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Biking, Boating Changes Approved for Theodore Roosevelt Island

(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) Parks officials have signed off on some big changes at Theodore Roosevelt Island, including the rehabilitation of a troublesome section of the Mt. Vernon Trail and the addition of several new landing spots for small boats and kayaks.

The National Park Service announced yesterday (Monday) that it will move ahead with a variety of construction projects on the island, located off the George Washington Memorial Parkway near Rosslyn, after settling on some final designs and certifying they’ll have minimal environmental impacts on the island.

Some of the changes will be relatively small, like the addition of some new signs and markers detailing Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy — the island is home to the lone memorial to the nation’s 26th president in D.C. Others will be more substantial, such as the total overhaul and realignment of a boardwalk-style bridge on the Mt. Vernon Trail, which runs from underneath the Roosevelt Bridge to just south of the island’s parking lot.

The park service’s plans call for a “replacement of the bridge deck and railing to provide a smoother riding surface.” That will likely come as good news to area cyclists, who have nicknamed it “the Trollheim Bridge” for its treacherous surface — TheWashCycle blog described it as a the “notoriously slippery part of the Mt. Vernon trail that has caused literally thousands of crashes” in a post last year.

The main, 1,400-foot-section of the bridge also meets an additional 90-foot section toward its north end, creating an awkward “T” intersection for cyclists. The realignment work will eliminate that intersection, creating a new left turn lane as well.

Other walking trails on the island will see some improvements under the plans as well. The NPS is hoping to improve connections between the pedestrian bridge and the island’s Memorial Plaza and create “universal access to the entire Swamp Trail, including access to the comfort station.” That small rest stop is also set to see a refresh under these plans.

The NPS is also hoping to add a total of four landings for canoes, kayaks and row boats on the island. Each one will be about 12 feet wide, and provide “access for approximately 4-5 kayaks/canoes,” according to the park service’s documents. The plans also call for the construction of a roughly 100-foot-long “floating dock” for larger craft, to be located at the island’s northeast corner, once the home of a ferry landing.

The park service noted in an environmental analysis of these proposed changes that, currently, “boaters and kayakers anchor or beach their non-motorized watercraft on unmarked areas along the shoreline.” Officials fear that the “practice impacts natural and archeological resources and has the potential to expose boaters and kayakers to underwater hazards in shoreline areas,” reasoning that the new landings should alleviate that issue. The area could also be in line to see increased boating activity, should the NPS’ plans to build the long-anticipated Rosslyn boathouse continue to advance.

Additionally, the park service wants to add some more vegetation and trees to the largely wooded island. Some new shrubs will be designed to cover up existing “social” bike trails on the island’s north shore line; other tree plantings will replace the roughly 200 ash trees the NPS had to remove last summer due to an “emerald ash borer infestation.”

The NPS says it’s still searching for funding for the entire range of projects on the island, but some will move ahead in the near term. The Mt. Vernon Trail bridge improvements, for instance, are currently out for bid by federal officials and could be completed by sometime in 2020.

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Morning Notes

Crystal City Business Owners Ready for Facelift — “[Crystal City’s] reputation is sufficiently anemic that Amazon announced it is rebranding the area where it will build its hub ‘National Landing,’ a change that aroused next to no protests from most local proprietors. ‘Whatever Jeff Bezos wants is fine with me,’ said Billy Bayne, owner of the Crystal City Restaurant Gentlemen’s Club, referring to Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos, who owns The Washington Post. ‘I’m just happy he’s here.'” [Washington Post, Greater Greater Washington]

Calls for More Housing — The arrival of Amazon has prompted some urbanists to start calling for upzoning and the creation of more housing density, including in wealthier neighborhoods. [Twitter, Twitter]

More on New VT Campus in Alexandria — “When fully realized, the $1 billion Innovation Campus, which includes state support, will spark discoveries and help fill immense demand for high-tech talent in the greater Washington, D.C., area and beyond. The Commonwealth of Virginia and Virginia Tech have committed to provide $250 million each to seed the project.” [Virginia Tech]

