Arlington County’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation says it has a surfeit of programs for teens — but not enough teens to fill them.
Between July 2021 and June 2022, DPR logged 6,350 visits to its teen programs, down from 46,500 visits during the same span of months across 2018 and 2019. The dramatic drop was caused by the cancellation of programs during the 2021 fiscal year, according to County Manager Mark Schwartz’s proposed budget.
That year, DPR logged a low of 3,286 check-ins to teen programs. Now, the parks department is aiming to get those kids involved in activities once again. It projects 24,000 visits to teen programs in the next fiscal year.
“I think that, during the pandemic, a lot of teens reverted to their phones, to their rooms, and really didn’t get out into parks and into our centers,” Jane Rudolph, the director of the parks department, told Board members during a budget work session last week. “I look forward to working with our partners to get them back.”
The Arlington County Board is also motivated to see higher participation in these programs, which are geared toward preventing risky behavior and increasing physical activity, among other goals.
County Board members indicated they would like to see these programs figure into the county-wide effort to tackle the mental health and substance abuse epidemics affecting Arlington youth. Member Takis Karantonis kicked off a round of questions for Rudolph about how her department plans to boost offerings for teens and tweens.
“It’s not so much expanding the offerings but getting people into the programs we offer. That’s where we see our biggest challenges,” Rudolph said. “Where we need to do better, to be honest, is getting word out more about our programs, working better with schools so kids understand where they can come to us.”
Before the work session, ARLnow had asked DPR to share its offerings for teens and tweens. It provided a long list of offerings, including:
- “Out of School Time” programs daily at Gunston and Thomas Jefferson Community Centers
- More than 100 summer camps from exploring outdoors to coding, as well as volunteer and employment opportunities through other camps
- Esports, flag football and basketball leagues
- An annual soccer tournament in partnership with the Arlington County Police Department Gang Prevention Task Force
- DJ and music production classes
Recent community meetings on opioid use, however, encapsulate the gulf between what is offered and what the community actually knows about.
When a group of Latino parents convened the same week 14-year-old Wakefield High School student Sergio Flores died from an overdose, many parents did not know what options were available but seemed desperate for after-school programs and open recreation time at the school gyms, meeting organizers told ARLnow.
In another meeting ARLnow attended a few weeks later, at Kenmore Middle School, a representative from Arlington County Police Department asked the audience to guess how many programs the county has for youth. The answer was more than 300, but one parent challenged how helpful sheer volume if there is a lack of awareness and enrollment is a challenge.
(Updated at 11 a.m.) The namesake of Maury Park in Virginia Square is Matthew Fontaine Maury, a pioneer of oceanography and a Confederate commander during the Civil War.
The park’s name could change, however, if renaming is included in a planning and renovation process slated to begin at the end of 2023.
“It is likely that the renaming of Maury Park may be considered during its upcoming master planning process, similar to other park renaming efforts,” Jerry Solomon, a spokeswoman for the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation, tells ARLnow.
References to Maury have been removed over the last few years, prompted by the racial reckoning catalyzed by the murder of George Floyd by police officers. Last week, the U.S. Navy announced it will rename the oceanographic survey ship USNS Maury.
In July 2020, a statue of Maury in Richmond was removed after the mayor ordered the removal of all Confederate statues on city property.
Maury Park (3550 Wilson Blvd), a small green space behind the Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington, formerly the Arlington Arts Center, may be next. The old school building that has housed the arts center since 1977 was renamed in 1944 to honor Maury.
Arlington does not currently have a process for surveying all county structures for potential renamings, but DPR considers name changes as parks and facilities come up in the renovation cycle, Solomon said.
Through the renovation process, the county renamed Henry Clay Park to Zitkala-Ša Park — at the suggestion of the Lyon Park Citizens Association — “in order to honor the prominent author and activist from the indigenous community as opposed to a known owner of slaves,” Solomon said.
Maury Park is one of three urban parks in the Virginia Square Planning Area and in the Ashton Heights Civic Association, including Herselle Milliken Park and Gum Ball Park, set for upgrades in the near future.
“The project will master plan all three parks simultaneously to identify community needs and priorities while taking into consideration that the parks are located in close proximity and should have complementary rather than duplicative features,” per the Capital Improvement Plan.
Citing the county’s renaming policy, Solomon said, “renaming will be considered if a valid justification for the renaming is provided, the name change will not cause undue confusion with the community, and an appropriate level of community support exists.”
