“It’s going to be the biggest and the best in the mid-Atlantic region,” said Paul Gilbert, the executive director of NOVA Parks, of the new ropes course. NOVA Parks runs Upton Hill, which is located at 6060 Wilson Blvd near Seven Corners.
Climb UPton will have 90 different elements on three different levels, including zip lines and a 50-foot drop. It will be open to those who are 49 inches or taller.
Construction on the course is largely complete but work, subject to changing weather, continues on an administrative building, Gilbert said. Once more work is complete, NOVA Parks will set a user fee and pick an opening date, which the executive director expects will be in mid- to late- June.
As for COVID-19 safety, Gilbert said social distancing is built into the course and equipment will be sanitized between uses.
“The outdoors is your biggest safety feature,” he said.
This new facility will open as NOVA Parks expects an increase in visitors to all its facilities this summer. Gilbert said he expects pools and waterparks — all of which will open Memorial Day — to drive the increase, as they were closed last summer.
“This summer, people are going to be interested in returning to normalcy,” said Gilbert, who is also George Mason University’s Executive-in-Residence for the College of Education and Human Development’s Recreation Management Program.
Adhering to Virginia guidelines for aquatic facilities, Upton Hill’s pool will operate at 75% capacity, and an annual pass will not guarantee admission if capacity has already been reached, according to the park’s Facebook page.
The organization is currently not selling new annual passes due to these restrictions.
“NOVA Parks will continue to evaluate this situation throughout the summer,” according to a Facebook post.
NOVA Parks is continuing to hire new summer staff for all its facilities to meet the surge in visitors, as capacity restrictions are set to perhaps end by June 15, Gilbert said.
But even with the restrictions, reopening the pools and waterparks could be a boon for the regional parks authority, which took an estimated $5 million hit in user fees in part because aquatic facilities were closed, according to its current budget.
Normally, 300,000 people visit one of NOVA Parks’ five waterparks each year, Gilbert said.
“Over the pandemic, people were already exploring the outdoors in new ways, because so many other things weren’t available,” Gilbert said. “We saw unprecedented use of hiking and biking trails. Now that people have discovered or rediscovered how fun the outdoors can be, I anticipate they will continue to gravitate to parks.”
Trail use increased by four to five times, he said. People also gravitated toward another activity that had been declining in popularity over the years: golf, which is up 30% from pre-pandemic times, he said.
NOVA Parks also leaned on other activities with social distancing potential, such as shooting, boating and swinging baseball bats.
“I think all of those trends are going to continue for some time,” Gilbert said. “People have been reintroduced to outdoor recreation.”
Photo courtesy NOVA Parks
The Macedonia Baptist Church in Green Valley is asking for a three-year extension on its plan to build a new community swimming pool.
The church at 3412 22nd Street S. owns a property across the street that currently includes a two-story preschool and an out-of-commission swimming pool and bath house. The aquatic facilities “were constructed in the 1960s, to serve a Y.M.C.A; however, the pool has been out of use since the late 2000s,” a county staff report notes.
In 2018 the church sought and received approval for a plan to build a new community pool at the site, to include a dome for all-season use. However, it’s still working to secure the funds for the project, and the window for starting construction is closing.
The Arlington County Board this weekend is expected consider a proposal to extend the window for three years, through October 31, 2023. County staff is recommending approval.
More from the staff report:
The applicant (Macedonia Baptist Church) requests a three (3) year extension of two (2) use permits: one (1) for a new community swimming pool, located at 3440 22nd St. S.; and one (1) to allow shared parking on its church parking lot, at 3412 22nd St. S. In October 2019, the County Board approved a one (1) year term extension for each subject use permit. However, neither use has commenced construction or operation since initial approval in October 2018, and the applicant requests additional time to acquire financing for the project. Pursuant to the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance (ACZO) §15.4.5, construction or operation of a use permit shall be commenced within one (1) year of the date of issuance or the use permit becomes void. However, the County Board may extend the period of validity for up to three (3) years upon its determination that additional time may be needed to commence construction or operation. Staff supports the applicant’s amendment request to extend the period of validity to 2023, given the economic challenges presented by the COVID-19 emergency, the County’s recent efforts to revitalize community swimming pool zoning standards, and the applicant’s agreement to the previously approved, mitigating conditions.
