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Washington Nationals star Juan Soto in Arlington (via Bleacher Report/YouTube)

(Updated at 2 p.m.) Washington Nationals all-star outfielder Juan Soto says in a new video that he recently moved into a new house in Arlington.

The video, below, shows Soto visiting a mini golf course and a frame shop in the county. Specifically, the mini golf at Upton Hill Regional Park and Italo Frame in Clarendon. The video also features shots of Ballston and a visit to Caribbean Plate restaurant in Falls Church.

The video of Soto’s “day off in Arlington” was published by the sports site Bleacher Report and sponsored by Wells Fargo, which scores some product placement when Soto goes to pay for things.

Soto, one of the brightest young stars in baseball, will soon play in his second All-Star Game. The Nationals have been trying to sign him to a long-term contract extension, which would likely be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

It’s unclear where exactly in Arlington Soto now lives. The video gives no hints of it as he visits the store to get several pictures framed for his new home.

Local real estate agent Matt Leighton, who has previously written about other athletes and their Arlington homes — including former Nats slugger Bryce Harper, who once lived in a penthouse condo in Rosslyn — says the county is particularly attractive for athletes given its proximity to the District, urban amenities and, in some cases, relative privacy.

“Arlington is very popular for D.C. athletes, especially for Caps and Nats players,” Leighton tells ARLnow. “Usually, Commanders players will live out closer to their practice facility in Ashburn while Wizards players will live closer to Capital One area in Downtown D.C. Although John Wall, Marcin Gortat and a few other Wizards have called Arlington home in recent years.”

“The luxury condo buildings in the Courthouse and Rosslyn area are prime spots for D.C. athletes to call home,” Leighton continued. “If the player gets a contract extension, they may buy a house in Arlington. Country Club Hills, Williamsburg, Lyon Park and Bellevue Forest are all popular among athletes as they are conveniently located and offer some level of privacy.”

Leighton added that he is “not sure” where Soto lives. Wherever it is, Soto presumably thought out the privacy implications of his move more so than a young, budding Capitals star a decade and a half ago.

“I guess nobody told [Alexander] Ovechkin about privacy when he bought a home in 2005 as a 20-year-old on a major cut-through street in Ballston,” Leighton said. “Ovechkin’s Arlington house, which has been rented out ever since Ovechkin moved to McLean, will be coming up for sale in the near future.”

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Morning Notes

SoberRide vehicle in Clarendon on Cinco de Mayo (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

New Interim Economic Development Chief — “Today, I am pleased to appoint Shannon Flanagan-Watson as the Interim Director of Arlington Economic Development (AED), effective May 31. Shannon brings 28 years of combined experience working in and with local governments on a range of professional local government management and policy issues.” [Arlington County]

Shot Fired in Long Branch Creek — “1400 block of 28th Street S. At approximately 1:09 a.m. on May 5th, police were dispatched to multiple reports of shots heard in the area. Police canvassed the area and recovered evidence confirming a shot had been fired. The preliminary investigation indicates a verbal altercation between two subjects may have preceded the discharge of a firearm. No injuries were reported, and no property damage was located.” [APCD]

Netherlands Carillon Dedication — “Today, the National Park Service and Netherlands Embassy celebrated the 77th anniversary of Liberation Day and the end of a four-year restoration of the Netherlands Carillon. This celebration included remarks from Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States Oksana Markarova, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands André Haspels and National Park Service Director Charles F. ‘Chuck’ Sams III.” [Press Release, NBC 4]

More Funding for Metro Entrance? — “Additional financial support for Arlington County’s proposed west entrance to the Ballston-MU Metro station looks to be on the horizon. A recommendation from staff at the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission puts the request for an additional $4.5 million near the top of the list for regional projects that would be part of fiscal 2023-24 funding through the ‘I-66 Commuter Choice’ program.” [Sun Gazette]