Get Ready for Snow — Arlington is expected to get its first snowfall of the season Thursday, with up to an inch of snow and sleet falling Thursday morning before changing to rain. Forecasters, meanwhile, are calling for a snowier than usual winter, with up to two feet of snow falling inside the Beltway over the course of the season. [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]

‘Doug the Scammer’ is Now in Arlington — A notorious scammer has apparently crossed the river from D.C. and is now trying to scam people in Arlington. His latest targets: restaurants in Courthouse. [PoPville]

Suicide on Roosevelt Island — The brother of a D.C. man arrested on weapons charges and accused of saying that “the 11 victims of the Pittsburgh shooting ‘deserved it'” shot himself on Roosevelt Island on Saturday, Oct. 27, hours after the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue. [Washington Post]

What Amazon Employees Are Reading — Amazon employees are very interested in reading ARLnow articles about Amazon, but the most-read story on the site among Amazon workers over the past week is about the opening of Bethesda Bagels in Rosslyn. [Twitter]

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DEVELOPING: Courthouse Truck Crash Leads to Fuel Spill

A delivery truck crash in Courthouse led to a small fuel spill affecting county waterways as far away as Roosevelt Island.

The accident happened around noon today along the 2100 block of 14th Street N., according to the county fire department. No one was hurt in the crash.

The crash caused some fuel to spill out of the truck, and though county firefighters initially believed none of it made into the sewer system, crews have since been dispatched to Roosevelt Island to try and contain it.

Workers there detected “fuel odor and minor fuel sheen” and are currently working with other first responders to keep the fuel out of the water there.

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JUST IN: Park Service Selects Location Near Rosslyn as Preferred Site for Boathouse

A decades-long effort to build a boathouse along the banks of the Potomac River is lurching forward once more.

Officials with the National Park Service have wrapped up an environmental analysis of the project and settled on a preferred alternative near Rosslyn for its construction, in the latest bit of forward momentum for an initiative that has long bedeviled county leaders.

Local high schoolers have been particularly keen on seeing a new boathouse come to the fruition, as the closest access points for rowing teams have long been in Georgetown or Alexandria, but the project’s complexity has repeatedly stalled it.

NPS took control of Arlington’s portion of the Potomac shoreline after the construction of the GW Parkway, and the federal agency has spent years working off-and-on with the county to find a way to give local rowers easier access to the river. Arlington officials helped jump-start the process in 2014 by buying a parcel of land along Lee Highway just south of the Key Bridge, giving the NPS some added flexibility as it evaluated several options where the boathouse could be built.

Now, the agency is recommending a design that would involve building a 300-foot-long floating dock and 14,000 square feet of boat storage along the Potomac’s shoreline near Rosslyn, just across from Theodore Roosevelt Island. The plan also calls for building a support facility on the county-owned Lee Highway site with office space, locker rooms and handicapped parking.

NPS also evaluated plans to build the boathouse on the same site near the island without the support building, as well as an option that would involve building the boathouse on Gravelly Point near Reagan National Airport instead.

Yet the agency settled on its preferred alternative because the additional space off Lee Highway “allows for development of a smaller boat storage structure while providing additional support facilities outside the floodplain, off NPS property, and close to transit,” officials wrote in the environmental analysis.

They also noted that the Potomac is a bit calmer near the Rosslyn location, earning it higher marks than Gravelly Point. The close proximity of the Rosslyn Metro station and several local bus stops, in addition to the Custis bike trail, also won the option some praise.

While the agency found that any construction would have some limited impacts on the area’s wetlands and soil, it broadly didn’t foresee many stumbling blocks for the project to move forward. Nevertheless, any construction will require both federal and state permits to advance, and the county will need to work with federal officials to find funding for the effort.

