The Department of Parks and Recreation’s online registration process is getting mixed reviews, as many frustrated parents were unable to sign their children up for their first choice classes.
Winter class registration began yesterday at 7 a.m. for gymnastics and 7:30 a.m. for all other classes. Shortly after, users took to the ARLnow comment section to share their thoughts on the process.
“I finally got to register for the class I wanted for my kid, which now had a wait list as large as the actual class,” one parent said. “I’m glad I spent almost as much time trying to register for a class that was full than my kid would have spent IN the class had I been able to register.”
“I had a fun morning waiting for pages to load, trying to figure out if I actually signed up for a class, and after about forty-five minutes of that, wound up with my son in fourteenth place on a wait list for one of the few weekend classes available,” another wrote. “Tons of weekday classes are available, but my wife and I have this thing called work that we must do in order to live here in Arlington.”
Though it’s the primary way for residents to register for classes, the online system isn’t the only way to do so.
Residents can either mail, deliver, or phone-in their forms to the registration office. Processing for mailed forms also began yesterday morning. However, delivered or phoned-in registrations won’t be accepted or processed until Dec. 16.
According to DPR Deputy Director Jennifer Fioretti, the department upgraded its online registration software in October and moved its hosting to an outside vendor in order to combat such issues. Technological problems have elicited widespread complaints from users in the past.
However, the new system did prove successful for some.
“Just registered for several classes and it was a breeze, on Chrome,” one user said. “Sorry it was tricky for you earlier, but it seems to be working great now. Much improved from the old software.”
In an e-mail, Fioretti apologized to those who experienced problems and explained what happened:
Registration days at the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) are certainly our busiest. This Wednesday, we experienced significant slowdowns that caused frustration to the public. We apologize for this inconvenience. By Wednesday afternoon, we processed more than 5,000 individual class registrations, which is consistent with past years.
DPR is always looking for ways to improve and streamline the customer experience. This October, we upgraded our registration software and moved the hosting services to an outside vendor. Post-upgrade, we had several small online registrations to test the new system (nature center classes, 55+ trips and classes), which were successful. We expected similar positive results for yesterday’s Enjoy Arlington class registration. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
DPR IT staff worked closely with the software vendor to monitor the Enjoy Arlington registration processes. The vendor reported that key performance indicators suggested that the servers could handle the projected volume. Despite this, our registration processing speed was very low. We began seeing issues with the system just as our gymnastic registration (starts as 7:00 a.m.) was slowing down and our online registration (starts at 7:30 a.m.) for all other programs was beginning. By mid-afternoon, the system appeared to be back to normal. We are analyzing yesterday’s entire registration process minute-by-minute to determine what caused these issues. Once we know, we will develop a plan to ensure it won’t happen again.
Although some popular classes and days/times are full, many classes still have availability. We encourage people to add their names to the waitlist, as we do have cancellations. If anyone has any questions or concerns they should contact DPR Registration on the web at registration.arlingtonva.us, via e-mail at [email protected] or call 703-228-4747.
The Friends of Aurora Highlands Parks is a group of neighbors who say they’re trying to make parks in the neighborhood enjoyable for all ages. This means that the parks need to have a balance of open fields, athletic courts and playgrounds, said Kari Klaus, the president of the group.
“The perfect park is a balance,” Klaus said.
The two parks in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood are having trouble keeping the balance, Klaus said. Nelly Custis Park (701 S. Grant Street) is may be getting another playground and Virginia Highlands Park (1600 S. Hayes Street) is under construction to build more courts.
The group was formed after the Aurora Highlands Civic Association (AHCA) began discussing the additional playground for the Nelly Custis Park and and differences arose between some residents and the association’s majority. The new playground would make three in a little over a block, Klaus said.
The park already has a playground and creating another one at the expense of open space went against the wishes of many neighbors, Klaus said. Despite the opposition, the civic association went forward with the plans to ask for the playground as a Neighborhood Conservation project.
“The civic association has not budged on the playground from our parks perspective,” Klaus said.