The indoor public pools at Washington-Liberty and Yorktown high schools reopened on Saturday.
Arlington Public Schools announced Friday afternoon that the pools would be reopening under the state’s Phase 3 guidelines. The Wakefield High School pool “will remain closed for a few more weeks” due to major maintenance work, APS said.
Those who want to use the pools are required to make a reservation for a 45-minute window.
More from an APS email to parents:
The two pools will open under the Virginia Forward Phase III guidelines, which include diminished capacity, physical distancing of 10 feet and the requirement of a health and temperature screening for all staff and patrons. We have posted many of the details on our website and will continue to do so over the next 24 hours. Use this link to learn more and stay informed.
Patrons will need to purchase admission and make a reservation for a 45-min swim or water exercise/jog session. You will need to set up an account on our Self-Service Portal. You will receive a separate email this evening inviting you to join the APS Aquatics Self-Service Portal. Follow the instructions on the email to set up your account. […]
The reservations will open at 8 a.m. on the previous day (On Friday at 8 a.m. you will be able to register for Saturday sessions). They will first go live tomorrow morning. Instruction on registering are available at Making a Reservation. This section also includes information about what to expect when you get to the pool, while you swim and after you are done. Patrons will be checked in, directed to the locker rooms to shower before swimming and out to the deck to a designated Blue or Red lanes. After you swim, you may choose to exit directly off the deck or enter the Unisex Room to change out of your swimming gear and shower. If you have any questions or need assistance navigating the portal or the registration page, please call 703-228-6264 or 703-228-6263. […]
Regretfully, The Wakefield pool will remain closed for a few more weeks. APS is performing major maintenance in the entire building ahead of the start of the school year. We recognize this is disappointing to our Wakefield patrons, but it is imperative that this work be completed. We anticipate opening around August 24. […]
The APS Aquatics team is excited to be back at the pools and ready to welcome you back. Staff will be learning how to navigate this new way of serving you and the success of our re-opening depends greatly on your willingness to follow the guidelines and on your patience. Our primary concern remains your safety both in the water and in the building.
We very much look forward to seeing you on Saturday at Washington-Liberty and Yorktown Pools. It has been a long 4-months on dry land.
Arlington County does not have outdoor public pools, but is home to several private swim clubs. The county government itself does not currently operate any public pools, but that will change when the Long Bridge Park Aquatics and Fitness Center opens. The opening of the aquatics center, however, has been delayed at least a year due to the pandemic and budget issues.
Demolition Starts at HQ2 Site — “Roughly a dozen demolition workers from construction firm ACECO were on site in yellow vests and hard hats, along with a couple of excavators, one of which sat on a mound of bricks as it tore down the southeast side of the single-story building.” [Washington Business Journal]
Apartments are Hot Near HQ2 — “The development patterns that are taking place in Crystal City make it a more live-work-play area versus being an office-dominated submarket that has an underground mall… That area is evolving with new product coming online and Amazon making its presence in the region. All of those things have helped generate demand for multifamily housing.” [Bisnow]
New Pool House for Army Navy CC — “Arlington County Board members on Jan. 25 are expected to approve procedural matters that will pave the way for Army Navy Country Club to renovate its swimming areas and construct a new poolhouse.” [InsideNova]
Arlington Eateries Absent from Top 20 List — The new 2020 Washingtonian 100 Very Best Restaurants list does not include any Arlington spots in the top 20. [Washingtonian]
County Pitches in to Route 7 BRT Study — “The Arlington government will toss in just under $40,000 in support of the next phase of a plan to develop high-quality bus service in the Route 7 corridor. Arlington will allocate $39,200 as its share in covering the $560,000 cost of a ‘mobility analysis,’ the fourth phase of the study.” [InsideNova]
Four Mile Run Biz Celebrates 25th — Family-owned car repair business Auto Stop Arlington is celebrating its 25th anniversary this weekend with an event that will include a food truck, beer and wine tastings, and kids activities. [Facebook]
