(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.
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 race, Daniel 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]
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.
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
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.
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
(Updated at 3 p.m.) Arlington County is moving forward with construction plans for Stratford Park.
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
- Players Benches
- Fencing (split rail)
- Stairs and Walkways
- Trash Receptacles
- Trees and Shrubs
New to the Park:
- Drinking Fountain
- Pedestrian Lighting
- Batting Cages
- 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
Average Paycheck Decreases — The average weekly paycheck in Arlington was $1,734 in the first quarter of 2016, down 0.2 percent compared to one year prior. Nationally, however, the average paycheck was down 0.5 percent. Arlington ranked in the top 10 of U.S. counties with the highest pay. [InsideNova]
New Media Venture Based in Clarendon — Politico co-founder Jim VandeHei’s next media venture is headquartered in Arlington. VandeHei, along with Politico’s Mike Allen and the publication’s former Chief Revenue Officer, are among those helping to found the venture, which has reportedly secured $10 million in financing and is said to be “a media outlet targeting corporate executives and other professionals with a mix of business and political news.” While Politico remains in Rosslyn, VandeHei’s new venture is based in MakeOffices in Clarendon. [Wall Street Journal]
Porn Discussion at DJO — Last night Bishop O’Connell High School hosted a public discussion, aimed at parents and teens, about “the effects of pornography on teenagers.” Today the founder of the website The Porn Effect will address DJO students and “present the reality behind pornography to the entire student body.” [Catholic Diocese of Arlington]
First Responders Cup This Weekend — The annual First Responders Cup fastpitch softball tournament will take place in Arlington this weekend. Among the participants, one team from Salem, Va. is paying tribute by wearing the name of fallen firefighters on the back of their jerseys. The players, who also wrote letters to the families of the firefighters, will be visiting Arlington’s Fire Station No. 5 near Pentagon City today. [WDBJ]
New Website for Chamber — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has launched a redesigned website. [Arlington Chamber]
AHC Seeking Volunteer Mentors — Updated at 2:15 p.m. — Affordable housing organization AHC Inc. is seeking volunteers to serve as mentors and tutors for middle- and high school students. Before the start of the school year, AHC provided backpacks filled with school supplies to more than 900 low-income, school-aged children living in its apartment communities. “Along with scores of generous individuals, several local organizations donated funds or supplies, including Arlington County Community Outreach, BM Smith, Boeing, The Reading Connection, and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington,” AHC noted in a press release. [AHC Inc.]
James Lander, the Chair of the Arlington School Board, has responded to public concerns about use of school facilities raised by the Arlington Girls Softball Association.
On Monday afternoon Lander wrote to Steve Severn, president of the 30+ year old organization, regarding use of Wakefield High School’s softball field, as well as proposed batting cages and sponsor signage at Arlington Traditional School.
Lander said that the Wakefield softball field is closed to all teams due to safety concerns, that the school system is willing to find a location and design for the ATS batting cage that doesn’t interfere with school operation and that AGSA may put up temporary sponsor signage around school fields but must then take it down after games.
Lander, a Democrat, is currently running for Arlington County Board.
The full letter is below.
Dear Mr. Severn:
I am writing to respond further to concerns that have been expressed about use of Arlington school facilities by the Arlington Girls Softball Association (AGSA).
The Wakefield softball field is not being used by any teams until some improvements have been made. The positioning and safety measures for the softball field at Washington-Lee High School are different and, as a result, decisions are made to meet the unique needs of each space. The safety inspector was concerned about the proximity of Wakefield’s field to the parking lot and walkway through the site, and so APS has agreed to install safety netting. Regarding Wakefield’s use of other fields in the community, today was the last day for practice or play by the Wakefield softball teams, and the Wakefield Varsity Softball tournament will take place at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County on Monday, May 18.
The AGSA has proposed building a batting cage at Arlington Traditional School. APS believes that the initially proposed location for the batting cage would be disruptive to the school’s program and that the specific design would not be appropriate on school property. The Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations, Mr. John Chadwick, has spoken to Mr. Severn about this issue and has explained that APS is willing to consider other potential placement of the batting cage at the school and an alternative design. We look forward to working with the County and community representatives on this measure to find a solution that meets the needs of all parties.
We understand the important role that the AGSA sponsors play in supporting this opportunity for young girls in our community. Regarding the issue of posting banners on the fence at Arlington Traditional, as noted in earlier replies, the School Board policies do not allow outside groups to post and leave signs in schools and on school grounds over an eight-week period. However, when community groups such as the Babe Ruth and Arlington Little League teams use our fields and local groups like churches and other community organizations use our schools, as part of their community use they regularly post signs and/or distribute flyers during their activity and then the signs and flyers are taken away at the end of the event. We hope that the Arlington Girls Softball Association will consider this option so that the girls softball sponsors can be recognized during your practices and games.
Finally, the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation has contacted APS about these and other concerns, and our staffs will be working collaboratively over the coming months to develop a consistent framework for all athletics and community groups to follow when using county and school spaces so that we can avoid any future misunderstandings.
