Arlington, VA

All Arlington dog parks, fields and playgrounds are closing in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Amid quickly rising cases and community spread of the virus in the county, Arlington Public Schools and Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation are locking down most outdoor recreational facilities where people congregate. That follows the last week’s closure of indoor community centers.

Trails and community gardens will remain open to individuals, but congregating in groups is banned.

More from Arlington County:

Arlington County is committed to the health and safety of our community and our employees. Effectively immediately, all Arlington County/APS parks, fields, playgrounds, restrooms, tracks, dog parks and courts are closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Signs will be posted at all affected locations. Park visitors are asked to adhere to all closure notices and current social distancing recommendations.

Trails and community gardens are also closed to groups. Please exercise and garden alone. In order to stop the spread of COVID-19, it is important that everyone take personal responsibility and practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently.

The parks department is currently printing signs announcing the closures, according to DPR spokeswoman Susan Kalish.

A number of readers have reached out to ARLnow to report groups of people seemingly not observing social distancing recommendations at local sports fields and parks.

“Happened to go for fresh air and a walk on the trail due to the quarantine and the courts by the trail are full of people playing soccer and basketball,” one reader said in an email to ARLnow last week.

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Update at 11:20 p.m. — The Westover Farmers Market announced that it is now “closed until further notice.”

Earlier: At least one Arlington farmers markets is still, as of Friday afternoon, scheduled to be held over the next week, despite calls for closures.

While grocery stores remain open, Arlington County on Friday issued a press release calling for the closure of the open air, weekly farmers markets.

Arlington County is committed to the health and safety of our community and our employees. On March 17, 2020, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and the State Health Commissioner issued a Joint Executive Order restricting the number of patrons allowed in restaurants, fitness centers and theaters to 10 or less.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services has interpreted this to apply to farmers markets as well. While Arlington does not have the authority to close all farmers markets, we ask organizers to take responsible action and suspend their operations this weekend, Saturday, March 21, and Sunday, March 22. The County is awaiting further guidance from the Commonwealth regarding mass gatherings and food sources.

The health and safety of the Arlington community is our highest priority and we are grateful for your cooperation.

Please continue to practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently. To stay updated on the status of COVID-19, visit arlingtonva.us/coronavirus.

The Arlington Farmers Market in Courthouse is set to be closed this weekend due to the coronavirus outbreak, while the Lubber Run, Fairlington, Ballston, Crystal City, Rosslyn and Marymount markets have not yet started up for the season. But Westover farmers market, at last check, was still slated to be held on Sunday.

The organizers of the markets posted on social media, asking customers to sign a letter of support for keeping farmers markets open and making the case for why they’re both safe and essential.

We believe farmers markets are essential to our community food security. Please consider signing this letter of support to keep farmers markets.

Posted by Westover Farmers Market on Friday, March 20, 2020

Arlington playgrounds, athletic courts and dog parks, meanwhile, remain open — despite the concerns of some residents, expressed in emails to ARLnow, about a lack of social distancing.

“I live right by Rocky Run Park… I walked by tonight and could not believe how many people were out playing basketball,” one concerned resident said Thursday. “I get little kids having to get out and run around but one court was packed with adults! These people should know better. There are so many old people in this neighborhood — the basketball court looked like the Florida spring break beaches.”

From Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish:

Arlington’s parks, fields, playgrounds, dog parks, courts and trails remain open for self-directed recreation and leisure. These spaces provide a critical connection to the outdoors and green space as well as opportunities for physical activity, which studies demonstrate reduces stress and improves mental health.

While our outdoor facilities are open, we encourage residents to stay home if they don’t feel well, avoid non-essential gatherings of 10 or more people, practice social distancing by maintaining six feet of personal space and to wash their hands often or use hand sanitizer. If they plan on touching equipment, we asked that they wipe it down with disinfectant wipes before and after use.

We are posting signs in English and Spanish in our public spaces over the weekend to emphasize this message.

These are challenging times. The health and safety of the Arlington community is our highest priority and we are grateful for their cooperation. The County continues to monitor recommendations and best practices, and will make adjustments as necessary.

In nearby Falls Church, the city has suspended its farmers market and also closed playgrounds due to concern about community spread of coronavirus.

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The last remaining open Arlington community centers will close indefinitely after 8 p.m. tonight.

The Fairlington, Walter Reed, Arlington Mill, Thomas Jefferson and Langston-Brown community centers had remained open this week, with modified hours, while others were closed. All will now be shuttered until further notice.

Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation (DPR) made the announcement this afternoon, but noted that dog parks, fields, trails and athletic courts will remain open.

Earlier today Arlington Public Library also announced that the two libraries still open would close after tonight, as the coronavirus outbreak gets worse.

