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‘Extreme’ Bike Ride Planned Through North Arlington Tomorrow

Tomorrow morning (Aug. 11), Arlington residents can participate in an “Extreme Champion Trees Bike Ride,” put on by the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation.

This ride will be more challenging than other Champion Trees Bike Rides, taking participants through “some of the hilliest, most calorie-burning, bike-safe roads of North Arlington,” per an event description.

Riders should bring their own bike, water, snacks and repair kit and plan to meet in Fort C.F. Smith Park‘s parking lot for a 9 a.m. start. The ride will go until noon.

Those interested can register for this free event online or by calling 703-228-4747. The bike ride is open to adults or teenagers 16 and up if they come with a registered adult.

Photo via Arlington County

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Construction on McCoy Park Upgrades Set to Get Started

County workers now have the green light they need to kick off an overhaul of McCoy Park near Rosslyn and Courthouse.

The Arlington County Board agreed to rezone the park at its meeting Saturday (June 16), allowing work on a series of improvements to the 1.1-acre property at 2121 21st Street N. to move forward. Parks officials have been working on plans for a renovation to McCoy since 2016, after the company behind the mixed-use development that’s home to the nearby MOM’s Organic Market (2145 Lee Highway) agreed to help fund the project.

The county has not made major changes to the park since it opened in 1985.

“Changes to the park will include a re-aligned sidewalk, a seating deck with furnishings, a shade canopy, and interactive chalk art plaza, new landscape vegetation, trash/recycling receptacles, and a new park entry sign,” county staff wrote in a report for the Board.

The county is also hoping to add a dog waste bag dispenser and “Little Free Library” to the park, if it can find sponsors to help build and maintain either amenity.

County staff note in their report that their next step is to submit construction documents for permitting, now that they earned the County Board’s sign off. They’re hoping to complete the improvements by the end of the year.

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County Hoping to Start Work on Mosaic Park Overhaul in Ballston Next Year

Arlington County is now hoping to kick off construction work on an overhaul of Ballston’s Mosaic Park early next year, following years of delays prompted in part by cost overruns.

County officials are planning to finish renovations at the park, located at 538 N. Pollard Street just behind the Gold’s Gym parking lot, by the end of 2019. Planners unveiled an updated timeline for the park’s renovations at a community meeting last Wednesday (May 30), along with detailed designs for new features like a playground, plaza and athletic courts.

The county’s eyed upgrades at the park back in 2008, and initially hoped that construction could begin in 2013. But planning work stretched on for years, particularly after its estimated construction costs overran the project’s budget.

That forced the county to re-tool the project slightly to bring costs down, in part by eliminating some planned solar panels at the site that would’ve powered the park’s lighting and reducing the number of trees and plants to be installed around the park.

The Shooshan Company, which owns some nearby developments, agreed to fund the first phase of the $6.6 million project. The county is also hoping to add a basketball half-court to the site, but that work will come in a second phase of the project.

The county plans to award a construction contract next spring, and start work soon afterward. Officials hope to wrap things up by winter 2019.

Graphic via Arlington County

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Arlington Parks Ranked Fourth Nationally, Just Behind D.C. in Third

Arlington has the fourth-best park system in the entire country, just behind our neighbors across the Potomac, according to a new set of rankings from the Trust for Public Land.

The county climbed two spots in the California-based group’s rankings from a year ago, earning a “ParkScore” of 81.6 out of 100. D.C. was just slightly ahead of Arlington at 81.6. Minneapolis took the top spot nationally with a score of 84.2, with its twin city St. Paul, Minnesota placing second with 82.4.

The Trust for Public Land compiles the rankings based on four factors: the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park, the percentage of a locality’s total area dedicated to parks, park spending per resident and the availability of popular park features.

Arlington scored well on all of those factors, according to Ali Hiple, program coordinator at the trust’s Center for City Park Excellence. She noted that the county ranked fourth overall two years ago as well, and she believes Arlington’s parks system should be a “point of pride” for the county.

“Parks contribute so much to a great quality of life,” Hiple told ARLnow. “They both help a city overall in beautifying the city and managing its stormwater, but they also offer chances for recreation. It’s about neighbors getting to spend time together.”

Hiple’s group found that 98 percent of Arlington residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, compared to the 70 percent average nationally. Hiple noted that researchers use mapping software to study distances not simply “as the crow flies,” but they take into account potential obstacles between people and nearby parks as well.

