Arlington, VA

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images 1, 2, 3 via Arlington County

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Arlington officials have given the green light for a new childcare center to set up shop in Ballston, in a debate that forced the County Board to weigh its years-long effort to expand access to childcare in the county against the vocal opposition of neighbors to the project.

The Board voted unanimously last night (Tuesday) to award the Bright Horizons Children’s Center with the permits it needs to open a new location on the first and second floors of a building at 4001 Fairfax Drive.

The new center will have room for about 145 kids in all, and include a 4,700-square-foot playground in the small courtyard between the building and an adjacent set of condos at 1001 N. Randolph Street.

The playground, in particular, worried neighbors. Matt Nyce, a board member at the nearby EastView Condos, told ARLnow via email that the location was a “totally inappropriate” place for a playground, given its proximity to two exhaust fans and how close it would be located to homes on the first floors of the two buildings.

But Board members were convinced that some of those concerns were a bit overblown — as Erik Gutshall put it, the Board judged the childcare center unlikely to be “an overwhelming detriment” to quality of life in the area, or to property values.

Officials would acknowledge that the playground would be a bit of a tight fit in the courtyard, and that it would occupy some of Ballston’s very limited open space. But, as the Board weighs a comprehensive overhaul of its zoning regulations governing childcare centers, members also said that they were willing to allow designs that may not be absolutely perfect if it means expanding options for Arlington parents.

“This is not a willy nilly one-off, but consistent with a direction the county seeks to go,” Gutshall said. “This is an evolution as we rethink what is acceptable for our ground floor uses.”

The Board did not make the decision lightly, however. Board member Katie Cristol, a lead backer of the county’s childcare overhaul, said she even considered pushing for a deferral of any decision on the matter, particularly after the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association decided to oppose the project.

Collier Cook, the group’s president, told the Board that he worried that dropping a playground on the site would rob the nearby residents of some crucial open space.

And, as an EastView resident himself, Cook said he understood the concerns of his neighbors. One, Andres Delgado, told the Board that the prospect of additional noise was particularly concerning for people who live in the building and work from home.

“We have neighbors who live on the first floor and it goes right into their living room,” Delgado said. “Noise is a big concern for them.”

Similarly, he said neighbors are worried about smoke from the nearby parking garage impacting the kids’ health.

But Zach Williams, an attorney representing Bright Horizons, said the company made every effort possible to address those playground concerns. The childcare center plans to pay for a timer to ensure the exhaust fans aren’t operating while children are outside, and Williams said they even agreed to shrink the playground by 200 square feet to give residents some more breathing room.

Yet, with the county’s ordinances requiring that the center add 75-square-feet of playground space for each child outside at any given time, Williams said Bright Horizons can’t do much more to address those issues.

“We don’t have a lot of flexibility, but we’ve tried to do as much as we can,” Williams said.

Board members commended those efforts and made another point for neighbors worried about noise — considering the way the area is zoned, a new bar or nightclub could easily move into the space instead and set up outdoor seating, which could prompt even more substantial noise concerns than the childcare center.

“It would be completely irresponsible for us, I believe, to suggest we can prevent change from happening,” said County Board Chair Christian Dorsey. “The other ways in which this property could change could be all manner of degrees more intense.”

With this approval in hand, Williams said the center plans to open by January 2020. Bright Horizons is also on the cusp of opening another childcare center in Courthouse, which also faced its fair share of pushback from neighbors last year.

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Arlington is earning more high marks for its high-quality parks, this time winning the spotlight for its large number of amenities like playgrounds and nature centers.

A new report from the Trust for Public Land released today (Wednesday) ranked the county eighth in the country among large localities when it comes to park acreage per 1,000 residents. With 1,767 acres of parks in the county’s 26 square miles, Arlington has about 7.75 acres of parks for every 1,000 people, better than major cities like San Francisco and New York.

Those high marks mirror previous studies by the California-based group, which is leading an advocacy effort to ensure that everyone living in a city is within a 10-minute walk of a park. The Trust for Public Land previously ranked Arlington fourth in the country for its park system by evaluating a variety of different metrics.

But this time around, the group also studied the number of recreational amenities available in the county’s parks to provide an even more granular view of where Arlington stands. In all, the researchers awarded the county six top 10 marks for its distribution of various amenities.

With a total of three nature centers to serve its roughly 228,000 residents, the county ranked fourth in the nation. Arlington’s 99 playgrounds, good for 4.3 playgrounds per 10,000 residents, was also good enough to tie the county for sixth overall.

The county’s 87 tennis courts ranked seventh nationally, while its 12 pickleball courts placed ninth. Similarly, Arlington’s eight community gardens and 301 garden plots also ranked ninth.

Finally, the county picked up a 10th place ranking for its number of dog parks, with eight in total.