The Aurora Highlands neighborhood is age diverse, meaning there are families with young children, families with grown children, millennials and senior citizens. Adding a new playground would take away from the open space used by many of the neighbors, Klaus said.
“We still have a very adult-related neighborhood,” she said.
The civic association also had trouble communicating with the neighborhood, according to Klaus. There were notices about the plans in the beginning, but the advertisements stopped and neighbors felt left out of the process, she said.
“There was some effort in the beginning but somehow the notices were dropped,” she said.
Joel Nelson, president of AHCA, said he has yet to hear of the Friends of Aurora Highlands Parks and noted that the Nelly Custis Park playground is still being discussed.
“I’m not familiar with the group, but I know that our community greatly values the park as an important local resource,” Nelson said.
“There were two public meetings (March and April) with county staff to collect feedback from the community for improvements to the Nelly Custis Park via the Arlington County Neighborhood Conservation program,” Nelson said via email. “At our June AHCA meeting, we heard a few complaints (about county process and about as-yet-TBD details in the design phase of the project), so the project was put on hold pending additional community input (scheduled for two additional meetings with county staff in September).”
“Even though some neighbors use the recreational facilities it appears that they are primarily used by organized leagues and residents in other parts of Arlington County and even D.C.,” she said.
The group has reached out to the department and are working with the Arlington Parks Coalition to make sure parks stay age-diverse, Klaus said.
The group aims to have more trees added to the park and would like AHCA to help to build a dog park, which is part of the civic association’s master plan for parks, she said.
“Friends of Aurora Highlands Parks will work with the county on acknowledging these valuable park resources and benefits in the hopes of preserving the current limited green and tree covered parkland while working to reverse some of these programmed spaces to fulfill actual neighborhood needs and deficits,” according to the group’s website.
Klaus said the group has heard that Virginia Highlands Park is being considered as a site for a new elementary school, which is concerning because use of the park is only likely to increase with new development planned or under construction on the nearby Riverhouse and Metropolitan Park sites in Pentagon City.
“This area needs more green space to compensate for the density increases and the age-diverse population and we need to make sure that no more facilities or buildings go over our very limited park and green space that we have,” said Klaus.
Kudla Out After Four-Set Loss — Arlington resident Denis Kudla, 22, capped his impressive performance at Wimbledon with a four-set loss to reigning U.S. Open champ Marin Cilic in the Round of 16 yesterday afternoon. Kudla, who turned tennis pro at the age of 16, was the last remaining American man in the tournament. [Fox Sports, Twitter]
Wellington Sells for $167 Million — The Wellington apartment complex on Columbia Pike has sold for $167 million. The 711 unit complex is 97 percent occupied. It was purchased by Washington REIT. [MultifamilyBiz]
Arlington Park Spending Near Top — Arlington County spends $249 per resident on parks, the third highest per capita park spending figure in the country, among the nation’s 100 most populous areas. Washington, D.C. ranked first, spending $346 per resident. Some of Arlington’s park spending is now going toward >$1 million playgrounds. [Washington Post, Trust for Public Land]
Flickr pool photo by thekidfromcrumlin
Tomorrow is Earth Day, and in honor of the 45th anniversary of the holiday dedicated to the environment, Arlington residents and workers can take part in several events around the county this week.
On the eve of Earth Day, this afternoon at the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street), the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation is hosting an Earth Day scavenger hunt. From 3:00-5:00 p.m., teams will form to take pictures, find clues and solve puzzles, all with a goal of promoting sustainability. Registration is required for the event, and those interested can email to sign up.
Tomorrow, the Rosslyn Business Improvement District is providing its annual planting clinic. At the Plaza on 19th — the small public space at the corner of N. Moore and 19th Streets — from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., the BID’s landscaping contractor will give demonstrations on how to plant your own garden and maintain it. Attendees will be able to take home a potted plant of their own, and one of Rosslyn’s food trucks will be on hand for the hungry planters.