“We’re measuring if it’s 10 minutes on foot, so that means it’s about walkability as well, which Arlington is certainly doing well on,” Hiple said.

Arlington also performed particularly well in the group’s survey of access to park amenities, with lots of restrooms and playgrounds available for residents, she added. The county also earned full marks from Hiple’s group for its spending on parks; the trust found that Arlington spends about $240 per resident on the park system.

Yet where the county fell the most behind D.C. is in the sheer acreage of park land available. The group found that 22 percent of D.C.’s land is reserved for parks, compared to 11 percent for Arlington.

“Arlington has semi-small parks well distributed throughout the county, but not those big chunks of park land,” Hiple said. “D.C. has things like Rock Creek Park that contribute to the acreage.”

But Hiple said the county has nothing to be ashamed of in falling behind D.C., another frequent top performer in the group’s annual rankings.

“They’re basically neck and neck, so we’re giving kudos to both systems,” Hiple said.

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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County Board to Put Oakgrove vs. Oak Grove Park Debate to Rest

The County Board is set to consider formally changing Oakgrove Park’s name to Oak Grove Park, after Cherrydale residents fought to resurrect the park’s older spelling.

Arlington’s Park and Recreation Commission and the County Manager’s office is recommending the naming clarification, which Harry Specter, a Cherrydale resident who argued in favor of the change, called “a typographical error that was never corrected.”

Per a County Board agenda item, the park was created at the same time that I-66 was in the 1970s. At the time, the park was known by the two word “Oak Grove” Park.

At some point in the 1990s, signage was installed that seems to have mischaracterized the park’s name, omitting the space and calling it “Oakgrove Park.”

The agenda item stated that staff had “not found an official record of a formal park naming process for either the two-word spelling or the one-word spelling” of the park.

However, there has been some inconsistency in how the park was referred to in planning documents, according to the agenda item:

The current Public Spaces Master Plan (PSMP) from 2005 details this park as “Oakgrove” Park. The current General Land Use Plan (GLUP) (2011) and previous versions have identified this park as “Oak Grove” Park. Other County Board adopted documents which characterize this park as “Oak Grove” Park include the Cherrydale Neighborhood Conservation Plan (originally adopted in 1987 with updates in 2005 and 2014) and the Lee Highway-Cherrydale Revitalization Plan (1994).

The Oakgrove Park playground improvements project, slated to wrap up this May, already included “two new metal panels (custom entrance sign)” that would “be installed and will cost about $550 each (approximately $1,100 total)” in the plan.

The “new” name will be on the new signs, so no dedicated costs will be incurred regarding the park’s formal renaming.

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Non-Native Plants Removed Near Quincy Park

A small patch of trees and shrubs have been cut down on a traffic island near Washington-Lee High School but replacement plantings are planned.

The spot alongside the intersection at Washington Boulevard and N. Quincy Street previously had several trees, including an older tree and several shrubs.

Susan Kalish, an Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation spokesperson, told ARLnow that the greenery there was primarily non-native species, and “about 75 percent were diseased or dying.”

“Slowly but surely, as projects arise we look to enhance areas with native plants that will support our native species,” Kalish wrote.

County landscapers “looked at the space and decided to turn it into a forested grassy knoll,” and are in the process of replanting 15 flowering native trees and grass.

The tree removal and reinstatement at the plot directly across from Quincy Park comes weeks after Arlington officials cited stats that Arlington’s level of tree canopy coverage had slightly increased, although at least one local environmental activist has disputed that finding.

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Video: Chainsaw Artist at Work at Oakgrove Park

When a grand old oak tree died just prior to construction on an improvement project at Oakgrove Park, landscape architect Kathy von Bredow knew what she had to do.

She got in touch with prolific chainsaw artist Andrew Mallon, who’s responsible for a number of intriguing tree sculptures around Arlington, and asked him to do his magic. Now, as seen in the video above, that tree is a whimsical carving of forest animals having fun around a little house.

The carving is now a centerpiece at Oakgrove Park — or is it Oak Grove Park? — that all can enjoy. Other upgrades to the park include a new tot lot, play equipment for school-age children, picnic shelter and site furnishings.

Video via Arlington County

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APS Opening on Two Hour Delay Due to Icing Concerns

`(Updated at 8:40 a.m.) Very spotty frozen precipitation fell overnight in Arlington, leading to some slick spots but no serious issues.

Concerns about an icy commute, however, led Arlington Public Schools to delay the start of school.

More from APS:

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.

The school system’s decision, in turn, prompted Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation to also delay or cancel some of its programs.

