Your poop could give Arlington County natural gas to power buildings or buses.
The county is developing plans to upgrade its Water Pollution Control Plant, where local sewage goes. One change involves installing technology that can harness the methane emitted when human solid waste is processed, turning it into renewable natural gas, a process some municipalities have already implemented.
The energy could be used to power the wastewater plant, homes and commercial buildings or become an alternate fuel for ART buses. The “sludge” created through this process can also be used as a fertilizer for gardens, forests, farms and lawns. (If you’ve ever used Milorganite brand fertilizer, you’ve used dried sewage sludge from Milwaukee.)
Improvements to the wastewater treatment facility, to the tune of $156 million, are part of a $177 million bond request for utilities upgrades, which also includes improvements the regional Washington Aqueduct system ($15 million) and new gravity transmission mains ($3 million).
Funding for this work would come from a half-billion dollar bond referenda that voters will be considering on Election Day tomorrow (Tuesday). Over $510 million will go toward this work as well as a host of initiatives, upgrades and maintenance projects that Arlington County adopted as part of its 2023-32 Capital Improvement Plan.
Some big-ticket items have already grabbed headlines, like the $136 million requested to build a new Arlington Career Center campus and $2 million to design a proposed Arlington Boathouse on the Potomac River near Rosslyn. But there are dozens of other upgrades proposed for facilities that Arlingtonians of all ages use on a regular, and sometimes daily, basis.
Renovations to existing county buildings and the construction of new ones surpass $53 million.
- $13.1 million for various renovations to Arlington’s police headquarters and, for the county’s courts building, technology upgrades, new finishes, a redesigned entrance and a relocated Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts division.
- $12 million to fund the construction and renovation of some floors of 2020 14th Street N. to make room for ACFD Fire Marshal and Battalion Chiefs offices and other public safety staff and functions. It will also see the replacement of the building’s 60-year-old HVAC system.
- $7.5 million to acquire land next to the Serrano Apartments to build a fire station there and improve response times on the west end of Columbia Pike, given the pace of development along the Pike.
Overall, Arlington Public Schools is asking for $165 million. Of that, some $12.24 million would pay for safer school entrances, a measure many school systems nationwide are implementing in the wake of high-profile shootings, and new kitchens to allow more meals to be made in-house.
“Upgraded kitchens will allow students to eat high-quality meals that include more fresh fruits and vegetables that are prepared on-site,” according to APS. “The entrance and security vestibule updates will comply with current safety and security standards while ensuring all visitors check in at the main office.”
Another $16.8 million would pay for a new roof for Escuela Key, the Spanish-language immersion elementary school, HVAC replacement at Hoffman-Boston Elementary School and lighting upgrades across schools.
The Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation is asking for nearly $22.5 million for a dozen projects.
That includes some funding $1.5 million to replace and renovate some stretches of the county’s nearly 40 miles of off-street, multi-purpose trails, 56 pedestrian bridges and 11 low-water fords.
Preschool- and school-aged kids could have new playgrounds at Bailey’s Branch, Monroe and Woodmont parks sometime in 2024 ($2.8 million). Douglas Park will see $2 million in improvements, including a new picnic shelter, pedestrian bridge, stormwater management, invasive species removal and reforestation.
Athletes who play at Kenmore Middle School could have new turf fields ($300,000).
There’s $1.1 million in funding to design new facilities at Short Bridge Park, near the border of the City of Alexandria, as well as $1.8 million to redesign Gateway Park in Rosslyn, which the budget says is “difficult and dangerous to access due to the surrounding high-speed roadways” and is “under-utilized.”
People who live in the Ballston and Virginia Square areas would be able to get in on the ground floor of master planning processes ($1.5 million) next year to upgrade Maury, Herselle Milliken and Gum Ball parks starting as early as 2025.
The second, $4.4 million phase of work on Jennie Dean Park will move forward, including demolishing the existing WETA building, two parking lots and a portion of 27th Street S., installing a lighted basketball court and converting the existing court for tennis use.
The growing pickleball population, sometimes at odds with neighbors, and the dirt trail-less mountain bike enthusiasts could get new facilities through $2 million to convert tennis courts at Walter Reed Community Center for pickleball use, draw pickleball lines on some multi-use courts and fund “design improvements to natural surface trails and mountain biking improvements.”
Dropping nearly 40 feet from a platform above, a climber cut the ribbon on the “finest ropes course in the Mid-Atlantic.”
Located at Upton Hill Regional Park on Wilson Blvd in Arlington, Climb UPton was formally opened this morning at a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by local officials as well as those from the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority which operates the course.
“We gather to celebrate this magnificent cutting edge recreational ropes course… and one of the finest examples of regional and local collaboration,” said Cate Magennis Wyatt, chair of NOVA Parks board. “This is the finest ropes course in the Mid-Atlantic. That’s what you have given back to the citizens.”
Officials are touting this ropes course as the biggest and best in the area. With 90 elements and reaching nearly 40 feet high, the course is intended for beginners and those more advanced alike. It features three zip lines, a 40-foot controlled freefall, tunnels, an Everest ladder, and an observation deck.
The course also has a “parks theme,” hence the suspended picnic table that climbers can ostensibly sit and eat lunch at.
The course actually has been open for climbers since July, but the admissions building wasn’t finished until now due to “supply chain issues,” NOVA Parks Executive Director Paul Gilbert told ARLnow.
