Arlington, VA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full press release is after the jump.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A couple of Arlington libraries were also impacted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos via Arlington County

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy Aspire! Afterschool Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images via Arlington County

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With summer around the corner, Arlington County has shared an update regarding four newly renovated parks.

The parks have either recently completed renovations or are planned to open soon.

The Fairlington Park playground opened in March. The project included a complete redesign and reconstruction of the playground, exercise equipment, park trail and more. The renovated play area offers options for different age groups and exercise equipment for all ages.

For a more subdued park experience, Glencarlyn Park has also recently opened a new picnic structure surrounded by forest. The shelter includes accessible picnic tables and power outlets with USB ports. The project page noted that renovations also brought the park into compliance with Americans With Disability Act standards.

While there has been no ribbon-cutting yet at McCoy Park, it is fully accessible to the public. Enhancements at the park, which is wedged between Lee Highway and I-66, include a realigned sidewalk and a seating deck with tables and chairs.

Dawson Terrace Park hasn’t reopened yet, but the Arlington County website says it will be “later this spring.” Plans are for the two small courts at the site to be replaced with a single, lighted court that can be used for basketball, volleyball or other court games. A separate playground area will cater to kids and the park will have have upgraded picnic areas and trail connections.

Images 1, 2, 3 via Arlington County

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Arlington’s sometimes controversial Public Spaces Master Plan was approved in a unanimous vote by the County Board on Thursday (April 25).

The idea of the update is to provide a framework for the county’s plans to preserve natural resources and public activities as part of the broader comprehensive plan. However, the meeting launched discussions over whether the county relies too much on paved public spaces, and how sports fields and mountain biking fits in.

Michael Hanna, a member of the Environment and Energy Conservation Commission, noted that while the plan would add to public spaces, more needed to be done to differentiate green space from other uses. County Board Member Katie Cristol agreed with Hanna later in the meeting, saying moving forward the county would need to do more to separate those uses.

“For a long time in our site plans, we’ve let concrete be public spaces,” Cristol said. “Plazas have a role, but in recent years [we] have tried to recognize the nature of biophilia.”

During the years-long public engagement process about the plan, which was last updated in 2005, arguments emerged over what shape Arlington’s public space should take. County staff said there were several issues raised by the public in the final stretch of the approval process that would require future assessment after the plan’s approval.

One source of public consternation throughout the planning process was what critics said was inflated estimates of demand for sports fields. Peter Rousselot, an ARLnow columnist and leader of the Parks4Everyone advocacy group, argued that athletics fields were being over-reserved rather than over-used, an inefficiency leading to an artificial appearance of demand.

County Manager Mark Schwartz noted that the county is reviewing its scheduling process. The plan includes analyzing field utilization to improve data on current and projected uses as a priority for the plan.

The final version of the plan also swapped the earlier estimates of future need with a more general arrow indicating whether demand is expected to increase or decrease. The language concerning the need for two additional diamond fields by 2035 was changed from “Arlington will need…” to “Arlington could need…”

Still, Justin Wilt, a member of the county’s Sports Commission, stood by the earlier projected needs and said his commission urged the construction of at least one multi-use athletic center in Arlington, citing a lack of indoor recreation activities in the county.

Another group advocating for a space in the plan were mountain biking enthusiasts. Several mountain biking advocates attended the meeting, including a parent who said he had to take his children out to Reston to access mountain biking trails.

“I’m here to support off-road cycling facilities in Public Spaces Master Plan,” said Grant Mandsager, a public speaker at the hearing. “These facilities are in high demand and can be a great benefit to Arlington residents.”

While staff said there was a demand to add mountain biking-specific paths to the plan, the potential impact on natural resources in areas those paths would cut through would require further study.

“The advisory committee felt this issue raised too late in the process,” said Hanna. “To proceed with mountain biking… all ramifications need to be examined, particularly the threat to natural resources.”

In the end, the approved version of the plan settled on:

“Interest was also expressed in mountain biking, however, prior to exploring potential locations for mountain biking, the community would need to have a more robust and broad conversation.”

Parks4Everyone said in a statement this weekend that it was pleased with the final Public Spaces Master Plan, which “has the potential to address community needs, maintenance, and field priorities through data-driven transparency and prioritization of financial resources and land being appropriately allocated.”

“Only after residents pushing, Commissions digging in, and a decisive January 8th Civic Federation vote… did the PSMP become more reflective of the core issues affecting our parks,” the group said. “The PSMP needed to convey the priorities and needs of the vast majority of Arlingtonians including more trails, green open space parks, and natural areas.”