Trying Out the Upton Hill Ropes Course — “Waiting in line to jump from the 50-foot apex of Climb UPton, Northern Virginia’s new ropes course, and trying desperately not to look down, I overhear three 10-year-old girls in front of me. ‘Are you scared?’ one asks… The $1.3 million ropes course opened last summer in Upton Hill Regional Park and is run by NOVA Parks. I recently attempted it on a sunny spring Saturday.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Reminder: Malibu Barbie Truck’s Visit — “On Saturday, May 7, the ‘Barbie Truck Totally Throwback Malibu Tour’ is planning on setting up shop at Westpost (formerly Pentagon Row) in the courtyard near DSW shoe store. The truck will be selling ‘retro-inspired’ Barbie merchandise — like Barbie logo embroidered denim jackets and Malibu Barbie necklaces — from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.” [ARLnow]

It’s Friday — Rain throughout the day. High of 65 and low of 58. Sunrise at 6:06 am and sunset at 8:07 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Volunteers at Upton Hill Regional Park removing honeysuckle vines (photo courtesy of NOVA Parks)

A recently-announced partnership between is helping to clear hundreds of invasive plants from Upton Hill Regional Park.

For the past year, work has been ongoing to remove invasive plants from the 27-acre Upton Hill Regional Park located on Wilson Blvd in the Dominion Hills neighborhood. In particular, work has focused on a two acre section of the wooded section of the park with the highest concentration of invasives.

The work is being done by NOVA Parks, the inter-jurisdictional organization that operates Upton Hill, in collaboration with Arlington Master Naturalists, a group of certified volunteers with the mission of protecting local public lands. The partnership between the two organization is being touted by NOVA Parks in conjunction with today’s Earth Day holiday.

Nearly 1,000 volunteer hours were logged in 2021 managing invasive plants at the park, according to a NOVA Parks press release. In particular, volunteers cleared 19 invasive plants that are commonly found in Arlington, including Amur Honeysuckle, English Ivy, Wintercreeper, Rose of Sharon, and Winged Burning Bush.

“Park visitors who know the difference between native and invasive plants will already see a difference, as the natural habitat has been significantly enhanced,” Jill Barker of the Arlington Master Naturalists said. “We are thrilled with the partnership and progress over the last year.”

The work remains ongoing since the removal of invasive plants “is never really done,” notes the release.

Paul Gilbert, the executive director of NOVA Parks, tells ARLnow that the effort is costing NOVA Parks “at least” $100,000 a year in staff time, equipment, and a $60,000 a year contract that brings in “expert contractors to complement the efforts of volunteers and NOVA Parks staff.”

“This work will continue for years,” Gilbert said. “It may scale up or down some based on need over the years.”

Twice a month, the park hosts an invasive plant removal event. Volunteers are encouraged to sign up. The next one is being held this coming Thursday (April 28).

NOVA Parks and Arlington Master Naturalists have recently partnered on other programs as well. In 2020 and 2021 the two organizations, along with the Arlington branch of the NAACP, hosted the “Black and Latin/Hispanic Birder and Naturalist Series.” One of the leaders of that program was noted forestry trailblazer — and Arlington resident — Melody Mobley.

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A new ropes course facility is set to open at Upton Hill Regional Park sometime in June, amid an expected spike in park visitor activity.

“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.

For its beach-themed Ocean Dunes Waterpark, Upton Hill is “hiring and preparing the waterpark for Memorial Day weekend opening,” another Facebook post said.

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

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Morning Notes

Mass Cancelled at Catholic Churches — “On Monday, March 16, 2020, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Diocese of Arlington… announced that the public celebration of all Masses in the Diocese is suspended until further notice.” [Press Release]

Food Donations Needed — “We have already seen a sharp decrease in food donations from our local grocery stores. AFAC has begun to purchase more food to offset the drop of food available on our shelves. Please think about making a donation to AFAC to help us keep our warehouse full for our families in need.” [Arlington Food Assistance Center]

Regional Park Facilities Closed — “While park and facilities are open for individual use, programs organized by NOVA Parks are canceled. All NOVA Parks facilities and buildings will be closed beginning at the close of business on March 16 and remaining closed for at least two weeks. Many parks will remain open for passive use – trails, general visitation, etc.” [NOVA Parks]

