Undeterred by the fact that the Arlington County Board already approved a contract for the project earlier this summer, a group of Bluemont and Boulevard Manor residents are continuing to fight the planned construction of a baseball and softball field in Bluemont Park.
Opponents of the project faced off with youth baseball and softball boosters — who support the new field and say it’s necessary to meet demand — at a community meeting Wednesday night. The “listening session” was organized by Arlington County, in response to opposition to the field that has been building since late summer.
A primary concern of the opponents: that the field will be fenced in, thus precluding other uses of what’s currently a poorly maintained but open baseball diamond. A temporary construction fence is already up at the site.
In a presentation during the meeting, county staff said the renovation will bring the field to “County and industry standards and address accessibility, safety and stormwater requirements.”
A county spokeswoman, meanwhile, said the discussion from the meeting and other community feedback will be considered by county staff and the County Board.
“The community is invited to share additional feedback on the website through October 14,” said Bryna Helfer, Arlington’s newly-appointed Director of Communications and Public Engagement. “The County Manager will update the Board at the November 10, 2016 County Board recessed meeting.”
Baseball field opponents said the meeting did not change any minds or clear up the process going forward.
“It was the usual dog-and-pony show,” said local activist Suzanne Sundburg.
“There were a number of speakers who supported the fencing, baseball-softball enthusiasts, naturally,” Sundburg said. “But they were evenly matched by the number of other park users in the community who do not want open space to be fenced off permanently for just a single sport that is played, at most 8 months a year.”
“Staff couldn’t answer any questions about the construction schedule,” she continued. “Nor could they provide any timetable or date for a follow-up meeting.”
Sundburg said that some county staffers “indicated that the plan was pretty much set and that only ‘tweaks’ would be possible at this late date,” while others “were more open to urging the board to consider ‘options.'”
One emailed county staff with “data… assembled and analyzed over the past 3 weeks,” arguing that baseball fields are used for only a portion of daylight hours during the year and that there are enough fields for existing baseball and softball games. Another argument: that the project is within a floodplain.
“No one wants to prevent the existing field from being used for baseball, though several people asked whether rehabbing this particular field (to the tune of $700K) made sense, given the existing drainage problems, proximity to a Chesapeake Bay Resource Protection Area, and the fact that this field lies in a FEMA floodplain,” the resident wrote.
A $720,000 project to renovate a baseball field in Bluemont Park, approved by the County Board in July, is now facing some community resistance.
A number of residents, along with the Boulevard Manor and Bluemont civic associations, have written letters to the Board asking them to reconsider their decision. The primary concern: a planned fence around the new field.
“Permanently fencing off over a quarter of the open field at Bluemont Park is a drastic action that deserves the full ‘Arlington Way’ treatment,” wrote Boulevard Manor Civic Association President Phil Klingelhofer.
“In violation of the ‘Arlington Way,’ the decision was made with no input from the community and was hidden on the County Board’s Consent Agenda with no notice… of the drastic change it proposed making to Bluemont Park,” Klingelhofer continued. “Our Civic Association first heard of a proposal to improve Bluemont field number 3 when we got a cryptic notice of a meeting to ‘learn about planned field renovations.'” (Links added.)
In a Board report published June 30, county staff said the new baseball field will include “sod, new irrigation, site circulation, fencing, backstops, bleachers, site furnishings, signage, ADA accessibility improvements, landscaping, and site drainage.” An included diagram details a “proposed” fence along with proposed bullpens and a proposed batting cage.
“Athletic field #3 is beyond reasonable maintenance and requires full renovation,” the report notes. Residents, however, say that a fenced-in baseball field — as opposed to the current open baseball field — reduces recreational options in the park.
“Irrespective of whether the process was sufficiently transparent, a bad plan is still a bad plan,” wrote Bluemont resident Suzanne Smith Sundburg. “The fencing and thus conversion of what is currently multipurpose, open-field parkland to a dedicated, single-sport field does a disservice to the many Boulevard Manor and Bluemont community residents as well as other residents who use this space for a variety of athletic and recreational activities. Passive, flexible, open-field space costs little to maintain and maximizes the use of the space.”