From DPR:

Due to an Arlington Public School two-hour delayed opening, DPR will proceed as follows:

  • All congregate meal programs are cancelled.
  • All Early Childhood Programs (Preschool and Co-ops) are cancelled.
  • All Enjoy Arlington classes, 55+ classes, trips, nature center programs and sports league activities scheduled to start prior to 11:59 a.m. are cancelled in all buildings.
  • All Enjoy Arlington classes, 55+ classes, trips, nature center programs and sports league activities with scheduled start times of NOON or later will proceed as scheduled.
  • All evening Enjoy Arlington classes, sports league activities and nature center programs will proceed as scheduled.
  • All Community Centers (including the five joint use centers at Langston, TJ, Gunston, Carver and Drew will open on time as schedule.
  • APS Pools are open on time.

Arlington County government is expected to open on time.

Other delays and closures of note around the region this morning:

  • Federal government: Two hour delay
  • Fairfax County Public Schools: Closed
  • Loudoun County Public Schools: Closed
  • Prince William County Schools: Closed
  • Falls Church City Public Schools: Two Hour Delay
  • Alexandria City Public Schools: Open on time
  • Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools: Closed
  • D.C. Public Schools: Open on time
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Board to Consider ‘Short Bridge Park’ Name for Potomac Yard Park

The Arlington County Board will debate whether to name a park near Potomac Yard “Short Bridge Park,” after it being known informally as “South Park” for over a decade.

The county’s Parks and Recreation Commission recommended the name for the park between Potomac Ave and U.S. Route 1, along Four Mile Run. Arlington County and the City of Alexandria both own portions of the park.

A county staff report on the naming notes that the park had the informal moniker “South Park” as it is the southernmost park in the Potomac Yard Phased Development Site Plan, which provides a roadmap for development in the area. It was created in October 2000.

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.

Renovations to the park will improve its connectivity to the Four Mile Run Trail, as well as add facilities like a dog park, an “interpretative plaza,” more pathways, a shade structure and other plazas and a meadow.

In a letter to the Board, Parks and Recreation Commission chair Caroline Haynes said the group supports the plans for the park and its new name, which she said is a “complement to ‘Long Bridge Park‘ both in size and location.”

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Morning Notes

Rosslyn Vying for Amazon HQ2 — Rosslyn is being pitched as a possible destination for Amazon’s second headquarters, alongside Crystal City and other Northern Virginia locales. Rosslyn’s main downside is a lack of space for Amazon’s growth ambitions, but the neighborhood does have a sizable office development pipeline, close proximity to Georgetown and D.C., monumental views and numerous transit options. [Washington Business Journal]

Metro Approves Service Guarantee — “Metro’s Board of Directors today approved the Rush Hour Promise program, a first-of-its-kind service guarantee for Metro customers. Beginning with tomorrow morning’s rush hour commute, on Friday, January 26, if a Metrorail or Metrobus customer using a registered SmarTrip card is delayed by 15 minutes or more, Metro will credit the customer’s SmarTrip card for future travel.” [WMATA]

Fire in Cherrydale — Arlington County firefighters extinguished a chimney fire in the Cherrydale neighborhood last night. The fire did not spread and no one was hurt. [Twitter]

Nominations for Park Volunteer Award — Nominations are being accepted through Friday, Feb. 2 for Arlington’s Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Award. The award “was established to pay tribute to lifelong parks volunteer Bill Thomas and to honor and encourage those residents who also demonstrate a passionate dedication and support for [Arlington parks] programs, natural resources and public open spaces.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Cherrydale Residents Fight for Proper Spelling of Park

Cherrydale residents are seeking to reclaim the original spelling of a neighborhood park as it goes through a second phase of renovations.

In a presentation at an Arlington Parks and Recreation Commission meeting yesterday (Tuesday), neighborhood resident Harry Spector said he wanted to clarify the spelling of Oak Grove Park as two words and not one word.

There are three signs currently in the park that spell it as Oakgrove. However, the original sign in the park spells it as Oak Grove.

“With this being the oldest sign at the park, it’s clear to us that this was the county’s original intended spelling of the park,” Spector said.

Though the Oakgrove spelling is cited in the county’s Parks and Recreation master plan, Spector said there is no record the county intended to change the spelling.

“It’s a typographical error that was never corrected,” he said.

Other official documents since the 1990s that required county approval have also used the two-word spelling, Spector said.