James Lander, Chair
(Updated at 3:30 p.m.) The president of the Arlington Girls Softball Association says a lack of field space and a newly enforced school policy against signs has him very concerned for the future of the youth league.
The AGSA has been in operation for more than 30 years, President Steve Severn said, and currently serves about 500 girls, 92 percent of whom are Arlington residents. Those girls make up 38 local teams and six all-star and travel teams, who play games on just five fields in the county: Greenbrier Park next to Yorktown High School, Barcroft Park, Wakefield High School, Quincy Park and Arlington Traditional Elementary School.
This year, delayed construction at Wakefield has taken away that field, and Wakefield’s softball teams have taken the AGSA’s field at Barcroft Park. At the same time, the field at Arlington Traditional School is becoming increasingly problematic after Principal Holly Hawthorne banned sponsorship signs, a move the Arlington School Board supports.
“Having so few fields available creates havoc,” Severn told ARLnow.com today, after he sent an email to AGSA’s parents informing them of the issues the league faces. “High schools have the first choice to have fields, and that’s the way it should be… But there aren’t enough fields to go around. Youth sports are screaming for outside field space.”
Severn said the Wakefield field opened for one day this spring, but Arlington Public Schools closed it after it determined the fences were too short to protect the surrounding neighborhood. APS facilities staff said it will reopen in June, but high school teams historically have asked to be the first team to use a new field. Hence, Severn said, he doubts AGSA will be able to use that field until spring 2016.
While field space is a serious issue for every league, sport and age group in Arlington, the sign ban is one that could jeopardize AGSA’s future.
“If sponsors cannot see their banners or recognition for the money they contribute to our organization, they’re not going to contribute,” Severn said. “These are by and large community businesses. Their kids play on the team. That is going to hurt us. We depend on sponsorship money, we do not take in enough money from registration. I don’t know what the end result is going to be. Our sponsorship base is going to dry up eventually.”
Severn said the league has been hanging banners recognizing sponsors for decades. This year, they tried to hang small, individual signs for each sponsor, which Severn said Hawthorne put a stop to. He asked the School Board to step in, and they did — to affirm Hawthorne’s decision.
“Ms. Hawthorne contacted APS senior staff to review APS policies on the display of sponsor banners, and we agreed that display of such banners on school property is not permissible,” School Board Chair James Lander said in an email to Severn. “The School Board wishes the AGSA success with the remainder of their season and we appreciate the patience the teams have shown.”
Hawthorne did not respond to an interview request this morning. When asked for comment, APS forwarded to ARLnow.com Lander’s message to Severn.
Severn said he’s met with APS Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operation John Chadwick, which “opened up a line of communication, but didn’t resolve anything.” The School Board’s ruling could mean no more banners at Wakefield when the new field opens, either. Severn told parents that an anticipated decline in sponsorship revenue could mean a significant increase in league fees.
“I’m not trying to fan any flames here, but I’m upset because the decisions are made in a vacuum,” he said. “When we got the note back from James Lander, it’s the end of the story. There is no other avenue for us. We have no real recourse there. That’s just the disturbing part.”
Photo, top, via AGSA. Photo, bottom, via Google Maps.
(Updated at 1:00 p.m.) The spring sports season is over for all but the elite teams, like Washington-Lee boys soccer and Yorktown boys lacrosse, which are still hoping to raise more banners in their gyms.
The Generals’ boys soccer team is in the midst of one of its best seasons ever, sporting an undefeated 16-0 record with three ties. It took home the Liberty Conference 6 championship last week and continues its march to the state tournament at home against Stonewall Jackson tomorrow night.
Washington-Lee girls soccer (10-3) also took home the Conference 6 title, defeating Yorktown before losing in the opening round of Region 6A North action, 4-2, to Centreville last night. The Patriots soccer squads both lost just three times this season, and their years wrapped up in similarly heartbreaking fashion: both squads lost in double-overtime last night in the opening round of the regional tournament, the boys to Centreville and the girls to Robinson Secondary School.
Wakefield’s boys soccer team is still playing after turning around what could have been a disappointing season. The Warriors were the runner-ups in the Conference 13 tournament after losing six straight games before the tournament began. They play Leesburg’s Tuscarora in Region 5A North action tomorrow night to try to keep their improbable postseason alive.
Yorktown’s boys lacrosse team, after losing to state powerhouse Langley in the conference champion, secured a huge win last night in the opening round of the regional tournament, blowing by Oakton 12-5. They’ll face South County at a neutral field, Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, tonight at 7:00 p.m. The Patriots girls lacrosse team — also a Conference 6 runner-up — saw its season come to an end last night at the hands of Robinson, 22-12.
Washington-Lee baseball, despite going just 11-11 in the regular season, managed to make a deep run in its conference tournament and qualify for regional play. Arlington’s only remaining baseball team in action will hope to keep its season alive at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow in Chantilly.
Wakefield’s softball team is also still alive after a 10-9 season and a 15-1 loss to eventual conference champion Marshall in the Conference 13 semifinals. Their season continues on the road in regional tournament play tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. against Massaponax.
After the jump, the records and results for Wakefield, W-L and Yorktown’s major varsity team sports. Read More