D.C. also ranked quite highly in the group’s rankings once more — the District placed first in the nation in park acreage per 1,000 residents, and earned five other top 10 marks.

File photo

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A perilously perched tree has prompted the temporary closure of a playground near East Falls Church.

The severe rain storms of the last few days has caused a “tree-mergency” in Madison Manor Park (6225 12th Street N.).

Susan Kalish, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation, says the rain managed to so thoroughly soak the ground at the park that the tree eventually tipped over. She says workers will be removing it “first thing” tomorrow morning (Thursday).

“After they have finished, parks crew will clean up any mess and refasten a section of fence that has been removed,” Kalish wrote in an email. “None of the play equipment has been damaged. One section of the perimeter timber has been dislodged by the tree’s roots and will have to be repaired once the tree is removed.”

Kalish said the county hopes to reopen the playground by “close of business tomorrow,” or Friday morning at the latest.

Parks and recreation workers plan to announce exactly when it will re-open on the department’s Twitter account.

Photo via @arlparksrec

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Morning Notes

Region Sets Heat Record — The National Weather Service reports that Arlington and surrounding areas set a heat record yesterday. The temperature at Reagan National Airport reached 91 degrees, which tops the previous record of 89, set in 1930. [Twitter]

Co-Working Space Opening Soon — TechSpace, a new co-working space, will hold a grand opening event and happy hour in Ballston on May 15. The 20,000 square foot office will open in the Two Liberty Center building (4075 Wilson Blvd) across the street from the under-construction Ballston Quarter Mall. [PR Newswire]

Playground Design Meeting — County staff will present the two concepts for the new playground at Rosslyn Highlands Park and take feedback from the public at a meeting tonight. It takes place in the library at Key Elementary School at 7 p.m. [Arlington County]

Theodore Roosevelt Island Survey — The National Park Service is seeking feedback via a survey for improvements to Theodore Roosevelt Island, including possible bridge and comfort station upgrades and the addition of a boat dock. Today is the last day to submit comments. [National Park Service]

Reduced Parking in Fairlington — As the Fairlington Park Project enters its final stages, 19 parking spaces will be occupied for construction equipment staging. Visitors should plan ahead for the parking challenges.

New Marymount President — Dr. Irma Becerra has been chosen as the new Marymount University president and will take over the position on July 1. She comes to the school from St. Thomas University. [Marymount University, InsideNova]

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Children already are climbing on equipment at the two newly renovated playgrounds at Woodlawn Park, ahead of this weekend’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The ceremony will take place at the park (1325 N. Buchanan Street) this Saturday, April 22, at 4 p.m.

Members of the community — including kids — helped design the new playgrounds. As part of the renovation process, the new equipment was installed farther away from the creek than the previous fixtures had been.

Invasive plants were removed and the area along the creek has been reforested with native trees, shrubs and perennials. The park also now offers better accessibility. Lawn aeration and overseeding will be completed next week.

The County Board approved funding for the $795,000 neighborhood improvement project in 2014, and construction began last August. A federal grant funded part of the reforestation.

The park remains open and usable in the time leading up to the ribbon cutting.

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Playground Guide (Courtesy of H.K. Park)Chestnut Hills playground at 2807 N. Harrison Street is the best playground in Arlington, at least according to a new guide to the county’s playgrounds.

H.K. Park and his two children, Avery and Spencer, created “The Arlington Playground Guide!!,” a review book of 70 playgrounds in the county.

“It’s a Zagat’s guide for kids written by kids,” Park said.

The Parks visited each playground, excluding ones at schools, and ranked them on the different features, like how challenging the playground was, how much shade each has and if it had bathrooms, Park said.

Each playground was giving a ranking out of five stars, with five stars denoting an “epic” experience.

“For a small county, there are a lot of playgrounds,” Park noted.

Park’s kids liked playgrounds that had more challenging features, like rock climbing walls or climbing nets.

Six-year-old Spencer Park gave the playground at Penrose Park (2200 6th Street S.) four stars, saying it had a good jungle gym. His sister gave it five stars.

“Cool! This is really big but not shady. It was super hot but it was worth it,” Avery Park, 9, wrote in the book.

Penrose and Quincy Park ranking (Courtesy of H.K. Park)

Avery and Spencer liked the bigger playgrounds, Park said. They also liked ones with swings and seesaws, as well as newly-installed equipment.

The playground at Quincy Park (1021 N. Quincy Street) received two stars from the Park kids, who wrote it was too small.

“This place is boring,” Spencer wrote. “Sometimes I think it’s a little cuckoo.”

Park also included “Dad views” for each playground, which looked at the amount of shade at a park or how many bathrooms it had.

Park gave a copy of the book, which contains pictures of each playground, to Arlington Public Library. Families can also request a copy from Park, he said.