A Boulevard Manor resident complained to the Board that the public process behind the field was lacking.
“The purpose of the poorly understood March meeting becomes all the more murky if county staff was presenting a fait accompli to whoever may have attended rather than soliciting real input about the merits of the project,” wrote Joshua Handler. “I ask that the County Board rescind its decision to build a permanent baseball diamond… until the project can be thoroughly vetted by the adjacent communities and its impacts on greenspace, the multipurpose use of the park, the quality of life of the surrounding neighborhoods and the park visitors’ experience.”
Sundburg also expressed concern about runoff from the field into the Chesapeake Bay — as well as a short connector trail that’s set to be built as part of the project. The trail is billed as a “safe route” for nearby Ashlawn Elementary.
My second concern is the “Safe Routes to School trail connector.” More pavement means more runoff. And calling this a “safe route” sounds like a really sick joke considering that a convicted sex offender has been living in the [neighborhood], just east of where this “safe” route connection is to be constructed. The man has completed his sentence and is free to roam about. Neighbors in this area have reported seeing him frequently walking on the nearby paths and in the parks, particularly at times when children are arriving home from school.
County staff and the County Board have worked hard to urbanize Arlington. With urbanization come some unpleasant realities — including more two-footed predators living among us. Encouraging Bluemont’s young children to walk along isolated paths and through parks to get to school is beyond belief.
The County Board will have its first meeting of the fall, following its August break, this coming Saturday.
The feces was found on woodchips in the park’s playground area this morning. It was partially covered with a shirt.
“Staff found human waste covered with a shirt at Ft. Barnard Park today,” confirmed Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish. “This is the first time we’ve noticed it since the last incidence mentioned in the media. We have stepped up patrols with police and park rangers but have not been able to determine the culprit.”
Each subsequent defecation has prompted a clean-up job by county workers. The park is a particularly popular spot for children and their caretakers.
Photos (above) courtesy Annabella Brooks
A “serial pooper” has left a No. 2 on the Ft. Barnard Park playground for the second time in as many weeks.
The ill-placed excrement was spotted this morning, conveniently while county crews were at the park for routine landscaping work.
“Unfortunately, the serial pooper struck again this morning,” a nearby resident told ARLnow.com. “This time it was not covered by a shirt, but a pile of human feces was found on the playground by some benches. County landscapers were already on the scene when it was found and called their office to arrange for cleanup and to discuss other methods to deter or catch the pooper. I guess this makes him the very brazen serial pooper.”
Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish confirmed that feces was found and that employees promptly took action to remove it.
“Yes, we found some more this morning,” Kalish said. “It is being cleaned up. We’ve notified police, rangers and are also working with homeless advocates.”
Kalish relayed some bullet points from the parks department regarding the defecation situation, including the somewhat surprising revelation that poop is pretty common in parks.
This is unacceptable behavior.
- To reiterate – please do not poop in public places. This is something your mom should have taught you long ago.
When we know about it, we remove it immediately.
- General practice is to remove waste on natural surfaces such as grass or mulch. However if the waste is on a surface such as concrete, paving or playgrounds, staff removes the waste and the cleans the area with disinfectant.
- Staff has turned the issue over to police and park rangers to continue investigating in an effort to stop the issue.
We regret this sometimes happens.
- As surprising as it may sound, it is not uncommon to find human waste in a park.
- A couple months ago we noticed sporadically the waste in Ft. Barnard Park. It stood out because someone puts a t-shirt on top of it.
- It became more common over the last month so park maintenance staff started pro-active check-ins at the park.
- It seems that the waste is deposited overnight.
As of 11 a.m. this morning, it appeared that the latest droppings had been cleaned up and about a dozen children and caretakers were in the park, playing on the playground.