In the meantime, however, NPS is accepting comments on the environmental analysis through July 30 on its website. The agency also plans to hold a July 12 open house at Washington-Lee High School on the project, starting at 6 p.m.

Hat tip to Chris Slatt

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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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Morning Notes

Roosevelt Island, Gravelly Point to Get Bikeshare — The County Board approved a deal with the National Park Service to allow Capital Bikeshare stations on Theodore Roosevelt Island and at Gravelly Point. Although the stations are on NPS land, the county will install and maintain them. [Arlington County]

Arlington, Falls Church Men Arrested in Drug Bust — Williamsburg police arrested 10 people at the College of William & Mary — including one student from Arlington, two from Falls Church and a professor — during a large drug bust during which they confiscated LSD, cocaine, mushrooms, opioids, amphetamines, steroids, hashish, marijuana and $14,000 in cash. Police launched a months-long investigation when they heard that increased drug use was causing unreported sexual assaults. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

Tree Canopy Dispute Grows — Environmental activists have intensified their cries about the county providing misleading information on the size of Arlington’s tree canopy. Activists confronted County Board members at their Saturday meeting, armed with claims of “alternative facts” and a “war on science.”  [Inside NoVa]

Outstanding Park Volunteers Honored — The County Board gave awards to Joanne Hutton, John Foti and Friends of Aurora Highlands Park for their efforts to support county parks and natural resources. The honorees have led service projects, helped to expand field use and promoted public open spaces. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Capital Bikeshare May Come To Roosevelt Island, Gravelly Point

Arlington may get two new Capital Bikeshare stations, at Roosevelt Island and Gravelly Point.

The County Board is set to approve a “memorandum of understanding” with the National Park Service, which has to approve the bikeshare stations since they would be located on NPS land.

The approval would further the goal of an expansion of the bikeshare network along the Mt. Vernon Trail.

Responsibility for the installation and maintenance of the bikeshare facilities on NPS land would fall on the county, according to the memorandum. It also restricts any advertisements on the stations, and sets requirements for site preservation and, should the stations be removed in the future, restoration.

The office of the County Manager has recommended that the memorandum be approved at Saturday’s County Board meeting (April 21).

Currently there are about 440 stations and 3,700 Capital Bikeshare bikes in the region. As of 2017, 85 Bikeshare stations were in Arlington.

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Morning Notes

Two Arlington Men Finish in MCM Top 3 — Arlington residents Desta Morkama and Kieran O’Connor finished first and third, respectively, in the 42nd Marine Corps Marathon yesterday. Al Richmond, the last remaining “Groundpounder” who has run every MCM since it started, kept his streak alive with a 6:48.35 finish. The race, which begins and ends in Arlington, had its start delayed by 10 minutes due to a suspicious package investigation. [RunWashington, Washington Post, NBC Washington]

No Major Incidents at MCM — Other than the short starting delay, no major incidents were reported at this year’s Marine Corps Marathon. Within the county, Arlington law enforcement and the fire department maintained a heavy presence along the course, along with Virginia State Police and other agencies. Arlington school buses were parked at key intersections to prevent anyone from driving onto the course. [Twitter, Facebook, Twitter]

Pedestrian Killed on Memorial Bridge — The Arlington Memorial Bridge was closed for more than three hours Saturday morning after a 47-year-old man was struck and killed by a car on the bridge. The driver remained on scene. Police are seeking additional information about the crash from witnesses. [NBC Washington]

Board Approves Library Renovation Project — Arlington Central Library will be getting $1.7 million in renovations, thanks in large part to a private donation. The Arlington County Board approved the project at its Saturday meeting. Per a press release, the plans include “new meeting rooms, an updated ‘tech-central’ area and a multi-purpose maker lab, a community-based space where people can share knowledge and tools to create together.” [Arlington County]