There are no plans to officially rename the building, according to Cynthia Liccese-Torres, the coordinator for Arlington County’s historic preservation program. The school is known interchangeably as the Clarendon School and the Maury School, though it has long been identified by the Arlington Arts Center, now the Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington.
Signage referring to Maury was replaced with signage for the Arlington Arts Center before 2008 during building renovations, she said.
Born in 1806 in Fredericksburg, Maury joined the U.S. Navy in 1821 and was promoted to lieutenant in 1836, according to a county webpage for the Arlington Arts Center building, which it calls the Clarendon (Maury) School. He served as superintendent of the Navy Department’s Depot of Charts and Instruments from 1842 to 1855 and from 1858 to 1861.
In the 1850s, he worked on a project to “resettle slaves from the U.S. to the Brazilian Amazon as a way to gradually phase-out slavery in the U.S.,” an effort that “ultimately went nowhere,” according to a blog post by the Library of Congress.
“Maury was neither a slave-owner nor a proponent of slavery,” the post said. “Nevertheless, in declining to fight against his native Virginia, Maury resigned his post and joined the Confederate Navy, initially to direct coastal and river defenses and develop naval mine technologies to use against the Union.”
He ended up spending most of the war abroad, “hoping to persuade Europeans to support the Confederate cause and bring the war to a quick end,” the Library of Congress post said.
According to Arlington County, Maury served as commander in the Confederate Navy and later as its secretary.
Following the end of the war, Maury remained abroad for several years before taking a professorship in meteorology at the Virginia Military Institute, in Lexington, where he would teach until his death in 1873.
Local residents can now weigh in on the “future of pickleball” at the Walter Reed Community Center.
A survey was sent out earlier this week by the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation (DPR) asking the community to provide input and feedback about the new outdoor pickleball courts coming to the community center at 2909 16th Street S., south of Columbia Pike.
The dedicated courts will replace the tennis courts that are currently there.
The survey asks a series of questions, some with multiple choice answers and some with a text box, including the survey taker’s “current relationship” with the community center, how often they use the pickleball courts already there, and when they typically play.
There’s also a question that addresses the noise coming from the courts, a prickly topic that has led to threats of legal action.
“Noise is a concern associated with pickleball play,” reads the question. “The County is committed to incorporating sound reduction measures as part of this project. What are some creative ideas to consider?”
Locals have through Tuesday, February 28 to provide the county with their thoughts.
Residents voted in November, as part of the bond referendum, to spend $2 million to convert and update existing tennis courts into pickleball courts across the county, including at Walter Reed.
The plan is to convert the current tennis court area into nine dedicated pickleball courts by adding pavement, netting, lighting, fencing, and other needed equipment. There will also be seating, shade, signage, landscaping, ADA-accessible walkways, and “sound reduction measures.” As part of the project, the basketball court will also be converted back to its original use.
This online survey is actually the “start” of the engagement process for the project, DPR spokesperson Martha Holland told ARLnow in an email.
“The County wants to hear from all stakeholders to create a project that serves the pickleball community while fitting into the community context,” she wrote. “The online feedback form is the first step to gather input to inform concept designs. The County hopes to learn and gain insights on a wide range of issues from uses and user experience, as well as considerations, designs, and demographics – to ensure we’re hearing from as many community members as possible.”
Community meetings are set to be held throughout this year to discuss the project, per a recently published timeline on the county’s website. The first is planned for Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. at Walter Reed, Holland said.
There are expected to be additional community meetings and online surveys throughout the year, with several currently scheduled for the spring and summer.
“It is important to make sure that as many people as possible are aware of this project and have a chance to provide input throughout,” Holland said.
With all of this community engagement, construction of the pickleball courts is being pushed back.
Construction is not expected to start for more than a year from now, in spring 2024, per the timeline. Completion is estimated for early 2025, a full two years from now.
In recent years, pickleball has become a hot-button issue in Arlington. The sport soared in popularity during the pandemic, with the county adding more courts to meet demand.
As courts increased, though, so did complaints from some locals about the noise.
When a pickleball hits a paddle, it can often produce a loud pop sound that has become infamously known as “pickleball pop.” This has led DPR to close certain public courts that are situated near homes. At least one court was eventually reopened.
Then, late last year, two citizen groups threatened legal action against the county.