Someone has been repeatedly pooping on the Ft. Barnard Park playground, off of S. Walter Reed Drive, and it’s prompting police to step up patrols of the park.
A local resident wrote a letter to ARLnow.com this morning expressing disgust at the improper public potty practice.
Since my neighbors and I are having no luck through Arlington Parks and Rec, I am hoping you might take interest in this story and help get the word out so we can get more attention to it. I live on S. Pollard Street, and for the fourth time in less than a year and second time in less than 2 weeks, someone has defecated on the playground at Ft. Barnard Park at the corner of S. Pollard and Walter Reed Drive. They poop around the play equipment, not off to the side or in the bushes, and cover the feces with a shirt so that some unsuspecting child or parent can pick it up and get a fecal surprise. Parks & Rec comes to scoop it up and leaves smears; this morning it was tracked all over the playground by what I can only assume is a small child. Obviously we need some kind of patrol or enforcement or at the least, awareness of this disgusting person and the health hazard he or she is inflicting on our playground.
I will also throw in there that there was a stabbing at the other end of our block on the corner of S. Pollard and 22nd St. S. a couple months ago and someone was almost killed, so we obviously need better police presence.
Thank you for any attention you can bring to this ridiculously disgusting story.
Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage said the police department was just informed of the unsanitary situation.
“The Emergency Communication Center received a call today reporting defecation at Ft. Barnard Park,” Savage said. “This is the first call for service we’ve received regarding this issue at that location. The District Team in the area has been notified and extra checks will be conducted.”
Savage said the stabbing, which is unrelated to the pooping, resulted in non-life-threatening injuries to the victim. The incident happened in April and started as two people who knew each other having an argument about the Washington Redskins.
From an ACPD crime report:
MALICIOUS WOUNDING, 160427038, 2200 block of S. Pollard Street. At approximately 7:25 p.m. on April 27, police were dispatched to Virginia Hospital Center for the report of a male victim suffering non-life threatening injuries as a result of a stabbing. The investigation revealed that following a verbal altercation between known subjects, the male victim was stabbed several times in the arms and abdomen. Warrants were obtained for malicious wounding for Larry Clinton Tootle Jr, 50, of Arlington Va.
This afternoon, the resident who wrote the original letter to ARLnow.com let us know that the latest poop had been picked up.
“I want to let you know that we spoke to parks and Rec again today and they sent someone over to clean up the most recent pile,” the resident wrote. “I also emailed the director of Parks and Rec today but she is out of the office. Our problem isn’t with the poor people who have to clean this up — it’s the fact that nothing so far is being done to stop it and the clean up is inadequate and does not sanitize the playground.”
Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said the department “is aware of the issue.”
“We are working to find a solution to the problem,” Kalish said via email. “We regularly inspect the park and clean up as needed. If it is placed on natural surfaces, such as grass or mulch we just pick it up. If it is placed on hard surfaces we pick it up as well as use a disinfectant in the area. Staff was not aware of additional issues after its recent clean up… [they are] going to the [park] to see what additional clean up is needed.”
This isn’t the first time an Arlington park had a pooping problem. In August 2014 we reported that local parents were peeved about toddlers peeing and pooping in Penrose Park.
Photo via Arlington County
As part of its latest Capital Improvement Plan, the Arlington County Board last night approved a new slate of bond referenda that will appear on the ballot this fall.
The county has proposed four bonds for voters to consider. In total the bonds add up to some $315.8 million.
- Metro and Transportation — $58,785,000
- Local Parks and Recreation — $19,310,000
- Community Infrastructure — $98,850,000
- Arlington Public Schools — $138,830,000
In a board report, county staff detailed the planned use of funds for each bond.