More via DPR

Arlington County is committed to the health and safety of our employees and our community. While we are making changes to some programs and services, we will continue to operate essential government services for our residents and businesses.

In an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), all Parks & Recreation programs, centers, services and activities are closed or canceled. Parks, fields, dog parks, courts and trails remain OPEN. Fields, dog parks, outdoor courts and fields and the Powhatan Springs Skate Park are not being lit for evening. All outdoor Parks & Recreation facilities will follow the same hours, open sunrise to sunset.

We ask all patrons to practice social distancing and wash their hands or use a hand sanitizer to protect themselves and others. And remember these general safety guidelines:

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Stay a social distance of six feet whenever possible.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve (not hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Get a flu shot if you haven’t already. You don’t want to be vulnerable to getting sick with both flu and COVID-19.
  • Avoid contact with sick people as much as possible.
  • Follow the CDC travel policy.

We recognize the burden these closures may cause. The health and safety of the Arlington community is our highest priority and we are grateful for your cooperation.

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Morning Notes

Mass Cancelled at Catholic Churches — “On Monday, March 16, 2020, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Diocese of Arlington… announced that the public celebration of all Masses in the Diocese is suspended until further notice.” [Press Release]

Food Donations Needed — “We have already seen a sharp decrease in food donations from our local grocery stores. AFAC has begun to purchase more food to offset the drop of food available on our shelves. Please think about making a donation to AFAC to help us keep our warehouse full for our families in need.” [Arlington Food Assistance Center]

Regional Park Facilities Closed — “While park and facilities are open for individual use, programs organized by NOVA Parks are canceled. All NOVA Parks facilities and buildings will be closed beginning at the close of business on March 16 and remaining closed for at least two weeks. Many parks will remain open for passive use – trails, general visitation, etc.” [NOVA Parks]

Community Centers Closed — The following Arlington rec centers are closed: Aurora Hills Community Center, Barcroft Sports & Fitness Center, Carver Community Center, Charles Drew Community Center, Gulf Branch Nature Center, Gunston Community Center, Hendry House, Lee Community Center, Long Branch Nature Center and Madison Community Center. The Fairlington, Walter Reed, Arlington Mill, Thomas Jefferson and Langston-Brown community centers remain open with modified hours. [Arlington County]

Pentagon City Mall: Before and After — Photos of the Pentagon City mall food court before and after the coronavirus outbreak shows a stark difference: bustling before vs. nearly deserted after. [Twitter]

White House: Avoid Gatherings of 10+ — “The White House’s coronavirus task force announced tougher guidelines on Monday to help slow the spread of the disease, including limiting social gatherings of more than 10 people.” [Axios]

It’s St. Patrick’s Day — Enjoy a Guinness at home because most places to celebrate are closed, or at least should be. [Old Farmer’s Almanac]

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The number of coronavirus cases in Arlington has reached five, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health.

The VDH website now lists 5 cases in Arlington, 6 in Fairfax County, and 1 in Alexandria. In total, there are 30 cases throughout the state and 10 hospitalizations.

The new figures represent a 150% rise in cases in one day. On Thursday, Arlington announced the second coronavirus case in the county.

Separately Friday afternoon, Arlington and Falls Church Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti announced her intention to push all criminal cases in which the defendant is not being held in jail back to at least April 10. It’s unclear whether that will affect those who are being called to jury duty.

Also Friday afternoon, following the announcement that Arlington Public Schools would be closing through mid-April, Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation announced that all activities and programs were being canceled through April 20.

The full announcement from DPR is below, after the jump.

Read More

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(Updated at noon) Arlington’s Lee Community and Senior Center, at 5722 Lee Highway, is set to close after the end of the year.

The center — the portion of the building operated by the Dept. of Parks and Recreation — was flagged for review in last year’s budget process.

“This facility is aging and in need of significant capital investment,” wrote Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz, at the time. “In addition, existing programming at the Lee Center could be evaluated for movement to other locations or programs.”

Schwartz’s latest budget proposal includes six months of funding to keep the center open through the end of the year, before DPR programs move out.

“As part of the County Manager’s proposed FY 2021 Budget that was unveiled last Tuesday, DPR will no longer have a presence at Lee Community Center starting in January 2021,” parks department spokeswoman Susan Kalish tells ARLnow. “DPR will be moving all of its existing programs out of Lee to Langston-Brown, the new Lubber Run and Madison Community Centers.”

The move will not affect the Lee Arts Center in the building, which is proposed to remain funded in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget, according to county spokeswoman Erika Moore.

“The County has not determined next steps for the building and the Lee Arts Center,” Kalish said.