This included a number of neighbors who live across the street from Walter Reed with one resident saying the noise already coming from the courts was “excessive” and “intrusive.” That resident told ARLnow at the time they did not support the plan to build even more outdoor courts.
“It sounds really comical, but when you live across the street from an endless stream of just popping, it’s not funny,” they said.
The area around the John Robinson, Jr. Town Square has a public urination problem.
The square used to be a grassy area with trees, until it was closed off for the construction of the neighborhood hub. With nowhere else to go, people began relieving themselves on the sidewalk along 24th Street S., we’re told.
Formerly Nauck Town Square, before it was renamed after a long-time Green Valley civic leader, the new park opened this spring. Since then, more neighbors have encountered the issue while enjoying the square or participating in community programming there.
“We have our neighbors saying, ‘I’ve had to walk my kid around urine as it’s flowing,’ or ‘It is on sidewalks,'” Sarah Kirwin said. “[People are] peeing on a person’s house, regularly. They’re peeing against The Shelton [an apartment building]. I see it all the time. Kids see it.”
Kirwin says the people who have nowhere to go also would like a restroom and have encouraged her to advocate for one.
“I do talk to the people who are peeing,” she said. “We all agree that that’s a need. This is something on which we are unified.”
This is not the first time a problem like this has cropped up at a county park. In 2014, such a situation spawned the memorable ARLnow headline, “Peeing and Pooping in Penrose Park Peeves Parents.”
Kirwin asked the Arlington County Board to do something about the latest lacking lavatory during the public comment period of last Saturday’s Board meeting. County Manager Mark Schwartz and County Board member Takis Karantonis both said the Dept. of Parks and Recreation is aware of the problem and working on solutions.
A staff member from DPR “has been out talking to members of the community about a location for a portable restroom,” Schwartz said. “We had some other ideas for a permanent facility that will take a lot longer to realize… We’re aware of the problem and know it needs to be resolved.”
While the department has not received any formal complaints about public urination, staff will attend the February meeting of the Green Valley Civic Association to “discuss potential options for a portable restroom and to gain consensus on the next steps,” DPR later told ARLnow.
“A short-term solution would include the installation of a portable restroom,” DPR spokeswoman Martha Holland says. “A possible long-term solution would be the installation of a permanent restroom facility. This would be part of the county’s Capital Improvement Plan process.”
While there is currently no funding allocated for a permanent restroom, it could be included in future budget processes if there is “community interest and available funding,” she said.
Holland said there’s no bathroom currently because “there was no consensus on the need for a permanent restroom” during the park’s planning process.
Nine months after the summer camp registration process completely broke down yet again, the Arlington County parks department says it has identified ways to improve the process for summer 2023 and beyond.
Every year, parents get their clicking fingers ready to register at a given time — 7 a.m. for summer camps — and every year, error messages and spinning wheels thwart their ability to snag an enviable spot for their kids. In February, the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation department promised new changes would ensure this didn’t happen again.
But it did. On Feb. 23, DPR says registration volumes caused a “system-wide failure” while parents reported long wait times for the call center. Frustrated moms and dads wrote to ARLnow, tweeted and brought their complaints to the Arlington County Board, which penned a lengthy statement about expectations for reforming the process — only for the platform to fizzle and call center to get overwhelmed three weeks later for spring class registration.
Over the last seven months, DPR reviewed what happened.
“Our registration system could not handle peak volume,” Director Jane Rudolph told the County Board on Tuesday. “We really don’t have a ton of staff who are skilled at that technology piece of knowing how to use the system, so we have a lack of redundancy on our side. We didn’t have a great crisis communications plan.”
It asked staff and two focus groups — the general public and specifically, families who report receiving registration fee reductions — about changes they would like to see. Mostly, people said “fix the system,” but some suggested different registration times and dates and requested improvements to registering multiple children.
Ahead of 2023 registration, DPR says technology provider Vermont Systems will modernize its platform, last updated in 2015, and introduce a virtual “waiting room” function to manage volumes. The parks department will allow families with documented hardships to register a week early and expand its call center from 50 lines to 100.
The “waiting room” functionality was first rolled out for fall class registration and seemingly solved the issue of the system crashing completely, though some parents still reported problems, including errors, slow load times and classes that seemingly filled up within a minute.