Metro and Transportation:
This proposal will fund a variety of transportation, road, pedestrian enhancement and transit projects across the County. The largest components of this proposal are $30 million for Arlington County’s share of WMATA / Metro’s capital improvement program, and $24 million to fund a portion of the costs for paving local streets and roadways. Proceeds of this proposal will also fund bridge renovation, street lights, transportation systems & traffic signals, as well as the WALKArlington, BikeArlington, Safe Routes to Schools, and Curb & Gutter Missing Links programs. The County Board may reallocate bond funds among the various projects to the extent necessary or desirable.
Local Parks and Recreation:
This proposal will fund various parks improvements and enhancements, as well as $3 million for the Land Acquisition and Open Space Program for strategic park acquisitions. This proposal would also fund the Trail Modernization program, design and planning at Jennie Dean Park and construction at Tyrol Hills Park, and maintenance capital improvements such as playground, courts and other parks infrastructure improvements. The County Board may reallocate bond funds among the various projects to the extent necessary or desirable.
This proposal will fund a variety of County infrastructure projects. The largest component of this proposal is $46.46 million for the Lubber Run Community Center project. Also included is $12 million of funding for Neighborhood Conservation projects, as well as funding for the Nauck Town Square, planning & design of the Fire Station 8 replacement, renovations & improvements to government facilities in the Court House Complex, renovation of the Barcroft Sports & Fitness Center for additional gymnastics, and a County childcare facility. The Neighborhood Conservation Program provides funding for a variety of neighborhood-identified capital improvement projects including street improvements (sidewalk, curb and gutter, drainage, paving), traffic management and pedestrian enhancements, park improvements, street lighting, recreational facilities, landscaping, and beautification.
It also includes funding of a joint County & Schools parking deck and other improvements at the Thomas Jefferson middle school site due to the construction of a new elementary school, critical systems infrastructure upgrades to 24×7 hour facilities; and facilities maintenance capital improvements, including design and construction of projects including but not limited to roofs, electrical and heating / cooling systems and other facilities infrastructure. The County Board may reallocate bond funds among the various projects to the extent necessary or desirable.
Arlington Public Schools:
This proposal will make funds available for the Arlington Public Schools’ capital improvement program. The proposed bonds will fund the following projects:
- The new middle school at the Stratford site ($26,030,000)
- The new school at the Wilson site ($78,400,000)
- Addition and renovation at the Career Center/Arlington Tech ($12,000,000)
- Planning for secondary seats at location(s) to be determined ($10,000,000), and
- Infrastructure capital projects such as HVAC, roofing, etc. ($12,400,000)
The School Board may reallocate bond funds among the various projects to the extent necessary or desirable.
The Board also approved its $3.3 billion 2017-2026 Capital Improvement Plan Tuesday night. A county press release on the plan, after the jump.
The mother, who goes by “Lynn” but didn’t want her last name used, to protect her daughter’s privacy, says a male swim instructor is showing too much skin — specifically, his chest — in the pool. She wants the man to wear a shirt when teaching her daughter (and other children) how to swim.
This morning, after a Parks and Rec staffer told her the department wouldn’t force the instructor to wear anything in the pool other than appropriate swim trunks, Lynn emailed numerous local reporters and news outlets with her complaint.
The biggest problem, she explained, is skin-to-skin contact, which she finds intolerable.
“I sit with my daughter every week watching her… and of course the instructors are touching and holding children the entire time!” she said in an email. (Lynn has had other complaints against the Parks and Rec department, but this is the most recent issue.)
Arlington County Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish told ARLnow.com that swim shirts are optional for instructors.
“All of the aquatic instructors that are employed by Arlington County are required to wear proper swim attire,” Kalish said via email. “For men, they must wear swim trunks. We provide instructors with a rash-guard shirt (worn in water), which is optional. The Department of Parks and Recreation received a complaint regarding staff attire from a customer on Wednesday, June 8. Staff responded promptly and offered to cancel the class enrollment and provide a full refund.”
The full exchange between Lynn, Parks and Rec staffers and the media, starting with Lynn’s email to the department, is below.