Roosevelt Memorial Anniversary Event — The National Park Service is holding a family-friendly event on Sunday, Oct. 29 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial on Roosevelt Island. The event will feature food including fried chicken and Indian pudding; an address from the former president’s great-grandson, Tweed Roosevelt; a Teddy Roosevelt re-enactor; and a “Teddy Bear story time.” Shuttles will be available from the Pentagon parking lot. [InsideNova]

Library to Launch New Digital Collection — “Arlington Public Library will launch a new digital collection of Arlington women and their achievements in March 2018. The Center for Local History’s (CLH) Community Archives contains many collections pertaining to women’s history and consequently the history of Arlington County.” [Arlington County]

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National Park Service Considering Improvements to Roosevelt Island

The National Park Service is studying several improvements to Roosevelt Island, including a proposal to combat the invasive emerald ash borer that killed trees at the site earlier this year.

Among a number of issues being examined by NPS for the island, located off the George Washington Memorial Parkway near Rosslyn, is a plan for the future of the hundreds of ash trees.

NPS closed the island in June to remove diseased trees after the ash borer came through, and is now considering if the trees should be replaced with more ash trees or another species.

“As a result of [the ash borer], one of the things we’re going to be looking at is what do we do after the borer has come through, and those ash trees have either died off or been removed,” said Simone Monteleone, chief of resource management at the GW Parkway, in a talk on Facebook Live Monday morning. “Do we replant? What type of species do we go back with?”

To help the Park Service decide how to make improvements while preserving the history of the island, which has been occupied in some form since the 17th century, it is in the early stages of producing a Cultural Landscape Report and Environmental Assessment.

Monteleone said both documents will help NPS balance the need to respect the island’s history with any improvements that are made. She added that rehabilitating what is already there will help do that.

“Rehabilitation gives us both the flexibility to preserve those historic features and make compatible uses possible for enhancement of visitor experiences,” she said.

Other improvements proposed by NPS include:

  • Rehabilitating the bridge to the island
  • Improving bridge safety to reduce conflicts between pedestrians and bicyclists
  • Restarting water access to the island for kayaks, paddleboards and other water transport without an engine
  • Making the island’s comfort stations usable year-round
  • Building another comfort station off the island by the trail

NPS will host another Facebook Live presentation on the project at 1 p.m. today (August 14), and the talk will then be archived on its page for viewing afterwards.

The Park Service is taking public comment on the plans until September 8. The project is expected to be completed in February 2018.

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Morning Notes

‘Meeting Bowls’ Coming to Courthouse — A new, temporary public art installation is coming to Courthouse. Workers will be building 5-foot high “meeting bowls,” designed by the Spanish art collective “mmmm….,” and featuring an 8-foot long circular bench inside. The bowls, which are meant to be used by passersby, are expected to be completed by Monday, July 17 and will remain in place until November. [Washingtonian]

Roosevelt Island Back Open — Roosevelt Island is open again after being temporarily closed by the National Park Service for the removal of diseased trees. [DCist]

Pentagon City Residents Peeved by Shopping Carts — Legions of stray shopping carts are getting on the nerves of Pentagon City residents, NBC 4’s Julie Carey reported during a news broadcast last night. [NBC Washington, Twitter]

Scholarships Awarded to Wakefield Students — “The Wakefield High School Education Foundation recently awarded 27 scholarships totaling $201,000, bringing the total number of scholarships presented over the history of the foundation to 400 and the total dollar amount of scholarships and teacher grants to more than $2.25 million.” [InsideNova]

Local Author Pens New Thriller — Arlington resident Bill Schweigart, author of the Beast of Barcroft, a supernatural thriller set in Arlington, has penned another book of local interest: The Devil’s Colony, which features a fictional Arlington resident as its main character. [Penguin Random House]

Nearby: Montgomery Co. Consider Plane Noise Suit — Montgomery County, Maryland has hired a law firm to explore legal action against the Federal Aviation Administration in response to new flight paths that have produced a dramatic increase in aircraft noise complaints. The flight paths were implemented in 2015 as part of the FAA’s NextGen system and have prompted some complaints in Arlington and D.C. as well. [Bethesda Beat]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Roosevelt Island Temporarily Closed For Diseased Tree Removal

Theodore Roosevelt Island closed for up to three weeks starting Monday while crews remove diseased trees from the nearby trails.