While it seems the change could be made administratively, Spector said he was directed to the Parks and Recreation Commission by county staff, as there is a two-part process for renaming parks. The commission makes recommendations to the Arlington County Board, which has the final say on approval.

“It’s a little time consuming to correct a typo, but it’s probably the only way to do it,” said David Howell, a commission member.

Spector was hoping to fast-track the change, since the county acknowledges the park as Oak Grove while the department references it as Oakgrove. He said he wants the change to happen before the park’s renovation is complete, sometime between February and May.

The renovations include a new playground for 2-5 year-olds and 5-12 year-olds. There will also be new benches and a new gazebo with picnic tables.

All the members of the committee agreed with Cherrydale residents that the name should be changed, and will be holding another meeting on the protocol of name changing and will include another motion to move forward the spelling of the park.

“It’s kind of absurd to have go through such a process for a simple, obvious grammatical error,” Spector said.

Photos via Google Maps

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School Delayed, Some Morning Events Cancelled Due to Slippery Conditions

Arlington Public Schools is opening on a two-hour delay due to icy conditions in many part of the county this morning.

Sleet and frozen rain caused few problems in Arlington during the day, but untreated sidewalks and other surfaces turned icy at night as the sun set and temperatures dropped to be below freezing.

APS made the decision to open on a two hour delay earlier this morning. From APS:

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.

A number of other Arlington County programs and events have been either delayed or canceled. Among them:

  • All congregate meal programs are cancelled.
  • All Early Childhood Programs (Preschool and Co-ops) will open on time.
  • All Enjoy Arlington classes, 55+ classes, trips, nature center programs and sports league activities scheduled to start prior to 11:59 a.m. will be cancelled in all buildings.
  • All Enjoy Arlington classes, 55+ classes, trips, nature center programs and sports league activities with scheduled start times of NOON or later will proceed as scheduled.
  • All evening Enjoy Arlington classes, sports league activities and nature center programs will proceed as scheduled.
  • All standalone Community Centers including: Madison, Lee, Fairlington, Barcroft Sport and Fitness Center, Lubber Run, Walter Reed, and Arlington Mill will open for regularly scheduled operating hours.
  • Thomas Jefferson, Langston, and Carver Community Centers will open at 10 a.m. Drew, and Gunston will open for their normal operating hours.
  • APS Pools are on a two hour delayed opening.

Many roads and sidewalks around Arlington and the D.C. area remain slick as temperatures climb back above freezing. Authorities are urging those who do have to drive to be extra cautious, while those who can delay their trips should.

A Dense Fog Advisory is in effect for the region, as parts of the area are covered in a thick, frozen fog.

… DENSE FOG ADVISORY NOW IN EFFECT UNTIL 9 AM EST THIS MORNING… * VISIBILITIES… ONE QUARTER MILE OR LESS AT TIMES. * IMPACTS… GREATLY REDUCED VISIBILITIES MAKING TRAVEL DIFFICULT. TEMPERATURES BELOW FREEZING MAY CAUSE A GLAZE OF ICE ON ANY UNTREATED SURFACE. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… A DENSE FOG ADVISORY MEANS VISIBILITIES WILL FREQUENTLY BE REDUCED TO LESS THAN ONE QUARTER MILE. IF DRIVING, SLOW DOWN, USE YOUR HEADLIGHTS, AND LEAVE PLENTY OF DISTANCE AHEAD OF YOU. &&

In a semi-weather-related closure, the main ramp to Reagan National Airport from the GW Parkway is currently closed due to a water main break. Officials say anyone driving to the airport should use the second ramp, about a half mile down the parkway, or the entrance from Route 1 in Crystal City.

File photo

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Board Votes to Buy Aurora Highlands Property for Park Use

The Arlington County Board voted yesterday (Tuesday) to buy vacant property in Aurora Highlands to create space for new parkland in the neighborhood.

The Board voted 4-1 to buy a bungalow at 905 20th Street S. and the adjacent vacant lot for $1.23 million. Chair Jay Fisette voted against the proposal.

Under a plan put forward by county staff, the house would be demolished and the driveway removed to make room for a quarter-acre public park at the intersection of 20th Street S. and S. Ives Street.

Fisette raised concerns at some aspects of the process, and the precedent it might create. Members of the Aurora Highlands Civic Association told the county about the opportunity buy the lot, and Fisette said that might create an “out of hand” system where residents request the county buy land and create more parks.