I took my daughter to this class yesterday. Unfortunately the male instructor’s breasts were flopping on the water and we felt extremely uncomfortable with her getting into the water skin-to-skin and in such close proximity to his intimate space. When I mentioned this to the Parks & Rec representative she told me that other parents had also complained; that he was asked to put a shirt on but refused.
To be in such close and intimate proximity to this man’s bare chest, breasts and public [chest] hair is unfathomable and I can not believe it is tolerated.
I’d like to switch my daughter’s class to an instructor who is more appropriate and does not make us feel uncomfortable.
The following email was sent Wednesday, by a Parks and Rec staffer.
Crystal forwarded your email to me, as she works in the Registration office.
To address your concern, all of the instructors teaching for DPR wear swim suits that are appropriate for swimming pools, active movement, both in and out of the swimming pool and for teaching swimming lessons. Swim shirts are provided to instructors to wear, typically for warmth but are not required. I am sorry that you feel uncomfortable, however, [the instructor] handles himself in a very professional manner in water with students. Your daughter is enrolled in a Fin 3 class, where typically, most of the swimming skills are taught through verbal directions and demonstration and are practiced independently, with some correction from the instructor. But some skills do require the instructor to have contact with the students.
I do not have another class to switch your daughter into for the session that you are currently enrolled. If you do not wish to continue, I can cancel her enrollment in the class.
Please let me know how you would like to proceed.
Lynn sent the following email to various local media outlets and reporters Wednesday evening, shortly after receiving the above email.
Hello Arlington County Newspapers, Radio and Media Corp:
Do you know how badly the Arlington County Parks & Recreation System sucks? Get back in touch with me and I’ll gladly share my experiences from over the years. It’s mostly due to responses like the one I received — it’s like everyone in the parks & rec system have undergone the exact same training: “How to be a Jerk”.
Today’s response is not the first of its nature. Again, I would be glad to share my experiences with you, you will be shocked. Please get back in touch with me.
Se habla espanol.
Based on the letters, do you think Lynn has a legitimate complaint? Or is this perhaps an example of inappropriate body shaming? (Via sources, we understand that the instructor has a pretty normal male physique.) Let us know in the comments.
By some measures, Arlington parks are doing well, but without changing course, we’re falling behind.
Arlington Parks are Ranked 4th in the Nation…
Congratulations to Arlington County on our park system being ranked as 4th among the nation’s 100 largest cities by the authoritative Trust for Public Land (TPL) in its ParkScore® index, based on the three factors of Park Access, Park Size, and Facilities and Investment.
But, Our Parkland Acreage is Already Inadequate for Current… and Future… Population
As I detailed in earlier columns, our public parks and recreational facilities are a core government service. They provide social, health and environmental benefits critical to the quality of life in our community. Unfortunately, as a snapshot in time, the ParkScore® index doesn’t reveal that current demand in Arlington for active and passive parks and recreation already far exceeds current resources. County land acquisition has not kept pace with population growth, resulting in increased shortages and overcrowding of all forms of recreational and outdoor space.
Over a 20-year period, Arlington County acquired an annual average of 3.8 acres of new public parkland. The most recent trend has been lower — just 0.63 acres were purchased in 2015. The result is an ongoing decline in the ratio of parkland per 1,000 residents, declining from a ratio of 10.8 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents in 1995 to 7.9 acres per 1,000 residents in 2015 with a considerably lower average in our high-density corridors. Our neighbors are doing much better: D.C. has 13.2 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents; Fairfax County has over 20 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents, and is planning to purchase an additional 2,015 acres for parks.
Yet, our Comprehensive Plan contemplates the addition of 35,300 households or an estimated additional 75,400 people by 2040, a dramatic increase of 36%. What is now an acute shortage in active and passive park and recreation resources will turn into a crisis by 2040 unless the County accelerates its parkland acquisition now.
We need increased CIP Funding
Unfortunately, the County Manager’s proposed CIP includes only $3 million of parkland acquisition funding for fiscal years 2017 and 2018, at p.B-5, well below funding levels before the Great Recession.