The following specific changes are planned for programming currently at the Lee Highway facility, per DPR:

  • “Lee 55+ programs will be relocated to Lubber Run, Langston-Brown and Madison Community Centers. 55+ programs will begin transitioning out of Lee in fall 2020; all programs will be moved by the end of December 2020.”
  • “The Lee Cooperative Playgroup will finish its programming next December and will reopen in nearby Langston-Brown in January 2021. The Langston-Brown playgroup area will be refreshed and better outfitted to meet the needs of the program. Current families enrolled in the Lee playgroup will have first priority for playgroup space at Langston-Brown and will be able to tour the new space in November 2020.”
  • “Enjoy Arlington classes will be relocated by summer 2020 to other locations.”

The Langston-Brown Community Center is located a mile east of the Lee Community Center.

“While we understand change is difficult, we believe that this change will allow us to provide the best programs and services we can to our community,” Kalish said of the community center’s closure. “Over the course of the year we will be connecting with community stakeholders about the move so that prior to December, everyone knows about the change and will know where to go to get the programs and services they value.”

Photo via Arlington County

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(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Despite nearly a year’s worth of effort, it looks like a group of youth basketball referees left unpaid by a county contractor are not going to get paid via any kind of governmental intervention.

Instead, an Arlington County Board member is seeking to crowdfund their payments.

Matt de Ferranti, who has “taken on the cause of the referees as his own” and expressed optimism about finding a solution earlier this year, has instead launched a GoFundMe campaign on his own.

De Ferranti told ARLnow today that he launched the campaign in his personal capacity, and contributed $250 of his own money, after being unable to find a way to get the refs paid in his professional capacity.

The issue started after last winter’s rec league sports season, when the owner and sole employee of a company hired by Arlington County to manage referees suffered a stroke and was incapacitated. Most of the 100 or so referees hired by Mid-Atlantic Coast Referees, which received a $163,269 contract from the county, were paid, according to de Ferranti. About two dozen are still owed, in aggregate, somewhere around $12,000.

That money is unlikely to be forthcoming due to “significant financial problems” at the company, which is now reportedly under conservatorship.

De Ferranti’s GoFundMe effort has set a goal of raising $12,500 from the community, to — as the title of the campaign suggests — “Pay the Referees.”

“I think it’s a unique situation that the law, and the right thing to do, do not align,” de Ferranti said. “I think [the campaign] will move us forward as a community.”

De Ferranti stressed that all efforts had been made to find a way for Arlington County to intervene, but the possible legal remedies appear to have been exhausted. The county government can’t pay the refs — many of them teens — because it never employed them directly.

“The fact that we are legally unable to pay the rest is something that not everybody immediately knows,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do, to compensate individuals for work that has been done… This is unfortunately a reality of the law that says public entities cannot provide gifts of public funds to individuals we do not have contracts with.”

“My colleagues and I share the desire to address this,” de Ferranti continued. “We all, in our personal capacities, want to see this addressed. We tried creative ways to fix the problem, that were legally permissible, and in this unique situation we have been unable to address the problem.”

Arlington now has a contract with a different referee contractor, and new policies in place, he noted.

De Ferranti suggested that donations of $25 could make a big difference and help the campaign raise the needed funds “as quickly as possible.” He plans to further promote the campaign, which he launched today, via social media.

“I ask that you join me, as I care about making sure the young people and adults who refereed our County league games last year are compensated for their work,” the GoFundMe page says. “I’m proud that our community pitches in to help where there is a need. I promise if there was another way to get this done, I would do it. Please help.”

Image via Flickr/Karl Baron

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If you’re preparing to go for a run at the popular Washington-Liberty High School track be advised: you should probably use the bathroom before you go.

There is one public bathroom at the track, a portable facility at the south end of the track, but inside the plastic cage is a scene out of a nightmare.

An ARLnow reporter was sentenced to explore the lavatory, following a reader tip, and found the toilet overflowing, the plastic floor smeared with a mix of human feces and unidentifiable materials, and the filth visibly spilling out onto the ground below.

The black seat of the toilet, meanwhile, was crusted over with grime, and the reek inside the room was indescribably foul.

Staff at Washington-Liberty High School have reported the problem to Arlington County, officials said in an email obtained by ARLnow, because the lavatory is the responsibility of the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation. A chart on the wall marking service done to the facility is, as one might expect, completely blank.

A tipster said that he witnessed a contractor for a portable toilet company try to access the bathroom, only to be stymied by the a locked gate. It’s a problem that W-L administrators say they have tried to address.

“We have reported this 3-4 times,” a school official said in an email to a resident. “The potties are placed there for public use of the track by Arlington Parks and Rec, not the school system. They have a key to the gate and are supposed to maintain it.”

After inquiries from ARLnow, a spokeswoman with the parks department said the situation is being addressed urgently.