The final version of the plan also included several recommendations highlighted as actions critical to the success of Arlington’s public space system:

  • Add at least 30 acres of new public space over the next 10 years.
  • Secure or expand the public spaces envisioned by sector, corridor and other plans adopted by the County Board – including the Clarendon Sector Plan, Virginia Square Sector Plan, Courthouse Sector Plan, Rosslyn Sector Plan, Crystal City Sector Plan, and Columbia Pike Form Based Codes – and ensure they provide amenities that meet the county’s needs.
  • Utilize level of service as a planning tool to manage public space assets efficiently.
  • Analyze athletic field utilization to improve data on the current use and assess future athletic field needs.
  • Ensure access to spaces that are intentionally designed to support casual, impromptu use and connection with nature.
  • Complete the implementation of adopted park master plans.
  • Develop park master plans for all new parks or when renovation of an existing park requires a major rearrangement of park amenities.
  • Ensure and enhance access to the Potomac River, Four Mile Run and their tributaries while improving the tree canopy, native vegetation, and other natural resources along waterways.
  • Expand Arlington’s network of connected multi-use trails.
  • Update the Urban Forest Master Plan and Natural Resources Management Plan through a combined process.
  • Protect, restore, and expand natural resources and trees

Prior to the County Board’s 5-0 approval of the plan, Chair Christian Dorsey noted that few parties would be fully pleased with the compromises made in the plan.

“It’s an exceptional document that reflects an extraordinary effort,” said Dorsey. “I realize there are people engaged in this project who aren’t thrilled with everything that they see, but again, if we take that non-specific, line by line lenses and look at it comprehensively, we have to recognize that this is a tremendous step forward.”

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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Arlington is asking residents to submit nature photos in a contest for which locality can log the most nature sightings in urban environments.

The City Nature Challenge aims to create a database of animal and plates species using photos uploaded to the iNaturalist app by users in different cities worldwide each year.

This year, challenge runs from Friday to Sunday and Arlington is hosting hourly spotting events at local parks where participants can learn to use the app and log their nature observations.

“The Arlington Regional Master Naturalists are sponsoring a series of events and need your help to get better data about our environment,” said Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreations on its website, adding that participants can “help biologists understand the biodiversity of Northern Virginia by documenting the organisms” they find during the events.

Thirteen events are planned in Arlington throughout the weekend. The events planned for tomorrow (Friday) are:

  • Barcoft Park from 10 a.m.-1 p.m, with a focus on looking for insects, fish, and more species.
  • Benjamin Banneker Park from 2-4 p.m.
  • Fort C.F. Smith from 8-9:30 a.m. spotting birds with naturalist David Farner
  • Woodlawn Park from 2-4 p.m.

After the observation period closes, the challenge is inviting participants to help out between April 30 and May 5 to identify the species spotted, per the event’s D.C. area website.

Last year, the Greater Washington area entered as one region in the challenge and placed fifth among 68 competing cities, according to the parks department. However, the D.C. area was awarded fourth place for participation with 876 people in the region logging nature sightings in the app.

Image via City Nature Challenge

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(Updated on 04/25/19) Some referees for Arlington’s youth basketball games have not been paid by the contractor who hired them, according to officials who say the county is “looking into” the issue.

The Department of Parks and Recreation said they contract with a company called “Mid-Atlantic Coast Referees” to staff youth basketball referees, but that the company has yet to pay some of the referees it hired for the winter game season.

The department paid Mid-Atlantic $163,269 for the season and has an additional $17,724 in payments “in process” to the company, according to records ARLnow obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

“Arlington County is very concerned about this issue,” said DPR spokeswoman Susan Kalish Thursday. “The Department of Parks and Recreation has escalated the issue to the Department of Management and Finance and it’s currently under review with the Purchasing Division.”

Benjamin Hampton, a spokesman for the County’s Manager’s office, told ARLnow on Wednesday there was “no new information on this beyond what DPR shared… At this point we don’t have confirmation of the number of referees affected.”

Mid-Atlantic Coast Referees could not be reached for comment.

The company does not have a website, and a Facebook page bearing the same name is empty. The only employee listed for the company on LinkedIn is Edward Hamilton, whose profile says he is now “retired.”

The county offers youth basketball leagues for students in grades 1-12 and says on its website that coaches volunteer. For the 1st and 2nd grade level league, the volunteer coaches also act as referees, per the website.

Kalish confirmed the missing payments on Tuesday after a tipster told ARLnow that “many of the referees are youth but some are adults who count on the extra income.”

“This will create a situation for future basketball season where referees will not want to work in Arlington,” the tipster added. “In addition, the fees paid by parents who children play in the program were collected back in November of 2018.”

“The County’s purchasing department has contacted Mid-Atlantic Coast Referees to let them know the severity of this issue,” she said. “Arlington County is currently looking into the matter.”

Image via Flickr 

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