“To me, the one universal reality that I’ve experienced, given the choice or an opportunity of a park, 95 percent of people will ask for, sign a petition and want a park. Everybody likes a park,” Fisette said. “In this case, it makes it harder for me, since I can’t really justify how to distinguish this very well from the next five or 10 or 20 or 30 requests that will come, that to me is where the focus should go: how you distinguish one opportunistic lot from another.”

Board vice chair Katie Cristol also had some misgivings given the popularity of parks and how other neighborhoods could start requesting the county buy land to accommodate them. She pushed staff to show that there is a need for this new park in Aurora Highlands.

“I think if we leave it to what we’re hearing from community members about the need in their neighborhood or about the relative use of the other parks, everyone will identify a need for more parks in their neighborhood,” she said. “It’s one of the more popular uses for land in the county.”

Someone currently rents the house, but earlier this month agreed with its owner to terminate the lease on February 1, 2018, with no rent due for January. The property’s assessed 2017 value is $1.068 million.

At this stage, county staff said they intend to turn the land into casual park space with no programming, and Board members were convinced that the acquisition is worth it.

“I do look at the strategic nature of the opportunity and the relative value with which it can be had, and that ultimately tips the balance in favor of thinking this is worthwhile,” Board member Christian Dorsey said.

Photo via Google Maps

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Renovations Coming to Benjamin Banneker, Fairlington Parks

Two local parks will receive extensive renovations under plans unanimously approved by the Arlington County Board at its meeting Saturday (December 16).

Benjamin Banneker (1680 N. Sycamore Street) and Fairlington (3308 S. Stafford Street) Parks will benefit. The former, near the East Falls Church Metro station, has expanded in recent years as the county has acquired more land.

For Benjamin Banneker Park, the Board approved a long-term vision for the park, which includes replacing its existing amenities and improving its trails. It will also give more protection to the Four Mile Run stream, a major feature of the 12.5-acre park.

Per a county press release, the long-term plans for the park include:

  • Widening trails: Trails will be widened to 10 to 12 feet, following guidelines from the adopted Arlington Master Transportation Plan – Bicycle Element.
  • Improving accessibility: A sidewalk connection from 16th Street N. to the parking lot will be added as well as a sidewalk around the parking lot perimeter, which will link internal sidewalks and trails with park amenities.
  • Relocating playground: The playground will be shifted further from the stream along 18th Street N. The new location will be separated from trails and visible from the street. It will include new play equipment, more seating and tables.
  • Parking lot improvements: The parking lot will be reconfigured and restriped to better accommodate up to 25 cars. The footprint of the lot will be reduced and made more efficient.
  • Renovating Dog Park: The dog parks surface will be replenished and there will be new furnishings and play features.

“This plan will make Benjamin Banneker Park more accessible, provide more protection for Four Mile Run stream, which runs through the park, improve the park’s trails, and replace its playground equipment,” County Board chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “We appreciate the great work that staff and the community did in crafting this well thought out plan.”

Separately, the Board approved a construction contract for the final phase of renovations at Fairlington Park.

The final phase will include replacing the park’s amphitheater with a playground for children in the 2-5 and 5-12 age groups. It will also add outdoor fitness equipment, a picnic area, improved ADA accessibility, furniture, landscaping, and improvements to drainage and stormwater management.

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Final Phase of Fairlington Park Renovation to Add Playground, Remove Amphitheater

The amphitheater at Fairlington Park is set to be replaced by a playground in the park’s final phase of renovations.

The final phase for the park at 3308 S. Stafford Street includes a playground for children in the 2-5 and 5-12 age groups, outdoor fitness equipment, a picnic area, improved ADA accessibility, furniture, landscaping, and improvements to drainage and stormwater management.

It marks the completion of a project that began in 2010 with the first round of renovations to the park. The Arlington County Board will vote on the final phase at its meeting tomorrow (Saturday).

During construction, the athletic field would be closed. County staff said they are “working with the Fairlington Creative Preschoolers Program and Fairlington Cooperative Playgroup to identify other spaces in the park that can be used for children’s play while the new playground is being constructed.”

“The outdoor amenities for Fairlington Park are past their life expectancy and are in need of replacement,” staff wrote in a report on the project. “Through meetings with program staff and feedback during the public engagement, it was determined that the existing amphitheater does not get much use. Rather than replace the amphitheater, it was determined that it will be removed as part of the project to make additional room for the playground.”

The Board will vote on whether to award a contract worth just over $1.9 million for the park renovations, with just over $190,000 in contingency for change orders. Staff recommended approval.

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