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(Updated 9:55 p.m.) Marymount University is developing plans to build a new sports facility on an embattled parcel of county property near its campus.

Currently, the property at 26th Street N. and Old Dominion Drive, in the Old Dominion neighborhood, is home to a temporary road salt storage “dome” and a parking lot used for mulch distribution. In 2019, despite opposition from some neighbors, the county demolished a roughly 90-year-old water storage tank, repurposed for road salt, which was on the brink of collapse.

The tank saga came a few years after the county proposed and later nixed plans to relocate Fire Station 8 from Langston Blvd to the Old Dominion neighborhood.

Now, Marymount University, which was recently ranked for the first time as a national university and is showing other signs of growth — including higher enrollment rates, new softball and wrestling teams and new academic majors — is trying its hand at redeveloping the site.

The school, which has its main campus across from the county property and an additional presence in Ballston, first put forward a plan for the property two years ago. It proposes to build a sports field, a children’s playground and an enhanced walking trails to Missionhurst Preserve, according to a map on the university’s website.

In addition, it would replace the existing temporary salt dome with a new, solar-powered one, along with a mulch area.

A little less than a year ago, it also put forward a proposal to build new diamond fields where the Washington-Liberty High School baseball diamond in Quincy Park and the softball diamond on school property are. Since then, it has been in talks with W-L, Arlington Public Schools and the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation.

Marymount has advertised an informational meeting on this proposal, scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 29.

The university said in a statement to ARLnow that the session acts on a suggestion from Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz to “build consensus among community members and inform them of our proposed plans to create a generational green space for Arlington at 26th Street N. and Old Dominion Drive that would improve and expand recreational opportunities for the County’s residents.”

It added that the forthcoming meeting also acts on a suggestion from a neighborhood association to meet with the three impacted neighborhood groups together. Marymount says it notified and invited Schwartz and the Arlington County Board to the meeting.

“We have put a great deal of thought and consideration into both projects, but these are proposals,” the university said. “We are discussing them with the neighborhood associations to receive their feedback after repeated attempts were made to communicate with the County about them.”

But Arlington County released a statement this afternoon (Monday) to clarify it has not endorsed the project.

“The County and APS received notice of Marymount’s November 29 Information Session at the same time Marymount informed the general public,” the statement reads. “The County and APS are not associated with or participating in the November 29 Information Session and do not sanction the materials or proposals presented by Marymount University.”

Per the statement, members of the Arlington County Board and the School Board have met with Marymount over the last year, at the university’s request, to hear the proposed concepts.

“At those meetings, County and APS staff asked clarifying questions but no decision was reached,” the county said. “At no time did County or APS staff indicate that these proposed facilities were feasible or acceptable.”

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Morning Notes

Post-it Notes on the office building at 1600 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, congratulating a graduating H-B Woodlawn student who’s noted for her Post-It Note art (courtesy photo)

School’s Out for Summer — Today is the last day of high school for Arlington Public Schools students. Tomorrow is the last day of middle school and Friday is the last day of elementary school. [Arlington Public Schools]

Meetings Planned for Route 1 Changes — “Two upcoming online forums will look at Virginia Department of Transportation proposals for U.S. Route 1 through the Crystal City corridor. On June 15 at 7 p.m., the Livability 22202 Route 1 Working Group and VDOT proposals will be presented and feedback sought… On June 21 at 6:30 p.m., VDOT will host a public-information meeting on the proposal.” [Sun Gazette, VDOT]

Yorktown Girls Win State Soccer Tourney — “A season that began with a loss ended with no other setbacks and a state championship for the Yorktown Patriots. The girls soccer team won the Virginia High School League Class 6 state tournament by nipping the Kellam Knights, 1-0, in the June 11 title game.” [Sun Gazette, Washington Post]

DJO Softball Wins State Title — “The [Bishop O’Connell] Knights capped a dominant campaign with their 26th Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association state title over the past 28 seasons. Katie Kutz tossed 235 strikeouts and went 17-0 while batting .482 at the plate en route to Washington Catholic Athletic Conference and VISAA player of the year nods.” [Washington Post]

Groundbreaking for Bus Maintenance Yard — “Arlington County will host a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday morning for its new Arlington Transit (ART) operations and maintenance facility. The public is invited to attend. The ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. at the site of the future facility at 2629 Shirlington Rd. in Arlington in the Green Valley neighborhood.” [Patch]