“We have a contract to have the portable toilet cleaned on Tuesday and Thursday,” said DPR’s Susan Kalish. “We’ve notified the contractor of the issue and they are sending someone out immediately.”

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Morning Notes

A Few Flakes Expected Tonight — “In the evening, precipitation will probably take the form of scattered snow showers over most of the region, ending before midnight. Little to no accumulation is expected.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter/@NWS_BaltWash]

Kudos to the Leaf Collectors — “Hats of to these guys. Leaf collectors jumping out of their truck to help my elderly neighbor rake her leaves.” [Twitter/@KathieNotnow]

Heavy Traffic at DCA — Sunday, which was said to be the busiest travel day of the year, saw big backups on the roads at and around Reagan National Airport. [Twitter/@LukeBerndt, Twitter/@EvanLambertTV]

Arlington Seeking Park Ranger — “Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) currently has a vacancy for Park Ranger… Park Rangers patrol designated Arlington County Parks; provide visitor information and programming services; support other County programs (maintenance, sports, recreation); and… help ensure park security and visitor safety.” [Washington Post]

Yorktown Falls in Regional Final — “It was no easy path for the Yorktown Patriots finishing second in the region tournament. After a five-point first-round victory, third-seeded Yorktown (11-2) knocked off the host and second-seed Madison Warhawks, 25-10, in the semifinals. Then Nov. 30, Yorktown fell to the juggernaut, top seed, host and undefeated Westfield Bulldogs, 35-7, in the 6D North Region Tournament high-school football title game.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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A $2.6 million project to renovate Benjamin Banneker Park will close the park and a portion of the W&OD Trail starting the week after Thanksgiving.

The project, which was given the green light in September, will widen the trails from 8 to 12 feet and upgrade the athletic field, playground, picnic area, dog park and more.

The park closure and trail detour were originally advertised as starting this week, but everything is still open, for now.

“We are giving people a two week notice to make adjustments,” said Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish. “The trail and park will close December 3. We’ve provided detour recommendations on sandwich boards around the park as well as online. We are putting up a banner at the dog park directing people to the web to find an alternative dog park.”

Not everyone is happy about the trail detour, which will redirect pedestrian and bike traffic from the park — near the East Falls Church Metro station — to the busy intersection of N. Sycamore Street and 19th Street N., which has traffic lights and pedestrian crossing signals.

“Many of us are caught off guard with the total closure of the trail between the creek and the soccer field for the duration of the project,” said Kelly Alexis, a local resident, in an email to county staff that she also sent to ARLnow and other concerned residents.

“Arlington County has provided only one re-route option — funneling all pedestrian and bicycle traffic to the most congested possible intersection; passing across the entry and exit to the EFC Metro Kiss-and-ride lot,” Alexis continued. “This was not part of the plan that was presented to us at the open meetings and has a major impact on bicycle and pedestrian traffic.”

In response to a request to complete trail construction first, before the other park changes, a county staffer said that was not a viable option for a number of reasons. Among them: the need to fence off the trail from the rest of the under-construction park — thus creating “a safety concern for users who would then have very limited egress through a long confined corridor in the park if they were endangered or injured.”

Kalish said she is not aware of any plans to make changes to the detour.

Construction is currently expected to wrap up between July and September of 2020, according to the county website.

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Arlington County has made progress in repairing infrastructure damaged in the July 8 flash flood emergency.

Last week Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services reopened a portion of the Four Mile Run Trail that runs under Wilson Blvd. The underpass was partially washed out by the force of the raging flood waters.

Crews “completed the work to repair the bike trail underpass by replacing the curb that was undermined by the stream and placing new concrete slab on the sidewalk surface,” DES spokeswoman Jessica Baxter tells ARLnow. “We also painted the curb on the outer perimeter towards the stream. Overall, it took about two weeks to complete.”

Arlington reported around $6 million in damage to county infrastructure from the flooding. Baxter said DES has completely most of its repairs, though some work remains to be done.

“In terms of repairs, we have substantially completed our tasks — we have minor items to address, such as catch basin repairs,” she said.

A number of footbridges were swept away by floodwaters. At least one, near 38th Street N. in the Old Glebe neighborhood, was recently replaced. Arlington’s parks department is currently evaluating the replacement of others.

“As of Oct. 2, County contractors have removed bridges that were destroyed by the storm, including the bridges at 38th St. N. and N. Chesterfield Street, Bon Air, Glencarlyn and Gulf Branch. Lubber Run will follow,” parks spokeswoman Susan Kalish said. “All bridges and fords damaged in the storm are being assessed for safety and next steps.”

Photo (1) courtesy Dennis Dimick, (3) courtesy @btj/Twitter

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