Between 1995 and 2008, funding for parkland acquisition per two-year park bond cycle was between $4.0 and $8.5 million, with most cycles at $8.5 million. Yet between 2008 and 2014, a six year period, parkland acquisition funding, from both bonds ($3.0 million) and budget allocations ($5.47 million), totaled only $8.47 million.
With land in Arlington costing on average at least $4 million per acre and increasing every year, the $3 million of land acquisition funds now proposed for the CIP for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 will potentially purchase approximately only three quarters of an acre of parkland! This is woefully inadequate to meet current, no less projected, demands for passive and active recreation in our County.
The County Board needs to dramatically increase the parkland acquisition funding in the 2017-2018 CIP to at least $8 million, the same approximate level as prior to the Great Recession, for inclusion on the November 2016 ballot.
Let’s ensure that we have adequate parkland for all of our people in the future… and that Arlington continues to rank highly in the ParkScore® index.
Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.
Arlington ranked just below No. 3 Washington, D.C. and the top two cities for parks: Minneapolis (No. 1) and Saint Paul (No. 2). The county received high marks for having parks within easy waking distance of the vast majority of residents.
“Arlington scored even better for park access, with 98% of residents living with a 10-minute walk of a park,” noted a press release. “However, its overall score was hurt because Arlington reserves only 11.2% of city area for parks. That is still above the national ParkScore average of 8.9%, but considerably behind the Twin Cities and Washington, D.C.”
An excerpt from the press release from the Trust for Public Land, including the top 10 ranked jurisdictions, is below.
Washington, DC, earned 5 “park benches” on The Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore® index, ranking 3rd among the 100 largest U.S. cities. Washington also placed 3rd in 2015. Neighboring Arlington ranked 4th, earning 4.5 park benches and finishing as the highest-ranking debut city in 2016, as the ParkScore index expanded to 100 cities, up from 75 last year.
“Every American deserves to live within a 10-minute walk of a park, and ParkScore helps us measure which cities are meeting that mark,” said Will Rogers, President of the Trust for Public Land.
ParkScores are based on three factors: Park Access, which measures the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park (approximately ½-mile); Park Size, which is based on a city’s median park size and the percentage of total city area dedicated to parks; and Facilities and Investment, which combines park spending per resident with the availability of four popular park amenities: basketball hoops, off-leash dog parks, playgrounds, and recreation & senior centers.
According to ParkScore, 97% of District residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park. Washington’s score was also helped by high marks for spending per resident ($287) and percentage of city area reserved for parks (21.9%). Arlington scored even better for park access, with 98% of residents living with a 10-minute walk of a park. However, its overall score was hurt because Arlington reserves only 11.2% of city area for parks. That is still above the national ParkScore average of 8.9%, but considerably behind the Twin Cities and Washington, DC.
Atop the ParkScore rankings Minneapolis narrowly edged out Saint Paul for first after the cross-town rivals shared the top spot in 2015. Fresno, California, also marked an important achievement for 2016, climbing out of last position for the first time in ParkScore history. The Central California city was buoyed by the opening of several new playgrounds and a dog park.
Nationally, The Trust for Public Land reported a trend toward increased investment in local park systems. Returning ParkScore cities increased spending on parks by an average of $1 per person in 2016, according to the organization.
“Cities are investing in park systems and that’s showing up on the ParkScore index. It is great news for public health, the environment, and local economies,” said Adrian Benepe, Senior Vice President and Director of City Park Development for The Trust for Public Land. “Parks provide places for children and adults to get exercise, and they serve as community meeting places where friendships are built and a sense of community is strengthened,” he added.