School Board Absences — “The board, whose schedule of meetings is approved at the start of each fiscal year, has had a tough time gathering all five members on the dais at one time in recent months. Goldstein frequently has been absent, and at the May 26 meeting Priddy was gone. (On May 26, Diaz-Torres was not attending in person but did participate remotely from Puerto Rico, Kanninen said at the start of that meeting.)” [Sun Gazette]

More Bad Driving on I-395 — From Dave Statter: “This is a new one. Driver just stops at the end of the gore partially blocking the left lane until they can figure out their next move.” [Twitter]

Gov. Proposes Three-Month Gas Tax Holiday — “In Arlington, Virginia, the cost of regular gas is around $5.29. As gas prices continue to climb, CG Green says he’s pumping the brakes on unnecessary trips. ‘Look at it, it’s crazy,’ said Green. ‘It’s $5.29 for gas. I have to rethink where I’m going.’ Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin says he is in favor of temporarily suspending the commonwealth’s gas tax.” [WUSA 9]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 86 and low of 68. Sunrise at 5:44 am and sunset at 8:37 pm. [Weather.gov]

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(Updated at 4:35 p.m.) Tensions are rising in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood, as residents engage in a letter-writing, petition-signing tug-of-war over the softball fields at Virginia Highlands Park.

A pair of letters to the County Board from members of the Aurora Highlands Civic Association (AHCA), sent this month and in April, as well as a petition launched today (Thursday), illustrate a deepening divide between sports fans and open space advocates, who envision divergent futures for one diamond field in the park near Pentagon City.

The civic tussle surfaced while the neighborhood tested a new arrangement. This spring, Field #3 in Virginia Highlands Park — the bigger of the two diamond fields  — was split between scheduled games and casual use by neighbors, after the civic association said neighbors flocked to the field last year when sports were canceled due to the pandemic.

Adult softball had the field on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. It was open to residents for casual use Saturday through Monday, Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said.

“This allows for the adult softball league to play on a field that is the correct size for their sport, while allowing the community access to a large green space in their neighborhood,” she said.

Some see shared use as a success requiring more maintenance to work long-term, while others see the model as successful but unsustainable — a demonstration that the community needs softball games condensed to one field and the other, possibly Field #3, converted into open space.

“This would allow thousands of our residents within Aurora Highlands, Arlington Ridge, Crystal City and beyond to have access to regular programming and dedicated casual use space, which does not exist in [Virginia Highlands Park],” civic association president and open space supporter Scott Miles tells ARLnow.

Bart Epstein, a civic association member and softball player, tells ARLnow that, barring maintenance problems, softball players who use Field #3 support the current arrangement and fear the alternative.

“It’s been a constant, low-level effort by a tiny group of people to see the fields destroyed,” he said.

Both sides report problems with shared use, which means the fields are used for everything from softball games to music nights. During an April meeting, AHCA members discussed the time and money required to use the field for non-athletes and return it to being game-ready.

“A big takeaway from the shared use work is that without an immense effort to ‘placemake’ with art, seating, activities, shade, etc.,” Miles said this week. “A field is just a field, and is of limited use. Making it more dedicated is the only way the needed casual uses can be maintained.”

Softball players and the parks department, meanwhile, say other users of the field leave behind waste from their dogs, which also dig holes, creating hazards for players.

“My hope is that the County Board will instruct the Department of Parks and Recreation to fully and properly support and maintain the fields,” Epstein said. Read More

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Morning Notes

Arlington is ‘Best City for Road Trips’ in Va. —  “In each state, there are some cities with particularly novel and exciting opportunities to soak up some of the local history and culture without breaking the bank. From underrated smaller communities to large metropolises, these are the cities you want to hit on your road trip this summer in 2021.” [Insurify]

Attempted Art Theft from Garage — “4700 block of 36th Street N. At approximately 10:32 p.m. on June 23, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary in progress. Upon arrival, officers located the suspect on scene and detained him without incident. The investigation revealed the male suspect gained entry into the victim’s garage and attempted to remove paintings.” [ACPD]

W-L Softball Wins Regional Title — “It’s hard to lose if the opponents don’t score much, and that was the successful formula for the Washington-Liberty Generals en route to winning the 6D North Region Tournament championship. The girls high-school softball team (13-5) won the crown with a 4-0 record, defeating the host Langley Saxons, 4-1, in the title game. The region championship was W-L’s first in program history.” [Sun Gazette]