RIP Jim Lehrer — The longtime host of the PBS Newshour, which is produced in the Shirlington area, has died at the age of 85. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Arlington Wins State Safety Award — “The Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) and Department of Environmental Services (DES) were awarded the 2019 Governor’s Transportation Safety Award in the category of Pedestrian/Bicycle Safety at the 2019 Virginia Highway Safety Summit.” [Arlington County]
Ducks Close Fairlington Pool — “Due to a family of ducks ‘living’ in pool 2 (safely re-located) earlier today, the pool will be closed until Premier Aquatics balances the chemicals to meet Arlington County Health department code.” [Twitter]
Translation Added to County Website — “The County website — arlingtonva.us — now includes a built-in language translation tool that web visitors can use to more easily translate online content into more than 100 different languages.” [Arlington County]
More Candidate Endorsements — Greater Greater Washington has endorsed Del. Alfonso Lopez and state Senate candidate Nicole Merlene. The Sun Gazette, meanwhile, has endorsed incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos. [Greater Greater Washington, Sun Gazette]
Nearby: Electric Scooter Bursts into Flames — “A Skip e-scooter burst into flames near Franklin Square in downtown Washington on Thursday morning… The cause of the fire is not clear, though it appears to have started around the battery pack while the scooter was parked.” [Washington Post]
Though the opening of the ever-controversial Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center is still a ways off, county officials are gearing up to hire two new staffers set to work at the facility.
County Manager Mark Schwartz set aside $110,000 for the newly created positions as part of his proposed budget for fiscal year 2020. He forwarded along his first draft of the new spending plan to the County Board late last week.
Schwartz is recommending that the Board act now to start the recruitment and hiring process for a general manager and a maintenance technician for the facility, currently expected to open sometime in “early 2021.”
“Hiring these two positions prior to the facility opening will allow the Department of Parks and Recreation to develop standard operating procedures; ensure mastery of all building systems, including specialized aquatics equipment; procure inventory; and develop staff training plans,” Schwartz wrote in a message attached to the budget proposal.
The manager expects that the county will be able to afford the new hires largely through some staff reductions elsewhere across the department. In all, Schwartz is recommending $5.2 million in cuts in his budget, affecting 29 full-time positions and one-part time position across the county government. He’s also proposing a tax hike to meet some of the county’s growing expenses, though the Board opted to explore an even larger tax increase than he originally recommended.
Construction has continued apace on the $60 million Long Bridge project ever since it finally broke ground last summer, following years of debate over its scope and cost. Schwartz added in his budget proposal that he “remains committed” to somehow striking a naming rights deal for the facility to defray some of its costs — the Board decided last year to hire a marketing firm to help the county search for potential sponsors.
“As the project moves closer to completion, we remain optimistic that our efforts will be successful,” Schwartz wrote.
County officials also expect to finalize a fee structure for anyone hoping to use the facility’s pools and gym as part of the upcoming budget process. A working group on the subject recently wrapped up its deliberations and will deliver a proposal with potential fees to the Board in the coming weeks.
According to a Jan. 31 presentation from the group, daily passes for county residents would range from $9 for adults to $5 for children. An annual pass for adults would cost $630 and $350 for kids.
Non-residents would pay a 25 percent premium on daily passes and a 30 percent premium on all other passes, under the working group’s proposal.
Arlington officials are getting ready to spend nearly $410,000 for the installation of video boards at the Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center, a pricy project that has drawn plenty of criticism over the years.
The County Board is set to approve a contract with a construction company this weekend, after staff submitted a report arguing that only a firm with “specialized knowledge” will be able to handle the installation of the center’s audiovisual systems. The county’s main contractor kicked off work on the building this summer, though workers have mainly been occupied with clearing the site at 475 Long Bridge Drive since then.