On Saturday, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., George Mason University’s Arlington campus is throwing a “Go Gaga for Green” event. There will be a silent auction for rain barrels decorated by Arlington Public Schools students, a lip-sync battle, green-themed food and drink and a raffle. Tickets are $25 and free for APS families and staff. Proceeds will benefit the Arlington County Council of PTAs’ scholarship fund, GMU’s Early Identification Program, which funds first-generation college students and Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment’s Energy Masters Program.
For more environmentally themed events this week and in the future, you can visit Arlington’s website.
(Updated at 4:00 p.m.) The 10-year-old synthetic turf field at Washington-Lee High School is worn beyond repair and needs to be replaced, according to Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
The field has been subject to heavy, year-round use by students, recreational sports leagues and in pickup games for a decade, according to a staff report. This Saturday, the Arlington County Board will vote on a contract to replace the field for $609,000, the final piece of the $1.6 million project.
If the contract is approved, the current synthetic turf field will be torn up starting the week of June 7, and construction would wrap up by the first week of August, just in time for the Generals’ sports teams to begin preseason practice.
The project will consist of tearing up the existing turf, but preserving the drainage system underneath. Staff said the existing turf surface and rubber layer will be recycled “to the greatest extent possible.”
If Monday’s weather didn’t tell you that spring and summer are just around the corner, then this will: Arlington County is looking for summer camp volunteers.
The county looks for teenagers every year to help plan and lead activities for the young children who attend the camps. Volunteers must be 13 years or older by May 1 and at least two years older than the campers they supervise.
Arlington is offering more than 100 different camps this summer for kids from ages 3 to 13, in everything from fly fishing to ultimate Frisbee to “fashion boot camp.”
Volunteers work for four, non-consecutive weeks in the program of their choosing, but not everyone is guaranteed a spot in the most popular activities. Teens and parents can download the volunteer application and send it to:
Department of Parks and Recreation
Langston Brown Community Center
2121 N. Culpeper Street
Arlington, VA 22207
Applications received after May 1 may be put on a waiting list, depending on demand. Parents interested in registering a camper for this summer can do so online.
Photo via Arlington Parks and Recreation
In a presentation to the Arlington County Board on Tuesday night, Cherrydale Citizens Association representative Maureen Ross went over several issues during her Neighborhood Conservation plan update, including the upkeep of the North Arlington neighborhood’s street trees.
“Our trees are a huge issue in Cherrydale,” R0ss said. “They’re not in good shape.”
Arlington is spending about $1.2 million on tree maintenance, removal and planting this fiscal year, according to county Landscape and Tree Supervisor Jamie Bartalon. Bartalon said the county has regular tree maintenance programs, but most of the funds are spent on safety-related pruning and removal of hazardous trees.
In county staff’s response to Cherrydale’s tree concerns, the Department of Parks and Recreation said it has recently established new practices for planting urban trees, but said funding is simply insufficient to accomplish all of Cherrydale’s requests.
“DPR’s baseline budget for tree planting is barely sufficient to replace the average number of trees that are removed each year,” the staff report reads. “DPR does not recommend reallocating tree planting funding towards tree maintenance when such reallocation may result in fewer trees being planted than removed from County property.”
Bartalon said the budget for tree planting in FY 2015 is $206,388, and the county has added a net total of 175 trees this year, based on an annual projection of 650 trees removed because they have died or were taken down for development. The majority of trees are removed because they are “dead, dying, hazardous or downed/damaged by storms.”
“Arlington loves its trees as do most residents so we always look for options before removing a tree,” Bartalon told ARLnow.com in an email. “If there is a safety issues… can it just be pruned? If it is diseased, can we cure it? Our last option is to remove a tree.”
Ross and her neighbors contend that the county could avoid removing many of its trees if it simply kept a regular watering schedule. Ross showed examples of other trees, like the one pictured at right. She said the tree on the left in the image was planted by the Safeway 10 years ago.
“We planted our trees 20 years ago, but replaced them two or three times,” Ross said. “Why is Safeway able to do it and we can’t?”
There are more than 19,000 street trees in Arlington, according to DPR, and the county “cannot begin to cover the cost to implement a Countywide regular pruning cycle.”