Pike Library Renovation Celebration — “The public is invited to attend the grand opening and community celebration of the newly renovated Columbia Pike Library on Thursday, July 8, 4-6 p.m. Join members of the County Board and Library Director Diane Kresh in the ribbon cutting ceremony, followed by family-friendly events, music and ice cream, and a tour of the transformed Library Branch.” [Arlington Public Library]

F.C. Cemetery Full of Arlington History — “An array of Arlington’s historic notables are buried across our southern border in Falls Church City. I received a tour of the open-to-the-public Oakwood Cemetery just off Roosevelt Blvd. behind Eden Center… Don’t miss the marker for Amanda Febrey, who died in 1913 of tuberculosis at age 14, and whose ghost is said to have haunted the clubhouse at Overlee swim club.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Metro Is Electrifying Its Bus Fleet — “Today, Metro’s Board of Directors.. took a major step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving local air quality with the approval of a new Metrobus fleet strategy that would create a 100% zero-emission bus fleet by 2045, with a full transition to electric or other zero-emission bus purchases by 2030.” [WMATA]

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(Updated at 9:45 p.m.) A neighborhood group’s years-long battle against softball fields at Virginia Highlands Park in the Pentagon City area is continuing.

The Aurora Highlands Civic Association doesn’t have anything against the sport itself, but asserts that the permit-priority fields on the west side of the park at 1600 S. Hayes Street could be better used as unprogrammed open space.

To prove the point, the association last week sent a letter — and a produced video — to the Arlington County Board highlighting community use of one field during the pandemic, after organized sports activities were cancelled.

“Cancellation of organized sports in the spring allowed community members to put Livability concepts into action over the summer, transforming one of VHP’s softball field spaces into a continuously used public space for art installations, social distancing meetups, and varied casual uses from kite flying, exercising, and families playing with their kids,” wrote AHCA President Scott Miles.

“Events and performances like Zumba classes and Music and Picnic in the Park on Saturdays have gathered over 80 people at a time, all safely distanced, even while other casual uses continue alongside,” he added.

Four years ago, the association released a proposal calling for the removal of the softball fields in favor of space that was open to all.

“The fields are significantly underused relative to other facilities and especially to open space,” the proposal said. “Each field is used for approximately 600 hours per year out of a potential of 4,380 hours (12 hours a day), a total of less than 14% of the time.”

Miles wrote last week that the recent community experience proves the point that the fields are underused when designated primarily for softball.

“With greater casual use access over the past five months supported by [the Dept. of Parks and Recreation] and local stakeholders, the space has been used more heavily and continuously than ever before, helping support local restaurants, build a sense of shared community, and provide diverse and equitable access to all area residents,” he wrote.

Other initiatives are in the works for the park. A new, temporary community garden has been added, and a proposed temporary dog park near the softball fields has received financial backing from Amazon.

The letter to the County Board — with some links added — is below, along with a video produced by the local group Livability 22202.

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Morning Notes

Polls Are Open — After a record-setting run-up to the 2020 presidential election, it’s Election Day and polls are now open. Polling places in Arlington are open until 7 p.m. County government is closed today so metered parking will not be enforced. There are two local races: Audrey Clement (I) challenging incumbent Libby Garvey (D) for Arlington County Board, and Cristina Diaz-Torres, David Priddy and Symone Walker vying for two open Schools Board seats. [Arlington County]

Other Races on the Ballot — Two of Arlington’s members of Congress — Democrats Rep. Don Beyer and Sen. Mark Warner — are facing Republican challengers: Jeff Jordan and, in the Senate raceDaniel Gade. Both Jordan and Gade are retired Army officers. Also on the ballot are a pair of proposed changes to the Virginia constitution, and five county bond referenda, including one facing some organized opposition. [Arlington County]

Changes to Potomac Yard Development — “Six months after pivoting from office to residential, ZMA Development is aiming to go slightly smaller at Potomac Yard. The latest plans filed with Arlington County have reduced the number of residential units from 620 to 488 units planned at the Landbay C-East site at Potomac Avenue between 29th and 33rd Streets S (map). The two-phase development, now dubbed Hazel National Landing, also has added a 50 foot-wide ‘pedestrian passageway.'” [UrbanTurf]