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Morning Notes

Goldfinch in stream near Long Branch Nature Center (Flickr pool photo by airamangel)

County to Seek Ballston Mall Partnership — Arlington County is moving quickly to try to come up with a public-private partnership for the redevelopment of Ballston Common Mall. County Board members said Tuesday that they believe the redevelopment will bring important economic benefits. “To not reinvest is to watch the death, I think, of Ballston,” said County Board Chair Mary Hynes. [InsideNova, Arlington County]

Crash Near Kenmore Middle School — A five-vehicle crash occurred around 5:30 yesterday evening on S. Carlin Springs Road, just south of Kenmore Middle School. Scanner reports suggest a driver mistook the gas pedal for the brake at an intersection, leading to the multi-vehicle wreck. [Twitter]

Playground Contracts Awarded — The Arlington County Board has voted unanimously to award two contracts, together worth about $2 million, for new playgrounds at Long Bridge Park and Tyrol Hills Park. Construction on both is expected to begin later this summer and will take about four months. [Arlington County]

Panhandlers Stake Out Turf in Arlington — There’s “an ongoing turf war” among panhandlers in Arlington County, who seek to hold certain lucrative, traffic-laden roadsides and medians. The “war” has resulted in the occasional fist fight and accusations that rival panhandlers are making up their sob stories, which often revolve around being a veteran or losing a home. [Falls Church News-Press]

Free Chips and Guac at Cal Tor Today — California Tortilla locations, including the eatery in Courthouse, are offering free chips and guacamole to customers today. A purchase is required. [California Tortilla]

Flickr pool photo by airamangel

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Conceptual design of Long Bridge Park playgroundArlington County may get a new playground after the next County Board meeting.

The board will vote to approve construction contracts for two playground projects — one at Long Bridge Park and one at Tyrol Hills Park — on Saturday.

The Long Bridge Park playground will be located at the south end of the park by 6th Street. If approved, it is expected to cost just under $1.1 million to construct. All told, with design and project management costs factored in, it comes with a $1,324,300 price tag.

The proposed playground will offer an area for children ages two to five and one for ages five to 12. The play area for preschool children will include a shade structure, according to the County Board’s report.

The new playground will also have:

  • a cooling “fog” system
  • sculpted play forms
  • tunnels and bridges
  • fencing where the park meets the street
  • benches

According to the planned layout of the park, kids can expect new play structures like a play tube, a play cocoon, tube slide and a double slide.

The playground was included in the already-approved master plan for the park, and the playground’s conceptual design fits in with the current aesthetic of the park, the report said. The county also gathered input from children on what should be included at the new playground.

“The sessions were lively and produced interesting feedback,” according to the report.

Tyrol Hills Park playground conceptual design

The County Board will also vote to approve a playground project at Tyrol Hills Park expected to cost $878,635. The project will replace current playground structures with new equipment.

The new improvements will include new equipment, new porus pavement, a new picnic shelter and accessible playground surfacing.

The Tyron Hills Park playground will also have a play area for children ages two to five and one for children ages five to 12.

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Morning Notes

Kids playing on Arlington Ridge Road during a road closure on 11/25/14

New Tot Playground Opens — An upgraded tot playground with “education-themed amenities” has opened at Chestnut Hills Park, at 2807 N. Harrison Street. [InsideNova]

H-B Woodlawn Student Scores School Musical — Calista Garcia, an 8th grade student at H-B Woodlawn, produced the score for the school’s fall musical, “Lizzy Strata.” Garcia is also the lead singer and guitarist for an all-girl rock band, the Diamond Dolls. [Washington Post]

ART Gets Bigger Buses — Arlington Transit has started using its first full-length, 40-foot buses. The service started in 1999 with vehicles similar to airport rental car shuttles. [Greater Greater Washington]

Double Decker Buses on the Pike? — A “taxpayer activist in Arlington” wants the county to consider using double decker buses — like the kind you would see in London — on Columbia Pike, in lieu of the streetcar. [Watchdog.org]

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Chestnut Hills Park’s pre-school playground, near Yorktown High School, is expected to be torn down and replaced.

The existing playground (2807 N. Harrison Street) is “one of the most popular playgrounds in the county” according to Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation staff. It is also more than 26 years old and “beyond reasonable repair.”

The Arlington County Board will likely award a construction contract of $521,064 at its meeting this Saturday, Feb. 22. About $489,000 of the contract is for construction and design, while the remaining $31,000 is for contingency purposes.

The new playground, designed for children from ages 2-5, will have a climbing arch, crawl tunnels, “talk tubes,” sound columns, “abacus-like arches with moveable foam blocks” and a sand play area with a water feature. A swing set will remain. There will also be a new track that encircles the park, complete with traffic signs.

Images courtesy Arlington Parks and Recreation

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