Colin Mills: A Stroll Through Spring

Colin Mills/File photoThere’s just something about this time of year.  As the days get longer and temperatures start to creep upward from the winter (an unusually long and cold one this year), my mind and body both feel the urge to wander. I don’t know if it’s the shoots of green and flashes of floral color, or if it’s the arrival of baseball’s Opening Day, but I always feel drawn to head outside and celebrate spring at this time of year.

I wrote about the glories of spring at this time last year, and I’ve always enjoyed this season of renewal and rebirth. Last year, I mentioned that RCA was undergoing a rebirth of its own, branching out into new areas and winning community praise for our analysis and advocacy. I’m happy to say that the past year has been a very busy and productive one for us.

We’ve been active on issues from the Master Plan to the proposed RCC rec center to our libraries and more.  We’ve done a great job getting involved in the community conversation on key issues.  We’ve strengthened our relationships with other organizations.

I’m happy to report that RCA is poised for another renewal as we head into this spring.  Our recently-seated new Board members have brought fresh perspectives and new energy to RCA.  We’ve rolled out our Reston 411 series to help our citizens get up to speed on key issues (the first installment is now up on our website). We’re preparing for Reston 2020’s upcoming “ResTown Hall Meeting” on the Baron Cameron Park master plan (happening on Monday, April 7th at 7 PM at Aldrin Elementary). And we’ve had some recent developments on the Reston-Nyeri Sister City project that I hope to share with you soon.

In short, it’s an exciting time to be involved in RCA, and I’m proud of all the great work we’re doing. The fact that we’re making progress on so many fronts gives me confidence that RCA will remain strong with or without me.

As you probably know, over the past month I have been running for a seat on the Reston Association Board. The campaign is now over, but as of this writing, we don’t know who has won. As a result, I’m not sure whether I will be continuing with RCA.  (If elected to RA, the time commitment will require me to step down from RCA.)

The past month, dividing my time between the campaign and RCA and my family and my job, has been a busy and fairly stressful time. I couldn’t have survived it without the help of my RCA colleagues, who have stepped in to pick up the slack for my lesser involvement. They’ve made sure that RCA has kept humming along and remained just as productive as ever.

If I am not elected to RA, I will happily return to RCA and work on keeping our projects moving forward. But if I do wind up moving on to RA, I have every confidence that my smart and hard-working colleagues will keep RCA going and serving the community well in my absence.

As I await news on my future, I look forward to having some time to enjoy the season. Getting off the campaign trail will free up some more of my time for taking walks along our pathways and enjoying our natural beauty, the trees and flowers in full bloom.

Nature and the environment are essential to Restonians, a fact that was reinforced during my campaign. One of the concerns I heard most frequently from the people I spoke with was balancing development with preserving our natural resources and open space.  Striking that balance will be one of the key challenges that all of us — RCA, RA, and everyone who’s interested in Reston’s future — will need to face in the coming years.

With the revised Master Plan approved by the Board of Supervisors, it’s clear that growth — significant growth — is coming to Reston. There are going to be a lot of new buildings and a lot of new people in our community over the next several decades. Whether that winds up being a positive or a negative for Reston depends on whether we find the balance, particularly in areas like the environment.

It’s true that some parts of Reston, especially around the Silver Line stations, are going to be denser and more urban than anything we’ve been used to before. But there are ways to grow and develop without becoming a concrete jungle. It’s possible to make natural areas a key component of even our most urban neighborhoods. It’s possible to plan with the goal of creating harmony between nature and development. It’s possible to design buildings that are environmentally sensitive, that conserve our resources.

In order to do that, though, it’s going to take careful collaboration between all of Reston’s stakeholders and a shared commitment to those principles.  It will require thoughtful consideration of our priorities, and a clear vision about the elements that are most essential to Reston’s sense of itself.  This will not the easiest or cheapest way to develop.  But it allows us to grow for the future while ensuring that the things we love about Reston will be preserved. I look forward to helping us work toward that goal, whether I’m with RCA or RA or any other organization.

I hope you don’t mind that this week’s column wandered a bit more than usual.  Something about the warmth of springtime encourages this sort of rambling walk. I have no doubt that you’ll be hearing more from me and from RCA on the issues I’ve discussed, and more. I look forward to seeing what happens as spring continues to unfold.  And if you see me out on the pathways enjoying the splendor of the season, be sure and say hi.

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

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