Community Centers Closed — The following Arlington rec centers are closed: Aurora Hills Community Center, Barcroft Sports & Fitness Center, Carver Community Center, Charles Drew Community Center, Gulf Branch Nature Center, Gunston Community Center, Hendry House, Lee Community Center, Long Branch Nature Center and Madison Community Center. The Fairlington, Walter Reed, Arlington Mill, Thomas Jefferson and Langston-Brown community centers remain open with modified hours. [Arlington County]

Pentagon City Mall: Before and After — Photos of the Pentagon City mall food court before and after the coronavirus outbreak shows a stark difference: bustling before vs. nearly deserted after. [Twitter]

White House: Avoid Gatherings of 10+ — “The White House’s coronavirus task force announced tougher guidelines on Monday to help slow the spread of the disease, including limiting social gatherings of more than 10 people.” [Axios]

It’s St. Patrick’s Day — Enjoy a Guinness at home because most places to celebrate are closed, or at least should be. [Old Farmer’s Almanac]

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A man was shot in Upton Hill Regional Park in Arlington last night.

Police and medics were dispatched to the park at 6060 Wilson Blvd just after 11:15 p.m. Wednesday for a report of a man who was shot by someone in a blue vehicle.

The man was found lying on the ground and rushed to a local hospital. He was listed last night as being in stable condition.

Thus far there’s no word of any arrests nor a motive for the shooting. Arlington County Police are investigating.

Update at 5:15 p.m. — An arrest has been made, according to ACPD.

The Arlington County Police Department is announcing the arrest of a Falls Church man for his role in last night’s shooting in the Boulevard Manor neighborhood. Jhonatan Zavaleta Cruz, 21, has been charged with Aggravated Malicious Wounding, Attempted Malicious Wounding, Use of Firearm in the Commission of a Felony and Shooting During the Commission of a Felony. He is being held in the Arlington County Detention Facility on no bond.

At approximately 11:15 p.m. on November 6, police were dispatched to the 6000 block of Wilson Boulevard for the report of a shooting. Upon arrival, officers located a juvenile male victim suffering from a gunshot wound and immediately began rendering aid. The victim was transported by medics to an area hospital with injuries that are considered non-life-threatening.

The preliminary investigation indicates that the suspect and victim are known to one another and that a verbal dispute preceded the shooting. There is no indication of an ongoing threat to the community.

This remains an active criminal investigation and anyone with information is asked to contact Detective R. Ortiz of the Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-7402 or [email protected] Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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This content was written and sponsored by The Keri Shull Team, Arlington’s top producing residential real estate team.

In this week’s Neighborhood Spotlight, Drew Carpenter of The Keri Shull Team takes us inside Upton Hill Regional Park in Seven Corners, Arlington.

Upton Hill is an incredible seven-acre park with a lot of fun things to do: it contains the Ocean Dunes waterpark, an 18-hole mini golf course, nearly two miles of walking trails and nine batting cages.

This place is an oasis where Arlington families unwind and cool off on summer weeknights and weekends.

Things to Do at Upton Hill Regional Park

The beach-themed Ocean Dunes Waterpark at Upton Hill Regional Park is designed to feel like the beach, complete with dune grasses. The waterpark offers a kiddie pool, a lap pool and two huge waterslides: one 230-foot open slide and one 170-foot covered slide. The centerpiece pool at Ocean Dunes features slides, fountains, platforms and a giant 500-gallon dumping bucket.

Upton Hill Park also has one of the best mini golf courses in the area, with a cleverly designed gauntlet of 18 holes that wind alongside water channels. It’s a good mix of short hole-in-one courses with longer, more challenging hazard courses.

The wooded areas surrounding the park offer almost two miles of walking trails to explore. These paths climb to hilltop views of the area surrounding the park.

Also popular at Upton Hill Park are the nine batting cages, which can throw everything from slow pitch softballs to 55 MPH fastballs. Bats and helmets are provided, but note that you’ll need to wear closed-toe shoes if you want to use the batting cages.

Events & Rentals at Upton Hill Park

Upton Hill Park is a great place to host birthday parties — it offers access to an exclusive birthday area, unlimited mini-golf (clubs and balls included) and unlimited batting cage use (bats and helmets included). Pack a cooler with food and beverages, bring your own decorations and have a blast!