When trees are damaged or hazardous, residents can report them to parks staff, which will respond. But Ross said she looks at Falls Church’s Willow Oak trees, planted 20 years ago at the same time of many of Cherrydale’s street trees, and wonders what could have been.
“[Those trees] look magnificent,” she said. “Why doesn’t Cherrydale look like that? No excuses.”
Photo, top, via Google Maps. Image, bottom, via Cherrydale Citizens Association
Unitarian Church Named Historic Place — The Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington has been named to the National Register of Historic Places. The church’s modernist building was designed by noted architect Charles M. Goodman. [Arlington County]
Va. Lawmakers Fight Over State Song — Virginia is one of two states currently lacking a state song. The old song was “retired” 18 years ago due to questionable lyrics that drew complaints from African Americans. State lawmakers are against trying to settle on a new state song, but so far there are no clear frontrunners. [Washington Post]
College Game Almost Cost Arlington Man $16K — Arlington resident Patrick Leonard was told by the ticketing website Stub Hub that he was buying four tickets to Monday’s college football championship game in Dallas for $1,600. The next day, however, the bill came back for $16,000. Leonard, a die-hard Oregon Ducks fan, shared his tale of woe on social media and the school arranged four end zone seats for him at face value. [CBS DFW]
Hike to Arlington’s Highest Point — Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation is organizing a family hike to the highest point in Arlington on Saturday, Jan. 24. The highest point in Arlington is Minor’s Hill, which rises 459 feet at the western tip of the county. The hill has a history that includes roles in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. [Arlington County]
At least one Arlington resident thinks that should change. Mikael Manoukian, who says he’s an Arlington native, told the County Board on Saturday that the county has 26 lighted rectangular fields, 19 lighted diamond fields and dozens of lighted basketball and tennis courts.
“There are 11 sand volleyball courts and none are lighted,” Manoukian said. He advocated putting lights on the volleyball court at Quincy Park in Virginia Square, which is currently undergoing the design process for a renovation.
“Every other facility at Quincy Park — the basketball court, tennis court, soccer field, diamond field — has lights,” he said. “And there’s good tree coverage if light pollution is an issue. Perhaps money could be found outside the maintenance fund to do that later.”
County Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish confirmed that there are no lighted sand volleyball courts owned the county. In fact, she said, sand volleyball lighting hasn’t even been formally proposed, as far as she’s aware.
“I’ve never heard about that before, that would be a new one,” she said. “So many of the other sports have user groups or things that, and volleyball doesn’t necessarily. There’s no one coming forward to say a lot about that.”
There is some good news for Arlington volleyball players, however. There are two privately owned, but publicly accessible, lighted sand volleyball courts at 2451 Crystal Drive in Crystal City.
Photo via Arlington Parks and Recreation
The county announced today that it will start clearing 10 miles of trails at the same time as priority arterial roads. The Department of Parks and Recreation has cleared trails around the county before, but this will be the first time the highly-used trails will be plowed during and immediately after snowstorms.
The trails that will be cleared are:
- 5.2 miles of the Custis Trail, from the W&OD Trail to N. Lynn Street
- 2.25 miles of the Four Mile Run Trail from Reagan National Airport to Shirlington Road
- 1.25 miles of the Bluemont Junction Trail from Fairfax Drive in Ballston to the W&OD Trail
- and 0.4 miles of the Route 110 trail from the Iwo Jima Memorial to Arlington National Cemetery
The county does not own two of the most highly-used trails in Arlington — the W&OD Trail and the Mount Vernon Trail. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority owns the W&OD and the National Park Service owns the Mount Vernon Trail. For updates during snow storms on the status of those and other trails around the county, cyclists and walkers should refer to the BikeArlington forums, the county says.
The county’s Dept. of Environmental Services is also starting a pilot program this winter to clear the county’s protected bike lanes of snow using specialized equipment. As more protected bike lanes come to the county — such lanes are in the design phase for S. Eads Street in Crystal City — DES is requesting more funding for the program for future winters.