The National Park Service said the closures, which began yesterday, come after a survey found damage from the invasive emerald ash borer.

Sections of the island’s trails will reopen on a rolling basis as diseased trees are removed. NPS announced last week the island would close as the storms that hit the area could have brought down some of the diseased trees.

From a National Park Service press release:

Starting Monday, June 26, 2017, Theodore Roosevelt Island will be closed for the removal of diseased trees from along the maintained trails. As diseased trees are removed from sections of maintained trails, those sections will be reopened. Work is weather dependent and should last about three weeks.

A recent tree survey on Theodore Roosevelt Island found extensive damage to trees along the island’s trails from the invasive and deadly emerald ash borer. To facilitate the removal of these hazardous trees and reopen sections of the island more quickly, contracted services as well as park staff, will be working throughout the island.

Theodore Roosevelt Island is one of many parks in the Greater Washington Area hit hard by emerald ash borer. The island has many ash trees throughout its 88 acres that have been infected with the exotic beetle. The pest is highly destructive, killing ash trees within two to three years once infected. Dead ash trees rapidly become dry, brittle and hazardous. There is no known cure; once a tree is infected, it will die. Emerald ash borer is almost always fatal.

We are now more than 10 years into the emerald ash borer invasion of the National Capital Region.  White ash was the tenth most common tree species in the region based on data collected between 2006 and 2009.  In some areas of the region, the number of white ash trees decrease by a quarter between 2009 and 2016.

Rangers remind you to that you can do your part!  To help prevent the spread of emerald ash borer and other pests, buy firewood where you intend to burn it, and do not take firewood or logs from home when you travel.  Invasive species like the emerald ash borer cost the United States billions of dollars in damages every year.

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Roosevelt Island Closed Due to Storm, Tree Concerns

Roosevelt Island near Rosslyn is closed today due to tree damage from insects and today’s impending storms.

The National Park Service made the announcement this morning.

The park service says numerous trees have been severely weakened by the invasive emerald ash borer and will be removed in the coming weeks. More from NPS:

Theodore Roosevelt Island is closed for safety in advance of expected thunderstorms, some severe with high winds, this afternoon though this evening. The island will remain closed until tree crews can assess and address damage or new hazards.

A recent tree survey on Theodore Roosevelt Island found extensive damage to trees along the island’s trails from the invasive and deadly emerald ash borer. These diseased and dead ash trees are at an increased risk of falling, especially during storms.

Theodore Roosevelt Island is one of many parks in the Greater Washington Area hit hard by emerald ash borer. The island has many ash trees throughout its 88 acres that have been infected with the exotic beetle. The pest is highly destructive, killing ash trees within two to three years once infected. Dead ash trees rapidly become dry, brittle and hazardous. There is no known cure; once a tree is infected, it will die.

In the coming weeks, crews are expected to begin the removal of the affected trees. More information will be provided in the coming days.

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Roosevelt Island Parking Lot to Close for Repaving

A project to repave the Theodore Roosevelt Island parking lot and realign a nearby section of the Mount Vernon Trail is slated to begin later this week.

The parking lot will be closed from this Wednesday, March 1, until the project is completed, which should take until late spring, the National Park Service said.

Workers will slightly raise and widen the trail in places, while the parking lot gets new curbs and gutters for better water drainage. Roosevelt Island will remain open during the work and cyclists can take a short detour on the trail to bypass construction.

With the parking lot closed, NPS said those accessing the trail should park at Daingerfield Island or Columbia Island, or use the public parking in Rosslyn, a 15-minute walk away.