Marymount Adding Softball — “Dr. Irma Becerra, President of Marymount University, has announced the addition of softball as a varsity sport, with competition set to begin during the Spring 2022 semester.” [Press Release]

New Public Access TV Series — “Months after their senior year in high school did a 180 degree turn from what they envisioned nearly a year ago for senior year rites, a group of students from Arlington launched the Gen Z Diaries: Senior Edition.” [Press Release]

Nearby: A Woke Retirement Home — Residents of the Goodwin House senior living community in Bailey’s Crossroads, home to a number of former Arlingtonians who were engaged in civic activism, have been busy getting out the vote and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement during the pandemic. [Washingtonian]

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Arlington’s youth baseball and softball leagues, much like the major professional sports leagues, are going on an immediate hiatus.

“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the diamond sports leagues in Arlington have suspended indefinitely all activities including practices, games, coaching clinics, and team meetings until further notice,” the local leagues said in a statement sent to ARLnow.

“The announcements by Arlington Babe Ruth (ABR), Arlington Senior Babe Ruth (ASBR), Arlington Little League (ALL) and Arlington Girls Softball Association (AGSA) were made on Thursday night following multiple conversations among league officials and with Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation,” the statement continued. “The leagues were gearing up for the start of the 2020 season with pre-season practices scheduled to commence on Saturday morning. Bats and balls will have to wait at least a few weeks until the public health emergency is sufficiently contained.”

“ABR is taking this action for the personal safety of our players, families, and volunteers, and for the interest of public health in our community,” Arlington Babe Ruth President JP Cooney said in a letter to parents. “We will always be guided by the best interests of our players and families, and we abide by our commitment to being a responsible leader-organization in the Arlington community.”

The four leagues “are continually evaluating the situation and plan to resume sports activities only when it is safe to do so,” noted the statement. So far, there have been two confirmed cases of coronavirus in Arlington. Earlier today the Arlington Soccer Association also announced that it is suspending operations.

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Morning Notes

Work Begins to Replace Collapsed Pipe — A collapsed 18-inch stormwater pipe is being replaced on Arlington Ridge. The work is necessitating a detour for Arlington Ridge Road traffic between 23rd Street and S. Glebe Road. The stretch has been the site of numerous water main issues over the past few years. [Twitter]

Big Turnout for Caps Sendoff — Thousands of fans reportedly flocked to the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston on Saturday to give the Caps a Stanley Cup sendoff as they traveled to Las Vegas for Game 1 of the finals. [WUSA 9]

Manager Warns Against Additional Debt — “[Don’t] do it. That’s Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz’s advice to County Board members, urging them to resist any temptation to disregard the government’s self-imposed, and for the most part sacrosanct, debt guidelines. The guidelines, long in place to help the county government retain AAA bond ratings, call for the cost of servicing municipal debt to remain less than 10 percent of the total overall county-government budget in any given year.” [InsideNova]

ACFD Lends a Hand in Ellicott City — Arlington County Fire Department units are helping out the flood recovery efforts in Ellicott City, Md. The catastrophic flooding in Ellicott City over the weekend prompted a regional disaster aid response. [Twitter]

DJO Wins State Softball Crown — The Bishop O’Connell Knights girls high school softball team won the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division I tournament last week, capturing the state championship title for the seventh year in a row. [InsideNova]

Photo courtesy @thelastfc

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Controversial renovations to a baseball field at Bluemont Park are now over, as that area of the park reopened last week and is set to celebrate Saturday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The project at the 601 N. Manchester Street park brought a full replacement of one of its baseball fields, as well as the installation of a connector on the Four Mile Run Trail to N. Manchester Street and Ashlawn Elementary School.

The renovated field got new sod, irrigation, site circulation, fencing, backstops, bleachers, furniture, signage, ADA accessibility improvements and drainage. It officially reopened for use on Friday, June 30.

Neighbors fought against the plan to renovate the baseball field, and met with youth baseball and softball boosters last year for a county-organized “listening session” so each side could have its say. Those in favor of the plan said it would make the field more playable and help keep up with demand as the number of children playing youth baseball continues to rise.

Residents raised concerns about the field being fenced in, and a compromise was reached as the county agreed to remove about 20 percent of the fencing. County Manager Mark Schwartz added at the time that Arlington must reconsider its public outreach on such projects, after opponents said that they were blindsided by the plan.