Weekly events include Military Mondays and Throwback Thursdays. Special discounts and themes are available all week.

Best of all, getting to the park is a much shorter ride than going to the beach. Upton Hill Regional park is a short drive from anywhere in Arlington, and you can also get there by riding the Orange or Silver Line to Ballston-MU Station and then taking the 1A bus to Wilson Blvd & N. Livingston Street. From there it’s just a short walk to the park!

Know a local business or hangout you’d like us to cover next? Let us know in the comments below!

As always, if you know anyone who’s looking to buy or sell a home in the DMV, The Keri Shull Team is here to help. Click here to contact us.

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Morning Notes

Renewed HQ2 Buzz — The New York Times has published a lengthy look at Crystal City, which is being discussed as a frontrunner to land Amazon’s second headquarters. “All of the signs are pointing to Crystal City,” one of the people quoted in the article said. Separately, the Wall Street Journal reports that only some of the 20 HQ2 finalist cities — including New York City, Newark, N.J., Chicago and the D.C. area — have received second visits from Amazon officials. [New York Times, Wall Street Journal]

Former Wizard Selling Home in Arlington — Former Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat has listed his house in Arlington’s Cherrydale neighborhood for $1.9 million. [Real House Life of Arlington]

Upton Hill Park Caught in Complaint Crossfire — After acceding to demands of tree advocates and scrapping plans for a 17-space parking lot at Upton Hill Park, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority is now facing opposition to its proposed park upgrades from nearby residents worried that the lack of additional parking will cause more vehicles to be parked in the neighborhood. [InsideNova]

New Option for Commuting to Arlington — “Sameride, a ridesharing app that allows drivers and passengers to offer and request rides, has launched a new route from Herndon, Reston and Loudoun County to Arlington and the District.” [Reston Now]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Planners say they hope to save dozens of trees originally slated to be cut down as part of an overhaul of Upton Hill Regional Park, a move viewed by environmental advocates as a small, but meaningful concession to their concerns about changes at the park.

NOVA Parks, the regional body that manages Upton Hill, wrote in a letter to the county’s Urban Forestry Commission last week that it hopes to save as many as 49 trees on the site, nixing plans for a new parking lot in the park’s lower half and new vehicle entrance from Wilson Blvd.

As many as 115 trees were originally set to be chopped down at the park, located at 6060 Wilson Blvd near Seven Corners, when a $3 million renovation of Upton Hill gets moving later this year. That’s prompted some fierce pushback from neighbors and conservationists alike, who have rallied to reverse what they see as a blow to the county’s tree canopy and stormwater management.

Even though the County Board won’t have any direct say on the project’s design, the outcry convinced the Urban Forestry Commission to pen a letter to the Board about the project on Aug. 29.

Paul Gilbert, the executive director of NOVA Parks, wrote back on Sept. 6 to say that his staff had managed to make some changes to save 35 living trees and 14 dead ones on the property. Rather than building a new parking lot, he plans to create more handicapped-accessible street parking spaces, while also making street parking on Wilson Blvd “time-limited during the day.”

“This change will allow us to achieve the goal of a more inviting lower park area that the Civic Associations had requested, while eliminating the lower parking lot and vehicular access off Wilson Blvd,” Gilbert wrote. “The Upton Hill Improvement Plan is a win-win for both the natural resources and active users of the park.”

A group critical of the park’s redevelopment known as the Friends of Upton Hill hailed those changes in a Sept. 9 email to supporters, attributing it to mounting “public pressure and scrutiny” of the plans. Local environmental activist Suzanne Sundberg was also cautiously optimistic.

“Is the current plan ideal? No,” she told ARLnow. “Is it enough to prevent increases in runoff and erosion down that hill? Probably not. But it is an improvement. And I’m grateful for any improvements to a plan that is about as ill-conceived, wasteful and destructive as it could possibly be.”

Both Sundberg and the friends group are also anxiously awaiting the formal release of NOVA Parks’ newly revised tree removal plans. For instance, Sundberg is suspicious that “possible other trees not on the existing removal list are now being counted as ‘saved’ to make the numbers appear better.”