“We wanted to create a less stressful registration process, so that parents and caregivers can go into the summer being confident their kids will have a great experience at Arlington camps,” she said.
Other recommendations include:
- beginning registration at noon on a weekday, rather than at 7 a.m.
- splitting up registration for DPR-led and contracted-out camps
- enforcing a stricter refund policy to discourage last-minute dropping out
- increasing capacity at popular camps to upwards of 100 slots
- adding more full-day, year-round offerings
- reducing camps with low-enrollment, low-capacity or which run half-day
- implementing a crisis communications plan
Board members welcomed the work, particularly the effort to improve access for underserved families.
(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) A local civic association says a lawsuit may be imminent over the infamous pickleball pop.
In a recent community newsletter, Old Glebe Civic Association leaders detailed their displeasure with the county ending a pilot program that closed a popular standalone pickleball court at Glebe Road Park earlier this year.
The program was initially enacted as a means to mitigate the noise of the loud pop sound produced by a pickleball hitting a paddle that was bothering some close-by neighbors, primarily those who live on a dead-end block near the courts.
The OGCA called that pilot program a “compromise” since it also looked to appease players by restriping a nearby tennis court for pickleball so there were now four courts, as opposed to the previous three. But with the program now being “abandoned,” the newsletter says, “the noise issue has become more contentious.”
The county has since proposed another pilot program that would reopen the standalone pickleball court but with limited hours and surrounded by a “noise reducing fence,” a spokesperson with the Department of Parks and Recreation tells ARLnow.
However, the OGCA opposes any reopening of the pickleball court and wrote that if the county doesn’t find a better way to mitigate the noise, legal action might be taken.
“We hope that a new compromise can be reached before affected parties turn to law courts for resolution of the issue, as has happened repeatedly in other cities throughout the country,” the newsletter reads.
Pickleball has exploded in popularity over the last several years in Arlington. It has prompted players to ask the county for more courts — which the county is now expected to deliver after a bond referendum including $2 million for pickleball has passed.
The impact of the sport’s rise has not sat well with everyone, though. The crowds and noise — particularly the loud pickleball pop — at certain local courts have bothered some surrounding neighbors. This includes those who live near Glebe Road Park.
“The noise from pickleball has become a major problem for residents of nearby houses — particularly those living on the section of Tazewell Street off of 38th Street,” reads the OGCA newsletter. “Some of the houses are only 135 feet from a ‘stand alone’ pickleball court; the noise from the court reverberates across the amphitheater-like terrain downhill to Tazewell Street and can be heard distinctly (and constantly) inside the houses.”
These concerns are not unique to Arlington, with the county looking to other jurisdictions to figure out how best to broker a pickleball peace. The initial pilot program, which ran from April to early September, closed down the pickleball court closest to the houses, but also added two more courts to the park by restriping a tennis court.
While the county “learned a lot” from the pilot, it didn’t paint a “full picture” about the best way forward, a county official told ARLnow.
“Over the last several months tennis and pickleball players, despite some inherent conflicts, have adjusted to sharing the two multi-use courts at Glebe Park. The courts have been very busy,” DPR spokesperson Martha Holland said. “Throughout the duration of this pilot, we have heard from park users and neighbors alike about the need to reopen the stand-alone court and to allow for pickleball plus other recreational options (soccer, fitness workouts, etc.).”
So, in response, the county is instituting a “Phase 2” pilot program that will keep the striping on the park’s tennis courts and install a “noise reducing fence” on three sides of the standalone court.
“The side of the court that touches the basketball court will not be wrapped, for safety reasons. Once the fence is up, DPR will reopen the court and monitor its use,” said Holland.
In addition, the court will be available via a reservation system and the court lights will be turned off at 10 p.m.
Your poop could give Arlington County natural gas to power buildings or buses.
The county is developing plans to upgrade its Water Pollution Control Plant, where local sewage goes. One change involves installing technology that can harness the methane emitted when human solid waste is processed, turning it into renewable natural gas, a process some municipalities have already implemented.
The energy could be used to power the wastewater plant, homes and commercial buildings or become an alternate fuel for ART buses. The “sludge” created through this process can also be used as a fertilizer for gardens, forests, farms and lawns. (If you’ve ever used Milorganite brand fertilizer, you’ve used dried sewage sludge from Milwaukee.)