NPS began the planning process to improve safety on this section of the Mount Vernon Trail in 2014, in a project it said would seek to “reduce visitor conflict and improve visitor experience.”

More from NPS:

On March 1, the National Park Service (NPS) will begin a project to repave the parking lot and realign the Mount Vernon Trail at Theodore Roosevelt Island. To ensure visitor safety, the parking lot will be closed until the project’s completion, expected to be late spring. Pedestrians will have access to the island throughout the project, and cyclists can bypass construction via a short detour on the Mount Vernon Trail.

In addition to realigning the Mount Vernon Trail, the NPS will raise the trail slightly and widen it in places. The parking lot will have new curbs and gutters for better water drainage.

Mount Vernon Trail users accessing the trail by car should use the parking lots at Daingerfield Island and Columbia Island, or consider nearby public parking options. The closest parking to Theodore Roosevelt Island is in Rosslyn, a 15-minnute walk from the Island.

Mount Vernon Trail is an 18-mile paved multi-use trail stretching from George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate to Theodore Roosevelt Island. The trail is a hub for recreational activity and connects with regional trails including the Potomac Heritage, Custis, Rock Creek, Four Mile Run, and Woodrow Wilson Bridge trails.

National parks in the national capital region provide exceptional outdoor trail experiences that help people enjoy nature and history, while providing safe and enjoyable opportunities for people to walk, run, bike, commute and have fun with friends and family.

Photo via Google Street View

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‘Junior Park Ranger Ride’ Planned Along GW Memorial Parkway

Bikes on a tree, photo via Facebook : Kidical Mass ArlingtonThe Arlington chapter of a group centered around casual bike rides for families plans to lead a trek along George Washington Memorial Parkway this weekend.

A “Junior Park Ranger Ride” is set to kick off this Sunday at 9:30 a.m., according to Kidical Mass Arlington, the event’s organizers.

During the 60-90 minute trip, riders will hit several stops along George Washington Memorial Parkway, including the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, the Netherlands Carillon and Lyndon B. Johnson Memorial Grove. The ride will end up at Theodore Roosevelt Island, according to Kidical Mass.

The event will also include activities from BikeArlington and the U.S. National Park Service. All young riders will earn Junior Park Ranger credentials for the GW Parkway once the ride is complete, according to event organizers.

Photo via Facebook / Kidical Mass

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Morning Notes

Tulips in bloom at the Netherland Carillon (Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber)

Rapper Arrested in Arlington — D.C. rapper Martrel Reeves, better known as Fat Trel, was arrested by Arlington County Police early Thursday morning after a traffic stop in I-395. Reeves is reportedly facing charges of DWI, narcotics distribution, speeding and driving on a revoked license. [WJLA, XXL]

APS May Hire Horticulturist — In its new budget, the Arlington School Board is considering hiring a horticulturalist — “to help us keep our trees healthy” — along with a public engagement specialists and more psychologists and social workers. [InsideNova]

Beyer Dines With Undocumented Family — Earlier this week, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) sat down for dinner with the Pintos, a local family of five that includes a set of parents who are in the U.S. illegally but eligible for the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. Beyer is encouraging Republicans to follow suit and get to know immigrant families like the Pintos. [Think Progress]

Garvey Wants Easier Access to TR Island — County Board Chair Libby Garvey says she is committed to getting a more direct connection from Rosslyn to Roosevelt Island built. Such a connection would require a bridge over I-66 and the GW Parkway. It could potentially get built as part of the massive Rosslyn Plaza development, which was recently approved by the County Board. [InsideNova]

Congratulations to Borderstan — A big congratulations to our sister site, Borderstan, for being recognized in this year’s “Best of D.C.” list. Borderstan — which covers the Dupont, Logan and Columbia Heights communities of D.C. — was named “Best Revival,” after being relaunched last year. [Washington City Paper]

Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber

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