According to The Trust for Public Land, the 10 highest-ranking park systems in the United States are:
- Minneapolis – 5.0 park benches
- Saint Paul – 5.0 park benches
- Washington, DC – 5.0 park benches
- Arlington, VA – 4.5 park benches (DEBUT YEAR)
- San Francisco – 4.5 park benches
- Portland, OR – 4.5 park benches
- New York – 4.5 park benches
- Irvine – 4.5 park benches (DEBUT YEAR)
- Boston – 4.5 park benches
- Cincinnati (tie) – 4.0 park benches
Madison, WI (tie) – 4.0 park benches (DEBUT YEAR)
That’s what Arlington County is telling dogs and their owners who got stuck inside the James Hunter Community Canine Area (1299 N. Herndon Street) in Clarendon Friday evening.
A faulty latch is being blamed for the stuck gate that prevented dog park users from leaving. The fire department responded and removed the latch, allowing people and their pets to head home. A welder was scheduled to work on the gate today.
Arlington County issued a light-hearted press release about the incident today (see below), with the title, “Ruff Night Ends in Tails of Joy: We now know who let the dogs out.”
The Arlington County Fire Department came to the rescue of some two dozen pups plus their people last Friday after an inner gate froze closed around dinner time at Clarendon’s James Hunter Park’s dog park.
No one was howling to leave, but once firefighters removed the stubborn, industrial-grade latch, almost half the pooches and their biped pals hightailed it home, authorities reported.
“We want to apologize to the dogs and their owners,” said Jane Rudolph, director of the County Department of Parks and Recreation. “That gate had a date with the welder today.”
Park locks and latches are checked regularly and lubricated and adjusted as needed.
All eight of Arlington’s dog parks are open from sunrise until a half-hour after sunset unless otherwise designated.
The James Hunter dog park closes at 9 p.m.
File photo courtesy Arlington County
Report: Toddler Left in Car Suffered Burns — The Annandale man charged in the death of his girlfriend’s two-year-old daughter was watching TV and drinking beer as the child sat forgotten in his car, NBC 4 reports. He was also driving on a revoked license. The girl had a body temperature of 107 when she was rushed to the hospital and had second-degree burns from the car seat. [NBC Washington]
Park Aides Get Banning Powers — Park ranger aides in Arlington now have the legal authority to ban people from parks. The County Board voted earlier this month to add aides to the list of county personnel with powers of attorney for the “Park Safe” program. Offenders who violate the ban — which is typically levied on those who repeatedly violate park rules — can be charged with criminal trespassing. [InsideNova]
Moon Bounce Opportunity — Arlington County will be holding a “Fitness Day in the Park” at Alcova Heights Park on Saturday. The event will include games, nutrition and fitness demos, an inflatable rock wall and a moon bounce. [Arlington County]
Festival Argentino in Arlington — The 2016 Argentine Festival will be held at the Thomas Jefferson Community Theater (125 S. Old Glebe Road) on Saturday, May 14. The event will feature traditional food, exhibitions, music and dance. Tickets are $20 in advance. [Festival Argentino USA]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
A newly-released survey on recreational needs in Arlington may help the case for building an aquatics and fitness facility at Long Bridge Park.
Arlington County scrapped plans to build a Long Bridge Aquatics Center in 2014, after construction bids on what was supposed to be a $79 million project came in well over budget. Since then, the county has sought public input on community recreation needs and considered partnering with the City of Alexandria on a facility.
Survey respondents ranked a swimming pool and fitness equipment as the county’s two top indoor recreation needs. That corresponds to the county’s goals for a new indoor “Aquatic, Health and Fitness Facility” at Long Bridge Park.
Furthermore, the survey asked specifically about potential amenities at such a facility. Seventy percent of respondents said they had an interest in amenities at a Long Bridge Park facility, ranking their three “most important” amenities as:
- 50 meter pool,
- Health/fitness space with cardio/strength training
- Leisure pool with water slide, lazy river
County Board member Jay Fisette said he was “hopeful” the county could move forward on the Long Bridge Park facility.
“This seems to suggest to me that it validates the same or more interest in Long Bridge Park than we thought there was before,” he said. Fisette pointed out that in 2012 nearly two-thirds of Arlington residents approved a bond issue that was intended primarily to pay for the aquatics and fitness facility.