Improvements to the wastewater treatment facility, to the tune of $156 million, are part of a $177 million bond request for utilities upgrades, which also includes improvements the regional Washington Aqueduct system ($15 million) and new gravity transmission mains ($3 million).
Funding for this work would come from a half-billion dollar bond referenda that voters will be considering on Election Day tomorrow (Tuesday). Over $510 million will go toward this work as well as a host of initiatives, upgrades and maintenance projects that Arlington County adopted as part of its 2023-32 Capital Improvement Plan.
Some big-ticket items have already grabbed headlines, like the $136 million requested to build a new Arlington Career Center campus and $2 million to design a proposed Arlington Boathouse on the Potomac River near Rosslyn. But there are dozens of other upgrades proposed for facilities that Arlingtonians of all ages use on a regular, and sometimes daily, basis.
Renovations to existing county buildings and the construction of new ones surpass $53 million.
- $13.1 million for various renovations to Arlington’s police headquarters and, for the county’s courts building, technology upgrades, new finishes, a redesigned entrance and a relocated Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts division.
- $12 million to fund the construction and renovation of some floors of 2020 14th Street N. to make room for ACFD Fire Marshal and Battalion Chiefs offices and other public safety staff and functions. It will also see the replacement of the building’s 60-year-old HVAC system.
- $7.5 million to acquire land next to the Serrano Apartments to build a fire station there and improve response times on the west end of Columbia Pike, given the pace of development along the Pike.
Overall, Arlington Public Schools is asking for $165 million. Of that, some $12.24 million would pay for safer school entrances, a measure many school systems nationwide are implementing in the wake of high-profile shootings, and new kitchens to allow more meals to be made in-house.
“Upgraded kitchens will allow students to eat high-quality meals that include more fresh fruits and vegetables that are prepared on-site,” according to APS. “The entrance and security vestibule updates will comply with current safety and security standards while ensuring all visitors check in at the main office.”
Another $16.8 million would pay for a new roof for Escuela Key, the Spanish-language immersion elementary school, HVAC replacement at Hoffman-Boston Elementary School and lighting upgrades across schools.
The Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation is asking for nearly $22.5 million for a dozen projects.
That includes some funding $1.5 million to replace and renovate some stretches of the county’s nearly 40 miles of off-street, multi-purpose trails, 56 pedestrian bridges and 11 low-water fords.
Preschool- and school-aged kids could have new playgrounds at Bailey’s Branch, Monroe and Woodmont parks sometime in 2024 ($2.8 million). Douglas Park will see $2 million in improvements, including a new picnic shelter, pedestrian bridge, stormwater management, invasive species removal and reforestation.
Athletes who play at Kenmore Middle School could have new turf fields ($300,000).
There’s $1.1 million in funding to design new facilities at Short Bridge Park, near the border of the City of Alexandria, as well as $1.8 million to redesign Gateway Park in Rosslyn, which the budget says is “difficult and dangerous to access due to the surrounding high-speed roadways” and is “under-utilized.”
People who live in the Ballston and Virginia Square areas would be able to get in on the ground floor of master planning processes ($1.5 million) next year to upgrade Maury, Herselle Milliken and Gum Ball parks starting as early as 2025.
The second, $4.4 million phase of work on Jennie Dean Park will move forward, including demolishing the existing WETA building, two parking lots and a portion of 27th Street S., installing a lighted basketball court and converting the existing court for tennis use.
The growing pickleball population, sometimes at odds with neighbors, and the dirt trail-less mountain bike enthusiasts could get new facilities through $2 million to convert tennis courts at Walter Reed Community Center for pickleball use, draw pickleball lines on some multi-use courts and fund “design improvements to natural surface trails and mountain biking improvements.”
There was a time when Arlington — Clarendon, in particular — was known for bar crawls.
There was Shamrock Crawl, the Clarendon Halloween Crawl, and Shirlington’s SantaCon. Thousands of mostly younger people attended. Along with the revelry, however, there were arrests, property damage, public intoxication, and nudity.
Then, in 2014, the Arlington County Board had enough and passed a number of regulations designed to allow local officials at least some control over how bar crawls operated in the county. It made event organizers apply for a special events permit, have insurance, and reimburse the county for any event-related expenses, like the cost of assigning extra police officers.
The regulations not only curtailed the number of incidents related to bar crawls but decreased the number of crawls in Arlington overall. From many people’s perspectives, the regulations worked.