Saturday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony will include a presentation of colors by the Arlington County Joint Honor Guard and the singing of the National Anthem as well as remarks by County Board members and the community. It begins at 11 a.m.

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Morning Notes

D.C. and Arlington: Tech Towns? — The Greater Washington area has ranked third on a major real estate firm’s list of “Tech Cities 1.0.” The area received high marks for its educated workforce and pace of startup growth. Arlington, meanwhile, is continuing to land tech firms from D.C. and Fairfax County, in part thanks to active outreach and an incentive program from Arlington Economic Development. State incentives helped keep Applied Predictive Technologies in Ballston; the firm has a new office and is now expanding and creating 350 jobs.

Exotic Pet Ban Vote Delayed — The Arlington County Board is expected to delay its consideration of a new exotic pet ban until the fall. The proposal has garnered strong reactions from both sides of the issue, including from the D.C.-based Animal Welfare Institute, which is urging the Board to approve the ban. [InsideNova]

Pentagon 9/11 Memorial Gets Architect — Denver-based Fentress Architects has been selected as the designer of the $75 million 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center. The center will be built near the intersection of Washington Blvd and Columbia Pike, which is set to be realigned as part of an expansion of Arlington National Cemetery.  [Washington Business Journal]

DJO Standout in Running for National Recognition — Bishop O’Connell High School softball standout Kathryn Sandercock is in the running for USA Today’s ALL-USA High School Softball Player of the Year. She is currently second in an online poll. Sandercock was also just named to the 2017 Spring All-Met first team. Other Arlington high school students named to the first team All-Met in their sports include three boys soccer and one girls soccer player. [USA Today]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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(Updated at 3 p.m.) Arlington County is moving forward with construction plans for Stratford Park.

The 3.8 acre park, at 4321 Old Dominion Drive, is located next to the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program building, which will later become a 1,000 seat middle school when H-B moves to Rosslyn in 2019.

The current park has picnic tables, a youth baseball/softball field (which has also been used by adult team sports), two lighted tennis courts, a rectangular field and a lighted basketball court.

The new park, which is in the final design stages and is expected to go out to bid in the first quarter of 2017, will include upgraded fields, courts, landscaping and site furnishings.

Among the planned changes: the new diamond field will be fenced in, with dugouts, batting cages and bleachers added.

While the fence around a soon-to-be-upgraded diamond field in Bluemont Park prompted a neighborhood outcry this fall, since largely resolved by removing portions of the fence, thus far there has been little public protest about the Stratford Park fence.

Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said the field’s primary purpose will be to host organized baseball and softball activities, though other uses will be allowed when the field is not otherwise being used.

“The approved plan does include fence around the diamond field, as the field will primarily be used for diamond sports (permit takes priority),” she told ARLnow.com, via email. “The fence entrances will always be open to allow people access to the area when the field is not in use.”

The parks department sent an email to residents who live near the park last month, updating them on the project’s progress. An excerpt of that email, detailing some of the changes, is below.

Construction of the park upgrades is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2017 and wrap up within the first three months of 2018. The overall design, management and construction budget is $1.7 million.

In early 2015, the County worked with the community to develop a  concept  plan for the site. The  concept plan is a tool to inform the County, APS and the community on how new school access routes and other changes to the school site within the park boundary could impact the plan for park improvements.  DPR worked closely with APS in order to coordinate pedestrian accessibility from the park to the school. In addition, a restroom facility will be provided at the school for park users. DPR may make some minor changes to the concept as final costs for the improvements are determined in order to ensure the project remains within budget.

The approved project scope includes replacing and bringing existing features to current standards and adding new amenities to the park. Below is a breakdown of each one.

Existing to be Replaced:

  • Tennis Courts
  • Basketball Court
  • Court Lighting
  • Diamond Field
  • Backstop
  • Players Benches
  • Parking
  • Fencing (split rail)
  • Stairs and Walkways
  • Seating
  • Trash Receptacles
  • Trees and Shrubs

New to the Park:

  • Drinking Fountain
  • Pedestrian Lighting
  • Dugouts
  • Batting Cages
  • Bleachers
  • Outfield Fence
  • Retaining Walls
  • 50/70 Intermediate (50/70) Diamond Field Layout with Irrigation
  • Additional Trash Receptacles and Seating
  • Picnic Area
  • Storm Water Management Facility
  • Additional Landscaping
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