“For example, trees less than three inches in diameter at breast height were not included in the existing tree-removal plan/list, even though they, too, would have been removed,” Sundberg said. “I have to wonder whether some of these ‘saved’ trees might actually represent some of these smaller ones not originally identified.”

The friends group also expressed hope that some three mature maple trees near the lower playground set to be renovated — previously described by Boulevard Manor Civic Association President Chris Tighe as “something out of a Stephen King horror movie” — will also somehow be saved.

“It would also be tough for kids to enjoy the new playground equipment while being baked in the hot summer sun,” Josh Handler, a lead backer of the group, wrote in an email. “Reasonable alternatives to the playground renovations would preserve at least some of the existing trees — if NOVA Parks chooses to be flexible.”

Handler reiterated in the email that his concerns linger about how the removal of so many trees in favor of a new parking lot in the park’s upper half will impact stormwater on the site. But Gilbert believes that a cistern built underneath the new lot will adequately address those worries, arguing in his letter that the lot will “far exceed county building standards.”

“Upton Hill has long been a park with a combination of great natural resources and popular features for the public,” he wrote. “This balance will continue with these improvements, making for a great urban park.”

Ultimately, plans call for a new oak/hickory forest at the park, as well as a ropes course, renovated restrooms and a new ticket booth for its batting cage.

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Starting in the next few months, Upton Hill Regional Park is set to get a major makeover — but the process of sketching out plans for the renovation work is getting a bit messy.

Some neighbors and county conservationists see the whole project as poorly conceived and deceptively managed by NOVA Parks, the regional body that maintains Upton Hill. Plans to cut down 115 trees at the park, located at 6060 Wilson Blvd near Seven Corners, strike them as a blow to both the country’s tree canopy and a disaster for stormwater runoff in the area.

But park officials, and even some of their fellow neighbors, feel these complaints have been blown entirely out of proportion, arguing that a few malcontents are lobbing bombs against a project that will transform a park sorely in need of a facelift.

The $3 million renovation work is set to proceed over the next year or more, and with a new petition urging NOVA Parks to re-think its plans, debate over the project seems sure to intensify moving forward.

“I look at this as a phenomenal upgrade to the community… and some of the arguments being made against it are beyond ridiculous,” said Chris Tighe, president of the Boulevard Manor Civic Association, where the park is located. “Eventually, we’re going to have to ask what’s more important: a couple of voices, or the safety of park-goers and this park’s future?”

Paul Gilbert, the executive director of NOVA Parks, says his group last upgraded Upton Hill back in 2006, and decided back in 2015 to pursue some upgrades to the park.

Some of the planned changes are relatively uncontroversial: park officials hope to add a new ticket booth for the park’s batting cage, renovate some of its restrooms and build a new playground in the park’s lower half (Tighe compares the current playground there to “something out of a Stephen King horror movie.”)

The arguments start over proposed additions like a ropes course, a new entrance on Wilson Blvd complete with a small parking lot and 103 new parking spaces in Upton Hill’s upper half, near its water park.

The last item on that list has attracted the most controversy, as it would require the removal of more than half of the aforementioned 115 trees in favor of thousands of square feet of pavement — a group dubbing itself the “Friends of Upton Hill” wrote on its website that Joni Mitchell warned of just an occurrence when she sang “They paved paradise/And put up a parking lot.”

“NOVA Parks has never made a convincing case for expanding parking at Upton Hill, which has a parking lot that is barely used for nine months of the year, when the water park is closed,” said Sada Aksartova, a Boulevard Manor resident. Her husband, Josh Handler, helps run the friends group, which notes that many of the trees set to be chopped down are several decades old.

Yet Tighe argues the new parking will help ease crowds at the park, avoiding the need for so many people to park on the street, and Gilbert says there’s a bit more nuance to consider regarding the trees to be cut down.

Of the 115 trees to be removed, he says 19 trees are already dead, while 31 are non-native trees, which he feels don’t add much to the area’s ecosystem. He points out that he hopes to plant dozens of new trees, shrubs and grasses elsewhere on the park to create an “oak/hickory forest” that he believes will represent a net positive for the county’s tree canopy.