Eight years later, the bar crawl scene in Arlington still hasn’t recovered.
Only 9 bar crawls have been issued special event permits since 2018, per data provided to ARLnow by the county’s Dept. Parks and Recreation (DPR), which manages the process.
“Pub crawls can draw a crowd and impact our community, so their organizers need to have a permit to hold a pub crawl,” DPR spokesperson Susan Kalish told ARLnow. “Special event organizers are required to pay any costs to the County due to their event, such as public safety, trash removal, and more.”
The upcoming crawls include an 80’s and 90’s themed crawl set for this Saturday (Sept. 17) in Clarendon. It’s being co-organized by local restaurateurs Christal and Mike Bramson.
There are two more bar crawl applications pending for this year as well.
While DPR said statistics are not available for permitted bar crawls prior to 2016, anecdotally and going through the ARLnow archives, it appears there are now far fewer bar crawls — especially those of the large, 1,000+ attendee variety — than prior to the enactment of regulations.
While the pandemic certainly impacted the last several years, 2018 and 2019 both only had 3 permitted crawls per year. That’s out of combined 401 permitted special events. With 2022 wrapping up, though, special events are returning to the level of the “before times,” including bar crawls.
“This fall we are pretty much back to pre-pandemic levels of applications,” said Kalish.
It takes a lot more to put on a bar crawl in Arlington today than it did in the free-wheeling days of the early 2010s.
“You’d be surprised how many people who are organizing a special event haven’t thought about all the specifics,” Kalish wrote. “Trash. Toilets. Noise. Flow. The [county’s] Special Events Committee helps them through a number of possible scenarios so they can have a successful event.”
How far in advance organizers need to submit their application, either 30 or 90 days, depends on a number of factors including the size of the crawl. Kalish noted crawls with only three or four establishments on the route usually require less time to process.
“The first year we had [permitted] pub crawls they were quite large, but recently they have gotten much smaller,” Kalish said.
A crawl or organizer “with a satisfactory history” of managing safe events also requires less processing time, as well as one that has a clear mapped route.
Because of these regulations, guidelines, and extra costs, though, some companies have decided to forgo organizing crawls in the county and instead stick to a place where the process is more straightforward and there’s no shortage of potential young and single attendees: the District.
The Arlington County Board voted Saturday to accept a donation of land that will become an addition to the county’s park system.
The parcel that has been offered to the county is 40,024 square feet, subdivided from the lot of a home located near Marymount University and the intersection of 26th Street N. and N. Wakefield Street. The Terborgh parcel, as it is being called, is also located near the 44-acre Zachary Taylor Park and is adjacent to the Donaldson Run Trail.
The parcel was offered to the county by the executor of the estate of Anne Terborgh, who passed away in June 2021. The gift of the parcel to the county was recorded in Terborgh’s last will and testament.
A condition of the transfer of ownership to the county is that the land remain in a natural, undeveloped state, according to a restrictive covenant.
The covenant does allow for upkeep of the land by the county, which would include the control and removal of invasive species. It also allows access to the land by the public and the addition of a park bench or sign that acknowledges the property’s rules and the gift of the land by Terborgh.
The county expects to spend $3,000 on the acquisition of the parcel, including the costs of examination of the title, title insurance, recording fees, and other closing costs. The funds for the closing costs would be allocated from the county’s park land acquisition fund.
It was not immediately clear when or how the parcel will eventually be opened to the public.
Another parcel is slated to be donated to a land trust.
“Because Ms. Terborgh’s will directs one of the other lots in the resubdivision to be conveyed to the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT), staff has also communicated with staff from NVCT about the proposed conveyances,” said the staff report to the County Board.
Arlington’s fall aquatics class registration did not go swimmingly for many who attempted it on Wednesday.
On the plus side, there appears to have been some degree of improvement from past meltdowns.
Until now, the quick clicking fingers of Arlington parents were virtually undefeated in bringing down even the beefiest of servers that the county’s tech vendor could assign to the competitive class and camp registration process.
Such was the case in February, for summer camp registration, and in March, for spring class registration. From our March article:
Waitlists, error messages and a call line 90 people deep thwarted Arlington residents’ attempts to enroll in spring classes through the parks department this morning.
The Department of Parks and Recreation offers a variety of classes in the spring, fall and winter that range from gymnastics and swimming to ceramics and jewelry making. The classes for kids are particularly popular with local parents. And registration day system failures — like those from opening day of summer camp registration — are not new for these classes, either.
