoman, meanwhile, said the discussion from the meeting and other community feedback will be considered by county staff and the County Board.
“The community is invited to share additional feedback on the website through October 14,” said Bryna Helfer, Arlington’s newly-appointed Director of Communications and Public Engagement. “The County Manager will update the Board at the November 10, 2016 County Board recessed meeting.”
Baseball field opponents said the meeting did not change any minds or clear up the process going forward.
“It was the usual dog-and-pony show,” said local activist Suzanne Sundburg.
“There were a number of speakers who supported the fencing, baseball-softball enthusiasts, naturally,” Sundburg said. “But they were evenly matched by the number of other park users in the community who do not want open space to be fenced off permanently for just a single sport that is played, at most 8 months a year.”
“Staff couldn’t answer any questions about the construction schedule,” she continued. “Nor could they provide any timetable or date for a follow-up meeting.”
Sundburg said that some county staffers “indicated that the plan was pretty much set and that only ‘tweaks’ would be possible at this late date,” while others “were more open to urging the board to consider ‘options.'”
One emailed county staff with “data… assembled and analyzed over the past 3 weeks,” arguing that baseball fields are used for only a portion of daylight hours during the year and that there are enough fields for existing baseball and softball games. Another argument: that the project is within a floodplain.
“No one wants to prevent the existing field from being used for baseball, though several people asked whether rehabbing this particular field (to the tune of $700K) made sense, given the existing drainage problems, proximity to a Chesapeake Bay Resource Protection Area, and the fact that this field lies in a FEMA floodplain,” the resident wrote.
A $720,000 project to renovate a baseball field in Bluemont Park, approved by the County Board in July, is now facing some community resistance.
A number of residents, along with the Boulevard Manor and Bluemont civic associations, have written letters to the Board asking them to reconsider their decision. The primary concern: a planned fence around the new field.
“Permanently fencing off over a quarter of the open field at Bluemont Park is a drastic action that deserves the full ‘Arlington Way’ treatment,” wrote Boulevard Manor Civic Association President Phil Klingelhofer.
“In violation of the ‘Arlington Way,’ the decision was made with no input from the community and was hidden on the County Board’s Consent Agenda with no notice… of the drastic change it proposed making to Bluemont Park,” Klingelhofer continued. “Our Civic Association first heard of a proposal to improve Bluemont field number 3 when we got a cryptic notice of a meeting to ‘learn about planned field renovations.'” (Links added.)
In a Board report published June 30, county staff said the new baseball field will include “sod, new irrigation, site circulation, fencing, backstops, bleachers, site furnishings, signage, ADA accessibility improvements, landscaping, and site drainage.” An included diagram details a “proposed” fence along with proposed bullpens and a proposed batting cage.
“Athletic field #3 is beyond reasonable maintenance and requires full renovation,” the report notes. Residents, however, say that a fenced-in baseball field — as opposed to the current open baseball field — reduces recreational options in the park.
“Irrespective of whether the process was sufficiently transparent, a bad plan is still a bad plan,” wrote Bluemont resident Suzanne Smith Sundburg. “The fencing and thus conversion of what is currently multipurpose, open-field parkland to a dedicated, single-sport field does a disservice to the many Boulevard Manor and Bluemont community residents as well as other residents who use this space for a variety of athletic and recreational activities. Passive, flexible, open-field space costs little to maintain and maximizes the use of the space.”
A Boulevard Manor resident complained to the Board that the public process behind the field was lacking.
“The purpose of the poorly understood March meeting becomes all the more murky if county staff was presenting a fait accompli to whoever may have attended rather than soliciting real input about the merits of the project,” wrote Joshua Handler. “I ask that the County Board rescind its decision to build a permanent baseball diamond… until the project can be thoroughly vetted by the adjacent communities and its impacts on greenspace, the multipurpose use of the park, the quality of life of the surrounding neighborhoods and the park visitors’ experience.”
Sundburg also expressed concern about runoff from the field into the Chesapeake Bay — as well as a short connector trail that’s set to be built as part of the project. The trail is billed as a “safe route” for nearby Ashlawn Elementary.
My second concern is the “Safe Routes to School trail connector.” More pavement means more runoff. And calling this a “safe route” sounds like a really sick joke considering that a convicted sex offender has been living in the [neighborhood], just east of where this “safe” route connection is to be constructed. The man has completed his sentence and is free to roam about. Neighbors in this area have reported seeing him frequently walking on the nearby paths and in the parks, particularly at times when children are arriving home from school.
County staff and the County Board have worked hard to urbanize Arlington. With urbanization come some unpleasant realities — including more two-footed predators living among us. Encouraging Bluemont’s young children to walk along isolated paths and through parks to get to school is beyond belief.
The County Board will have its first meeting of the fall, following its August break, this coming Saturday.
The feces was found on woodchips in the park’s playground area this morning. It was partially covered with a shirt.
“Staff found human waste covered with a shirt at Ft. Barnard Park today,” confirmed Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish. “This is the first time we’ve noticed it since the last incidence mentioned in the media. We have stepped up patrols with police and park rangers but have not been able to determine the culprit.”
Each subsequent defecation has prompted a clean-up job by county workers. The park is a particularly popular spot for children and their caretakers.
Photos (above) courtesy Annabella Brooks