There’s also a new playground at the bottom of the hill, parking improvements (including ADA-accessible parking on Wilson Blvd), more walking trails, a large underground cistern to capture stormwater as well as soon-to-be opened bathrooms and a picnic shelter next to the playground. The renovations were paid for with revenue bonds from the Virginia Resources Authority.
These additions join slow and fast pitch batting cages, Ocean Dunes Waterpark (which is currently closed for the season), and a 18-hole mini-golf course already at Upton Hill Regional Park.
A big reason that some residents and conservationists initially disapproved of the project was the plan to cut down more than a hundred trees to make room for the ropes course and parking lot improvements. Not only were some of those trees saved, but a new native hickory and oak forest was planted in the park, officials said.
“We brought in the right trees, the right shrubs, the right grasses to create the ultimate succession of forest to kind of jumpstart [the growth process],” Gilbert told ARLnow. “We don’t have to wait a hundred years for it to get there. We can grow it from the ground up.”
Chris Tighe, president of the Boulevard Manor Civic Association during much of the project’s development, said in remarks that this was a “testament” of how government, non-profits, and the community can come together to build something that works for all.
On Saturday, the Arlington County Board is slated to award a contract to construct a playground in Rosslyn.
Construction on the Rosslyn Highlands Park Playground will begin when construction on the new Queens Court Residences affordable housing development (1801 N. Quinn Street) nears completion, in early 2021, according to the project page. The playground could open near the end of 2021.
The playground and the new Rosslyn Highlands Park are part of a flurry of construction activity in western Rosslyn, including the Queens Court redevelopment, the massive Highlands residential project (which will include a new fire station), and the new H-B Woodlawn school building, known as The Heights.
A concept for the 9,000 square-foot playground at 1615 18th Street N. was approved by the County Board last year. Bids were submitted in October 2020, and county staff recommend awarding the contract to the Donohoe Companies, one of 11 bidders.
The overall budget for this project is $1.56 million. Donahoe bid $1.33 million to build the project, the county is tacking on $133,000 in contingency, and the Queens Court developer — the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing — is chipping in $125,000.
“The new playground will include separate play areas with age-appropriate play equipment for pre-school and grade-school age children as well as extensive seating, native planting and bioretention stormwater management planters,” the report said. In addition to standard playground equipment, there will be a prominent climbing tower in the center.
After additional community engagement in 2018, more swings and seating were added to the plan.
The 9,000-square foot playground will be located within the Queens Court property. The 12-story apartment building, with 249 committed affordable housing units, was approved in February 2017.
Rosslyn Highlands Park Playground is part of the Rosslyn Highlands Park+ open space plan, which the County Board adopted in September of 2016.
Good news for kids and parents: two weeks after dog parks and tennis courts reopened, playgrounds and outdoor public restrooms are opening up today.
Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation made the announcement Thursday afternoon, amid the slowing rate of new COVID-19 infections. In addition to the reopening of playgrounds and restrooms, athletic field and court lights will be turned back on and organized sports allowed in parks.
Park users are asked to continue adhering to social distancing guidelines, and anyone with flu-like symptoms or recent contact with a known COVID-19 case is asked to refrain from using park amenities.
More from the parks department:
Effective Fri., June 26, Arlington County will reopen playgrounds and outdoor restrooms, including playgrounds located at Arlington Public Schools. Athletic field and court lighting will return to regular schedules. Park users must continue to social distance and comply with and follow the appropriate usage guidelines. Here is a list of open park amenities and their usage guidelines:
- Athletic fields (with restrictions)
- Basketball courts
- Batting cages
- Bocce courts
- Community gardens
- Disc golf course
- Dog parks
- Pickleball courts
- Picnic shelters (with restrictions)
- Skate park
- Tennis courts
- Volleyball courts
Organized and drop-in games are allowed on athletic fields. Continue to practice social distancing when possible. Avoid physical contact during sports or fitness activities.
Access to various amenities, such as courts and shelters continue to be first-come, first-served at this time.
Do not use any Arlington County park amenity, if you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
Park visitors are asked to adhere to the physical distancing and small group guidelines – keep at least six feet of distance from others and groups should not exceed 50 people. Wearing a cloth face covering is encouraged.
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.
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.
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.
Due to evidence of COVID-19 community spread in our region, all playgrounds & play facilities in City of Falls Church Parks are now temporarily closed (as of 3/20 3PM) until further notice. The parks themselves will remain open at this time. Full details: https://t.co/aK6TDOpubJ pic.twitter.com/sql9lRCGBV
— City of Falls Church (@FallsChurchGov) March 20, 2020
We're suspending the Falls Church Farmers Market for this Saturday, March 21 as we're awaiting further guidance from the Commonwealth regarding mass gatherings and food sources. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/wHuB67jgYy
— City of Falls Church (@FallsChurchGov) March 19, 2020
On Saturday, Feb. 22, the County Board is scheduled to vote on funding the project. The total proposed allocation is $904,383, with $82,216 set aside as a contingency.
“The overall project focused on five elements: playground equipment and safety surfacing, paving and access improvements, circulation and accessibility, reforestation and landscaping, fencing and site furnishings,” staff said in a report.
A map of planned improvements shows a new swing set and playground at the center of the tiny park, with a seating area to the west and a toddler play area separated from the main playground.
The far east end of the park, past a grassy open area, is planned for reforestation.
The plans for the park were endorsed by the Arlington Forest Civic Association last April.
Images via Arlington County, Google Maps
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
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.
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.
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