In all, the contract calls for the erection of an “LED video board” in the center’s main “natatorium,” complete with an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Staff wrote in the Board report that the work will also include “fixed video cameras, associated broadcasting equipment, ceiling mounted speakers, and other associated hardware and software” in order to allow for the “live streaming of swimming and diving events.”
“The facility will also include speaker systems in the leisure/family pool, that will interact with wireless microphones, as well as in exercise spaces in the facility,” staff wrote. “The package also includes central paging, to ensure all areas of the building can be reached in an emergency.”
The Long Bridge project has long been the subject of intense scrutiny, after creeping costs convinced county leaders to repeatedly delay its construction. Former County Board member John Vihstadt was no fan of the project either, railing against its expense during his successful bids for office in 2014. Vihstadt and other skeptics around the county argued that Arlington had more pressing budget needs than a new pool, and that the project had become full of excesses.
But the Board signed off on a scaled down, $60 million version of the project over Vihstadt’s objections in 2017. However, there were few mentions of the audiovisual system set to be installed as part of this work during debates over the matter.
The Board is currently set to draw the $410,000 for the A/V installation from a $10.7 million fund the county set aside for the project’s “soft costs,” on top of the original $60 million sum designated for the center’s construction. Board members are set to approve the new contract at its meeting Saturday (Jan. 26).
When the project is finished, likely sometime in 2021, the center is also set to include room for diving at a variety of heights, and a family pool, complete with elements including a lazy river, splash pad for tots, basketball, volleyball, lap lanes and a water slide. The project also includes a new fitness center, billed as the largest one operated by the county, and an expansion of the adjacent park and its walkways.
A working group convened to hash out potential fees for the center’s users is also set to meet next Thursday (Jan. 31), as the county solicits feedback on what services residents want to see at Long Bridge.
Marine Corps Marathon Recap — A D.C. man and a Costa Rican woman were the winners of the 43rd annual Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday. Meanwhile, the last “Groundpounder,” who had run every Marine Corps Marathon since its inception in 1976, announced his retirement on Saturday after deciding to withdraw from this year’s race. [RunWashington, Stars and Stripes, WTOP]
Arlington Gets Addiction Treatment Grant — “Arlington County has been awarded $250,000 from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst) to help people with substance use disorders. The grant is part of the insurer’s nearly $2.1-million investment in community health organizations working to combat substance use disorders, including opioid use disorders.” [Arlington County]
Parking Concerns For Nauck Pool — “Nauck Civic Association president Portia Clark, whose organization supports” a planned pool in Nauck, “pressed county officials to make sure the neighborhood had a say on issues related to its development, including operating hours and parking. ‘Our community has some parking challenges,’ Clark said. ‘The community should be involved.'” [InsideNova]
‘Signs of Fatigue’ For Real Estate Market — “There was a pronounced drop in the number of homes for sale in Northern Virginia in September, and prices may be showing signs of topping out… The number of sales across the Northern Virginia region almost universally fell in September, with sales in Arlington County down 12 percent from a year ago.” [WTOP]
With work kicking off on the long-awaited, hotly debated Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center, Arlington officials are looking for some feedback on what programs and services they should offer at the new facility.
After years of wrangling over the exact design and cost of the facility, county leaders expect the $60 million project will include a 50-meter pool, room for diving at a variety of heights, and a family pool, complete with elements including “a lazy river, splash pad for tots, basketball, volleyball, lap lanes and a water slide.” The project will also include a new fitness center, billed as the largest one operated by the county, and an expansion of the adjacent park and its walkways.
However, a working group is still trying to get a sense for how Arlingtonians expect to use the space, and what programs staffers should offer at the facility. The county even released a new survey this week to help inform that group’s work.
Its areas of focus include questions on what days of the week and times of day residents envision attending the aquatics center, and queries about what sort of membership options the county should offer for people looking to use the center on a regular basis.