According to WashCycle, a protected bike lane could be also coming to Wilson Blvd between Rosslyn and Courthouse. The bike advocacy blog says the cycle track is “in design and evaluation right now.”
Residents can monitor the progress of snow removal from roadways around the county by visiting Arlington’s snow and ice website, which has links to view the 83 traffic cameras around the county, and posts updates during snow removal processes.
DES received a $300,000 budget boost from the County Board this past spring, earmarked to allow trail plowing, according to the Washington Post. Cyclists represent about 1 percent of those who commute to or from work in Arlington County, survey data shows.
Arlington County has 92 drivers and 46 trucks among its snow-clearing resources. The drivers received computer-based simulator training to prepare for this winter season and potential safety hazards, the county said in a press release.
This winter, weather forecasters are predicting colder temperatures and more snow than normal.
The southern end of Glencarlyn Park — next to the intersection of the W&OD Trail and Columbia Pike — could soon see major improvements, like a “learning loop” path for beginning cyclists and a bike repair station.
At its Saturday meeting, the Arlington County Board will vote on whether to approve a $395,930 contract for the park improvements, with a $39,593 contingency. The improvements were approved by the County Board back in 2009 as part of the Neighborhood Conservation Program for the Barcroft Civic Association, but the project has been delayed to accommodate the Columbia Pike Undergrounding and Streetscape Improvements project.
If the Board approves the contract with Avon Corporation, construction could begin shortly thereafter. When completed, the new portion of the park would have:
- A bicycle learning loop separate from the W&OD Trail
- A bike repair stand
- A “playful plaza” with picnic and game tables and a sand play area
- A separate plaza with bike parking, benches and a water fountain
- Additional plantings of native trees and grasses
- A rain garden to help in “reuse and absorption” of stormwater on the site
The original cost of the park renovations was projected to be $468,000, but in the five years since its approval, the total price tag has jumped to just over $680,000, including the need to install a new sewer after it was revealed the existing line was deteriorating.
The difference is being accounted for with savings from previously completed Neighborhood Conservation projects that came in under budget, according to county staff.
Image (top), via Arlington County. Photo (bottom) via Google Maps
Arlington County’s Department of Parks and Recreation has released a video encouraging families to sign up children for activities, even if they are going through financial hardship.
“Don’t let fees be a barrier to signing up your child,” the video’s narrator says. “Arlington wants to ensure that every child has an opportunity to learn, grow and have fun all year round.”
The parks department offers families 50 percent off all parks and recreation programs if qualified for reduced-price lunches at Arlington Public Schools. If the family qualifies for free lunches in schools, it only has to pay 25 percent of the full fee to participate, according to Parks and Rec spokeswoman Susan Kalish.
“Individuals and families without children may also qualify for fee reductions or a temporary hardship fee reduction based on a variety of other documents (such as completed income taxes or proof of benefits such as WIC or SNAP),” Kalish said in an email. “Fee reduction level is based on household size and the total net income.”
Temporary hardships include a loss of a job or divorce, Kalish said, and residents hoping to apply for a reduced fee also need to provide proof. To apply, a resident can visit any community center with a photo ID and fill out the required forms. The county’s website provides a list of acceptable documents individuals and families can use to prove they qualify for reduced fees.
The program, which has been going on for “a number of years,” currently serves about 1,500 residents with reduced fees, Kalish said.
(Updated 2:25 p.m.) The issues with nannies, childcare workers and parents letting children urinate and defecate at Penrose Park (2200 6th Street S.) were caught on camera by FOX 5 D.C. yesterday, just minutes after the news crew arrived at the scene.
“Our FOX 5 crew had only been at Penrose Park for a few minutes when we saw a girl going to the bathroom behind a tree. And then a little boy did too,” reporter Alexandra Limon wrote. “We purposely blurred the video and did not tape the girl behind the tree. But it appeared from the kids and nanny’s reaction that this was a normal thing for them.”
Limon’s account corroborates what many parents have said, both in the comments of ARLnow.com’s initial story and in an anonymous interview. FOX 5 also interviewed an ARLnow reporter during its morning show on the topic.