Local activist Suzanne Sundberg believes Gilbert’s thinking amounts to: “We must destroy a forest to save a forest.”

“It’s degrading a park that’s just a little postage stamp of green in an ocean of parking lots,” Sundberg said.

She also fears that removing so many trees and replacing them with asphalt will worsen the already substantial stormwater management problems in the area. The friends group posted a series of videos earlier this month illustrating how huge amounts of water already flow off the park’s grounds.

But Gilbert believes the underground cistern included in plans for the new parking lot will alleviate the stormwater problems in the area, rather than exacerbate them. Furthermore, he feels those videos are misleading, as they were taken just after a heavy rainstorm.

Certainly, Gilbert has plenty of problems with the way the Friends of Upton Hill have conducted themselves. He believes the group’s name is a “complete misnomer,” dubbing it “a couple of individuals with an ax to grind” and “not a true friend’s group.” He feels the community has been broadly supportive of the project.

“We’ve worked very hard to work with the various community groups, but that doesn’t mean every individual is going to get everything they want,” Gilbert said. “And some people can understand that and some people clearly don’t.”

Sundberg believes there are plenty of people upset with the project, pointing to the new petition and work of the Arlington Tree Action Group to oppose it. Furthermore, she says that “if there are, indeed, a low number of citizens who are outraged, it’s likely because they have no idea what the plans are.”

“This whole process has been very opaque,” Sundberg said. “NOVA Parks has gotten so used to doing whatever the heck it wants… it barely posts any documents or makes any information available about this.”

Tighe charges that park officials have been “phenomenal partners every step of the way.” Other neighbors, however, are taking more of a wait-and-see approach, rather than coming out so strongly in favor of the park.

“I understand the objections from some… even if some people may be exaggerating points to serve their own conclusions,” said Brian Hannigan, president of the nearby Dominion Hills Civic Association. “Let’s follow the facts and see where they lead.”

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A group calling itself ‘Friends of Upton Hill’ has created a website to oppose a plan for a new ropes course and a new parking lot at Upton Hill Regional Park in Arlington.

Upton Hill park hosts a water park, a mini golf course, batting cages, and walking trails. NOVA Parks — the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority — plans on adding 33,000 square feet of asphalt to the park in the form of a entrance road and parking spaces, as well as a “high adventure course” and other amenities.

The project cost is estimated at $3 million, according to a November presentation.

The park’s “friends” wrote on the site that they believe NOVA Parks has been deficient in maintaining the mostly wooded park and that “trash and invasive species are taking over the forest.”

Preferring that the park authority shift its focus from bigger parking lots to forest restoration and facilities maintenance, the group quoted Joni Mitchell’s 1970 song Big Yellow Taxi, writing that “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

“NOVA Parks should focus on restoring the forest, removing trash and invasives, and improving maintenance of the existing facilities — the water-park, miniature golf, batting cage, playground and picnic pavilion — to make for a more pleasant and attractive park experience,” the website says.

This past fall, however, a renewed effort to combat the invasive species was undertaken at the park, according to the Arlington Sun Gazette.

NOVA Parks representatives presented the Upton Hill plan to the Arlington County Board on Nov. 28. Paul Gilbert, the NOVA Parks executive director, asserted that the parking lot expansion would not “impact the natural resources.” He said that the ropes course, with sweeping views of Arlington, would be a marquee feature for park and for the county at large.

Gilbert noted that the existing parking lot is packed in the summer months. However, the Friends of Upton Hill website argued that the lot is nearly deserted during chillier months of the year.

“We started our group because NOVA Parks is more bent on paving over Upton Hill Park than preserving it as parkland,” wrote says the Friends of Upton Hill website. “In the Seven Corners area we need to keep and improve every existing square foot of green space rather than add yet another parking lot — particularly one that sits empty for three quarters of the year.”

NOVA Parks operates 32 parks across Northern Virginia, including three parks in the county — Upton Hill, Potomac Overlook, and the W&OD Trail.

An email sent to a listed Friends of Upton Hill email address was not immediately returned.

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