The survey also asks respondents for their opinions on what sort of equipment the county should offer in its fitness center — with options ranging from free weights to cardio machines — and what classes it should convene at both the pool and fitness center. Potential classes could focus on Crossfit, yoga, martial arts, scuba diving, lifeguard certification and a host of other areas.
The questionnaire also includes space for people to weigh in on exactly which features they want to see at the family-focused “leisure pool,” and seeks to gauge interest on aquatic activities like diving and water polo.
The working group is set to deliver its recommendations to the County Board by spring 2019. The county held a formal groundbreaking ceremony for the project back in July, and workers are currently in the process of clearing the site. The county hopes to open the center by 2021.
A Nauck church now has the green light to redevelop a former YMCA center into a new community pool, after Arlington officials signed off on a host of new zoning changes designed to make the construction of such pool projects a bit less onerous.
In back-to-back unanimous votes yesterday (Tuesday), the County Board approved the pool zoning tweaks, then used those new rules to give Macedonia Baptist Church the go-ahead to build the new pool at 3440 22nd Street S.
The site has been home to a pool and bathhouse since the 1960s, but the YMCA’s closure back in the mid-2000s left the building empty. Yet, when Macedonia sought to redevelop the site into a new “family life center,” the church ran into some zoning restrictions that could’ve made the whole project impossible to complete.
The Board was unwilling to completely re-write its zoning rules, but it would agree to make community pool projects (which are backed by nonprofit groups and not limited to a specific neighborhood) eligible for “use permits” in order to give the Board discretion to review the projects on a case-by-case basis, rather than subjecting every pool to the same standards.
That mean that the Board could sign off on Macedonia project under the newly approved zoning ordinance, even though it would’ve previously run afoul of rules requiring larger setbacks from the neighborhood’s streets. Board member John Vihstadt even dubbed the twin votes “a double win” for the community, and the county.
“We are demonstrating some nimbleness and alacrity in making a needed change that responds to new trends,” Vihstadt said. “This is so important, not just for the youth and individuals in the Nauck community… but also for entire Nauck neighborhood.”
The Macedonia project will include a seven-lane pool, a “seasonal dome” to allow year-round swimming and an auxiliary community center to sit alongside the existing Funshine Preschool. The church also anticipates allowing the Arlington Water Polo Club to use the facility for practice and training, though church representatives stressed that the pool will be open to anyone.
“Years ago, when the pool was there, it was beneficial to children and adults as well,” Macedonia congregant Laverne Langhorne told the Board. “We really do miss the pool.”
But beyond the importance of the Macedonia project on the micro level, Board members said they view the changes as an important step for the whole county.
The county currently has only five other community pools, and with zoning rules last revised in the 1950s, Board member Erik Gutshall said it was reasonable to assume that the old regulations meant “we really were never going to get another pool again.”
“This is the recognition by the Board that large parts of the county are no longer suburban,” Gutshall said. “We had a suburban style zoning ordinance… and while there are still parts of the county that are more suburban than others, what we’re doing now is untying our hands. We won’t just look at this with a suburban zoning code again.”
Photo via Arlington County
(Updated at 12:25 p.m.) Summer may be fading in the rearview mirror, but there are still plenty of public pools open for anyone looking to hit the water around Arlington.
The county doesn’t operate any indoor pools on its own — something that will change when the Long Bridge Park aquatics center opens a few years from now — but three pools in Arlington high schools are open for public use.
Washington-Lee, Wakefield and Yorktown high schools all have pools open to swimmers of all ages. Anyone interested in swimming can buy a pass for a single session, or purchase monthly passes. Full information is available on the school system’s website.
Those pools are open seven days a week, though each one has slightly different hours of operation. (The 2018-2019 schedule is pictured here.)
As for the county’s private, community pools, all five of those have closed for the season. In case you’re already dreaming of next summer, those include:
- Arlington Forest Club
- Columbus Club of Arlington
- Dominion Hills Area Recreation Association
- Donaldson Run Recreation Association
- Overlee Community Association
File photo (top)