Some compared the registration process to “getting front row Bruce Springsteen tickets” — to wit, “stressful and horrible.” […]
After summer camp registration crashed immediately upon opening the morning of Feb. 23 — despite attempts to beef up the platform in advance — parks department spokeswoman Susan Kalish said the platform vendor conducted “tests and improvements that should have resulted in a smooth registration” on Wednesday morning.
That did not happen.
More drastic measures were taken after March’s fiasco. The parks department, through its vendor, Vermont Systems, introduced virtual waiting rooms while staggering the registration for different types of classes.
Ever-popular gymnastics and swim classes, for instance, each got their own day this week. The goal was to prevent a crush of people all trying to register at once for the limited class spots.
That worked, to an extent, but there were still plenty of parent grumbles and reports of bugs in the online system.
“Totally unsuccessful for me,” one person reported on the popular Mothers of North Arlington (MONA) listserv. “Lots of errors, stalling out of the site, etc. I hope others had better luck.”
“We logged in exactly at [noon] and we’re unable to sign up for anything,” wrote another. “All wait-list sections also filled up within a minute apparently.”
One parent’s effort, observed by ARLnow, had them placed 633rd in line to register for youth swim classes despite having arrived in the virtual “pre-wait room” well before registration started at noon. The parent was informed that the system “randomly assigned people to make selections.”
Ultimately, that parent was only able to get on a waitlist for a class.
On social media, other parents reported an array of bugs and errors.
This system DOES NOT WORK if you have more than one child. PERIOD.
— Brooke Oberwetter (@brookeOB1) August 10, 2022
Wow @arlparksrec somehow made the system worse?
Try to add something to you cart and it tells you to log in. But then tells you you’re already logged in.
Tried to call the help line but I’m 74th in line.
It’s cool. I didn’t need to eat lunch today.
— Jennifer Anne (@kidsilkhaze) August 10, 2022
Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish, in a statement to ARLnow, acknowledged the issues and said the department is working to improve the process.
Despite the problems, more than 2,000 enrollments were processed in the first hour of class registration on Tuesday and Wednesday, Kalish said. The third and final registration window — for nature, history and other, general classes — opened earlier today.
Kalish’s full statement is below.
Guilty Plea in 1998 Murder — “The case of Andrea Cincotta, a librarian and single mother who was found dead in her Arlington apartment, remained an unsolved mystery for nearly 24 years… On Wednesday, [Bobby Joe Leonard] pleaded guilty to a first-degree murder charge, admitting that he strangled Cincotta to death more than two decades ago. And he claimed he did so hoping to be paid by a man he believed to be Cincotta’s boyfriend.” [Washington Post]
Metro Upping Rail Service on Local Lines — “Welcome news for customers who ride the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. As of Aug 1, trains will arrive every 15 minutes on weekdays, matching service on the Green and Yellow lines. For most customers, the wait for a train will be no longer than 5-8 minutes, as most stations are served by at least two if not all three lines.” [WMATA]
Meteor Over Arlington — “Bright meteor from west Arlington, looking WNW tonight!” [Twitter]
Prohibition Tour of Arlington — “Arlington’s wholesome present hides some scandals of the past. You don’t even want to think of the vice – gambling, prostitution, you name it – that raged unchecked in Rosslyn… Park historian John McNair will lead a short walking tour on the Clarendon area on Aug. 12 at 3 p.m., detailing stories of local bootleggers and the government agents who attempted to stop them.” [Sun Gazette]
Fall Rec Class Catalog Released — “Special Delivery – ENJOY Arlington. We are excited to provide you with recreation, nature and history programs this fall.” [Dept. of Parks and Recreation]
F.C. Is Wealthiest Place in Va. — “According to a study from SmartAsset released this week, Falls Church residents rank the wealthiest in Virginia. The study assessed wealth by comparing counties across three categories: the amount of investment income residents receive, total per capita income and the median home value… After Falls Church, Arlington County and Fairfax County follow in second and third place for the top 10 wealthiest localities in Virginia.” [Falls Church News-Press]
It’s Friday — Rain and storms — some potentially severe — in the afternoon, evening and overnight. High of 85 and low of 73. Sunrise at 6:08 am and sunset at 8:24 pm. [Weather.gov]
Photo courtesy Dave Statter