Colin Mills: RCA Wants Your Thoughts on Baron Cameron Plan

Colin Mills/File photoAccording to the Chinese zodiac, 2014 is the “Year of the Horse.”  But in Reston, it seems like it’s shaping up to be the “Year of the Master Plan.”

In February, the Board of Supervisors approved changes to Reston’s Master Plan to allow for mixed-use development around the Silver Line Metro stations.  And now, the County Park Authority is preparing a Master Plan for Baron Cameron Park.

RCA and our Reston 2020 Committee is very interested in what happens at Baron Cameron, particularly in light of the projected athletic field shortage in Reston when the aforementioned mixed-use development is built. But more importantly, we’re interested in hearing what the community has to say.

That’s why Reston 2020 is holding a “ResTown Hall Meeting” on the Baron Cameron plan on April 7. This is your chance to speak out about the proposed changes to Baron Cameron: what you like, what you don’t like, what you think should be added, and what unanswered questions you have.

Baron Cameron Park has a bit of an interesting history.  The site was original owned by Fairfax County Public Schools, which intended to use the site to construct a middle and/or high school for Reston.  In the mid-1970s, with no school yet built on the site, the school system allowed the Fairfax County Park Authority to build and manage some temporary recreation facilities on the site.

Over time, these facilities included athletic fields, a community garden, a playground, and an off-leash dog park.  In 2006, with no school ever having been built on the site, FCPS turned Baron Cameron over to the Board of Supervisors, which in turn transferred it to the Park Authority in 2011.

Historically, no one’s paid that much attention to Baron Cameron.  But interest in the park has increased dramatically in the last year or so.  The news that RCC was considering the park as a possible site for its proposed indoor rec center generated a great deal of public discussion.  More recently, some of the park’s neighbors filed a lawsuit to shut down the dog park due to the noise.

With public attention focused on the park, the Park Authority has come up with a draft Master Plan, which it will formally present at a public meeting on Thursday, March 27 at 7 p.m. at Aldrin Elementary.  The draft plan includes a number of changes to the park: adding artificial turf and lights to the fields, increasing parking, adding a picnic pavilion and restrooms, expanding the community garden, including multi-use courts, and building a trail network that connects to Brown’s Chapel Park next door.

There are also plan alternatives, which would allow construction of an indoor rec center and relocation of the dog area to an interior part of the park.

I encourage everyone to attend the Park Authority’s meeting if you can.  But I also hope you’ll come out to the ResTown Hall Meeting on the April 7 to learn more, make your voice heard, and talk with your neighbors about the plan and what you think.

Our meeting will begin with a recap of what’s in the plan, for those who couldn’t attend the Park Authority’s presentation.  But we’ll also provide additional information.  We’ll attempt to put the proposed changes at Baron Cameron in the larger context of Reston’s coming redevelopment.  We’ll also discuss any issues that were raised by the public at the Park Authority meeting, and fill you in on the research and analysis Reston 2020 has done on the rec center and the athletic field situation in Reston.

But the main purpose of our meeting is to listen to you, Reston’s citizens.  So after providing this background information, we’ll break into small groups to talk in detail about the plan.  Each group will have a chance to talk about the strengths of the Baron Cameron Plan, any concerns about it, suggested additions to the plan, and any questions that might arise.

After the small groups have had the chance to provide their feedback, we’ll report out and try to identify the most important comments, suggestions, and concerns that the community shares about the plan.  Reston 2020 will then take the contributions received at the meeting, consolidate it, and present it to the Park Authority as a community response to the draft Master Plan.

Why is this meeting so important?  Because the proposed changes to Baron Cameron are significant, and time is of the essence.  After the Park Authority’s meeting on the 27th, there is a 30-day window for public comment on the plan.  Once that window is closed, the Park Authority Board will be able to approve the draft plan, and then it will be locked into place.  Once approved, the Master Plan will guide the Park Authority’s vision for the park for the next decade.

So if there are things you think should be added to or removed from the plan, now is the time to speak up.  By consolidating the citizens’ comments and thoughts into a single community response, Reston 2020’s document will speak with a louder and clearer message than a bunch of individual comments.  The document should give the Park Authority something to consider carefully, if the citizens believe that changes are needed.

I look forward to seeing all of you at the ResTown Hall Meeting on April 7.  If you want to learn more about what the Baron Cameron plan means for Reston, or if you want to speak out about anything you want to see preserved or changed in the plan, you’ll never have a better opportunity.  This is your community; make sure that your voice is heard.

Colin Mills is the president of the Reston Citizens Association. He writes weekly on Reston Now.

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