John Vihstadt, the lone non-Democrat on the Board, took a more restrained view.
“It really boils down to what sort of facilities and at what cost,” Vihstadt said. “I look forward to the discussion.”
Other survey findings include:
- Hiking trails, natural areas and paved multi-use trails are the top outdoor recreation priorities
- Nature, fitness and wellness programs, as well as special events and festivals, are the top parks and rec programming priorities
- Most people would support food and beverage — including, potentially, alcohol — options in local parks and public plazas
The full county press release about the survey results, after the jump.
APS announced the cancellation decision around 4:30 a.m, as most roads and sidewalks were still icy from freezing rain. Fairfax County Public Schools and many other local school systems made the same call, although D.C. Public Schools are only on a two hour delay.
All APS Schools will be closed and offices will open at Noon. Essential personnel should report to work at their scheduled time. Extracurricular activities, interscholastic games, team practices, field trips, adult education classes, and programs in schools and on school grounds are canceled. For updates about Pool Operations, go to www.apsva.us/aquatics. For information about Arlington County operations go to www.arlingtonva.us.
As of 7:30 a.m., some streets and sidewalks were still treacherous, even as the freezing rain had changed over to plain rain earlier in the morning. As the temperature quickly warms into the 50s, the slick spots are becoming slushy and then melting completely.
The rain will be heavy at times today and some localized flooding is expected. The National Weather Service has issued.
* THROUGH THIS EVENING
* A LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM WILL MOVE ACROSS THE REGION TODAY. THIS WILL RESULT IN RAIN… WHICH WILL BE HEAVY AT TIMES DURING THE FIRST HALF OF THE DAY. RAINFALL TOTALS ACROSS THE WATCH AREA ARE EXPECTED TO RANGE BETWEEN 0.50 TO 1.0 INCHES ACROSS SOUTHERN MARYLAND TO THE INTERSTATE 95 CORRIDOR TO 1.00 TO 1.50 INCHES WEST OF THE INTERSTATE 95 CORRIDOR. THE HEAVIEST RAINS ARE EXPECTED OVER THE BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS AND NORTH CENTRAL AND WESTERN MARYLAND. THIS HEAVY RAINFALL COUPLED WITH SNOW MELT WILL LEAD TO THE POTENTIAL OF SMALL STREAMS AND TRIBUTARIES IN THE WATCH AREA TO OVERFLOW THEIR BANKS.
* SMALL STREAMS AND TRIBUTARIES MAY OVERFLOW THEIR BANKS. ADDITIONALLY… URBAN AREAS PRONE TO POOR DRAINAGE WILL BE SUSCEPTIBLE TO FLOODING. THE TIME FOR THE GREATEST THREAT OF FLOODING WILL BE FROM TUESDAY AFTERNOON THROUGH TUESDAY EVENING.
The federal government is under a three hour delay today, with an unscheduled telework option for employees, the Office of Personnel Management announced. Arlington County government and courts, however, are opening on time, with unscheduled leave and telework options for employees, with a supervisor’s approval.
The county’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation, meanwhile, announced the following cancellations and delays.
- Congregate meal programs located at Arlington Mill, Langston and Walter Reed are canceled.
- All Early Childhood Programs (Preschool and Co-ops) are canceled.
- DPR elementary or teen afterschool programs are canceled.
- All Enjoy Arlington classes, 55+ classes, trips and nature center programs are canceled.
- Sports league activities in APS standalone buildings are canceled.
- Sports league activities in County facilities will proceed as scheduled based on weather conditions and the status of snow removal.
- Gunston Community Center will open at 2 p.m. for normal operating hours.
- Madison Center will open at 5 p.m. for normal operating hours.
- Carver and Drew Community Centers will open at 6 p.m. for normal operating hours.
- All other community centers, including joint use facilities located at Arlington Mill, Carver, Langston and Thomas Jefferson will open at noon.
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.