“This has been going on for a very long time at the park,” one parent said, in a phone conversation after the initial story was published. “The worst I saw was one parent dropping the kid’s underpants inside the fenced-in area” where the playground is.
Arlington Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish told ARLnow.com in an email this morning that allowing children to pee or poop in the park is a violation, with the first offense resulting in a warning. Repeat offenders can be banned from a park, she said, but the parks department doesn’t “have records of anyone being banned.”
“In the past Penrose was checked by our Rovers and Rangers throughout the week,” Kalish said. “We are beefing that up now but we think that with all the attention to this, whomever was doing it before will stop and others won’t consider it. We’ve found that even homeless people are pretty embarrassed when they get caught. Defecating in public is not a first option for anyone.”
Video courtesy FOX 5 D.C.
The Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation has given the thumbs up to a proposal to put a farmers market in the open space next to Fairlington Community Center.
The request, by farmers market organizer Field to Table, will eventually be heard by the Arlington County Board and will include a public input process. If approved, the Fairlington Farmers Market will be the ninth in the county.
“After careful consideration, the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation has determined that a farmers’ market is an appropriate use of the open space adjacent to the Fairlington Community Center,” The DPR said in a statement. “The site’s location, characteristics, context of the surrounding neighborhood, circulation and parking access appear to favorably support a farmers’ market.”
The community center is owned by the county, so county staff held two public outreach meetings — one in April and one in May — to determine whether the community was receptive to the market. According to the county’s report on the market, there were some concerns about parking, trash and noise levels, but the community was generally supportive of the concept.
There are 145 on- and off-street parking spaces, staff said, and other markets around the county do not exceed the Noise Ordinance if they do not play amplified music or sounds. In an online survey, two-thirds of respondents said they would approve of a market in the community center’s open space.
Of the county’s eight farmers markets, the closest one to Fairlington is the new Arlington Mill Farmers Market.
“Although the County does not currently seek the establishment of new farmers’ markets,” the staff report reads, “we recognize the important role that they can play in place-making and community wellness, a value shared by the Fairlington-Shirlington community.”
It’s unclear at this point when the market will go before the County Board for approval.
The Arlington County Board voted Tuesday to reverse an increase in the non-resident surcharge for participants of county-subsidized competitive gymnastics and swim teams.
The Board’s FY 2015 budget called for its non-resident surcharge to increase 50 percent. That would have significantly raised annual fees for three clubs: Arlington Aerials, the Arlington Tigers and the Arlington Aquatics Club.
Vocal protests from the teams and impassioned speeches from the youth team members at Tuesday’s Board meeting led the Board to reverse course and even reject a compromise endorsed by county staff. The Board rejected their April decision by a 3-1 vote, and also rejected County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s revised recommendation to reduce the fee increase to 30 percent.
Libby Garvey cast the lone opposing vote, saying that she supported Donnellan’s compromise, while Walter Tejada abstained. Those voting in favor of eliminating the surcharge increase said they weren’t comfortable with the lack of county dialogue with the teams prior to approval of the increase.
The surcharge will now remain at the current rate of roughly 20 percent more for out-of-county participants.
While team members and parents applauded the Board’s decision, Board members questioned whether the county government should be supporting competitive teams in the first place. County staff told the Board that team fees aren’t sufficient to pay for county costs after all facility costs are factored in.
The gymnastics programs utilize the Barcroft Sports and Fitness Center, which is billed by the county as “home to Arlington’s largest gymnastics training center.”
According to Susan Kalish of Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation, the overall cost to operate the Arlington Aerials and Arlington Tigers is $473,201, with $221,600 in revenue from the 69 non-resident gymnasts and $256,250 from the 100 resident gymnasts. Total revenue, at $477,850, slightly exceeds team operating costs, but doesn’t account for the $633,000 in annual facility operating costs at Barcroft.
“The whole issue of us sponsoring elite teams for folks that don’t live in Arlington… does make me really uncomfortable,” Garvey said. “I have to serve Arlington.”