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Op-Ed: Yes, Reston, We Have Great Parks and a Great Community

by RestonNow.com — May 6, 2014 at 1:00 pm 12 Comments

ParkTo the Editor:

As a Restonian of nearly 30 years with extensive community involvement in the many organizations, events, and associations that make Reston’s quality of life special, I must challenge the myths and misrepresentations presented by Terry Maynard in his recent editorial.

Let me state unequivocally that Reston is a great community with an outstanding park system. Since parks were a key feature of Reston’s original master plan, the concept of Great Parks, Great Communities was well-established many years ago.

Over the last 50 years, the planned community of Reston has held true to its values of live, work and play.  Bob Simon planned the play portion as a central feature of Reston by creating a local park system operated by the Reston Association, the largest community association in the country. Supplementing this park system is a system of tax districts, county, regional, and private park and recreation offerings that add to the livability and appeal of Reston. These include Reston Community Center, the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA), Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, the YMCA and others.

All of these entities contribute to a comprehensive park system in Reston. Growth-focused demands and shifting leisure patterns will require changes to the park system that are already being coordinated among the multiple providers.

During the recent Reston Transit Station Land Use Study (Reston TSA Phase I) and Plan Amendment process, these organizations worked hand-in-hand to examine the entire park system and identify recreational needs related to the anticipated growth. During this effort, it was recognized that the existing park system addresses the community’s broadening recreational needs well and has potential for added capacity through better use of space, technology and scheduling, and through dedication of new urban parks and active recreation spaces in the transit areas.  These new urban spaces are essential to meeting the growing demands

Here is my perspective on the comparisons upon which Mr. Maynard relies:

  • In 2012, FCPA was a finalist with the New York Parks Department for the National Park and Recreation Association Gold Medal Award.  FCPA won that prestigious national award (for the third time).
  • Comparisons of park systems are tricky because they are all different and formed to meet specific community needs.  Data is not collected in consistent ways and parks are counted in various ways.  A more relevant comparison could be between New York City Manhattan Borough and Fairfax County.

Using data from Fairfax County and NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (Note: Manhattan only), this is how they compare:

2010 Census population 
NYC: 1,585,873; Fairfax County: 1,081,726

Total land area in acres 
NYC: 14,610 (23 sq. mi.); Fairfax County: 250,240 (391 sq. mi.)

Acres of owned parkland 
NYC: 2,779; Fairfax County: 23,594

Population Density/mile
NYC: 68,951; Fairfax County: 2,766

Percentage of total land area as parkland 
NYC: 19 percent; Fairfax County: 9.5 percent

Acres of parkland per 1,000 residents 
NYC: 1.8; Fairfax County: 21.9

Number of fields (rectangle and diamond)
NYC: 155; Fairfax County: 261

Number of fields per 10,000 residents 
NYC: 1.0; Fairfax County 2.4

I am also including new and accurate metrics that contrast with those Mr. Maynard cites. These paint a different story and add clarity to this important community discussion:

The Fairfax County urban parks service level standard is based on residents and employees. The actual standard, misstated in the editorial piece, is one-point-five acres per 1,000 residents plus one acre per 10,000 employees. This standard is adopted in the County Comprehensive Plan for the county’s urban areas including transit station areas.

Mr Maynard continues to refer to the suburban standard, which is not how we now look at these areas and amenities and that is why it is expressly contained in the Comprehensive Plan for Reston and Tysons Corner developments.

Using this standard, the planned net growth for the Reston Transit Station Areas (TSA) through 2040 generates a need for approximately 55 new acres of urban parks. In Tysons, the planned growth through 2050 generates the need for an additional 154 acres of urban parks.  The pace and volume of future development will be the primary determinant of how many and when future urban parks are developed.

The newly-approved Reston Transit Station Areas Plan recommends a total of 12 athletic fields to serve the future growth in the TSA through 2040, with three fields to be located in the TSAs (one field per TSA) and the remainder to be provided through a combination of expanded capacity of existing fields that serve Reston and the provision of new fields that serve Reston.

As growth occurs, the generated need for parks and active recreation will need to be addressed through the development process and public and private contributions.

Realistically, the greatest opportunity for expanding capacity and adding fields is at Reston’s two district parks  — Baron Cameron and Lake Fairfax. The FCPA has begun to plan for growing needs through the revision of the Baron Cameron Park’s master plan. The draft master plan allows for significant capacity expansion over the existing fields through use of full size fields that accommodate more flexible use, lights, and synthetic turf. Lake Fairfax Park will be similarly examined for potential added capacity through a master plan revision process that is planned for next year.

Other opportunities to meet the full range of community recreation needs will be explored in concert with the various park providers that serve Reston.

Yes, Reston, we have Great Parks and a Great Community. I am very proud of the progress and planning represented by the park system we have today, and look to the future with anticipation and optimism. This not a cliché, you just have to look beyond the numbers.

Over $30 million has been invested by the Park Authority in Reston (Small District 5) parks in the past six years, and we are excited about what the future is going to bring. We will certainly take advantage of any opportunities that are presented to us through future land acquisition opportunities, development proffers, public/private partnerships, and bond programs to meet our diverse park needs.

Sincerely,

William G. Bouie
Chairman
Fairfax County Park Authority Board

  • NotaGG3

    We ought to have great parks–average householders in Small Tax District Five pay almost $500.00 in addition to the County tax bite. Looking beyond the numbers, one sees Reston school children who cannot get playing time on Reston soccer fields, plans to demolish a stand of mature trees at Lake Anne, and Wiehle Avenue denuded of green. Overdevelopment is us. It is sad to see Reston become just another cookie cutter suburb.

  • Bill Bouie

    The average Reston homeowner pays less than $235 per year or less than $.65 per day. The tax rate is $.047 per $100 of assessed value of the property. The other thing to note regarding the SD5 tax is that it is paid by both residential and commercial property owners, so 47% of SD5 revenues come from the commercial marketplace, not Reston residents.

    • John Hanley

      Bill,

      Why does it make SD5 payments more acceptable in principle if commercial entities are paying half of the taxes? Why should they be hit any more than individual taxpayers? I don’t follow the logic of that remark. It’s the taxes, not
      the payer mix, that are being criticized.

      John Hanley

  • Rational Reston

    “Realistically, the greatest opportunity for expanding capacity and adding fields is at Reston’s two district parks – Baron Cameron and Lake Fairfax”….yet the plan put forth by FCPA in the Baron Cameron Park master plan is to remove two fields. This is counter intuitive.

    While I agree that Reston has some great parks, I’d propose that the statement is that we have some great undermainained parks. Look at the quality of the two district parks, the best fields at Baron Cameron are mediocre at their best. The situation is similar at Lake Fairfax. FCPA talks about adding capacity by increasing the use of artificial surfaces (which are heat islands in the summer), but those fields require expert maintenance, instead they are left to decay.

    So yes, Mr. Bouie, we have great parks and great investment in them, but not wise investment.
    Myopic investment is probably a better term to use as the FCPA chases various shiny baubles, and ignores current facilties at taxpayer expense.

    • Bill Bouie

      You make a great point, and it is very accurate. We as a board, and as a community have been working with the BOS to make them aware that we need to have more maintenance dollars for all of the facilities that we already have in place. The County overall is now looking at that in conjunction with all major capital facilities, schools, and libraries. County Executive Long has been leading that charge and it is now getting a renewed look and serious consideration. Again great point and thank you.

      On the Baron Cameron fields, there will be net new availability with the synthetic turf fields. Each synthetic turf field provides 62% more capacity than a grass field in addition to being able to be used 12 months out of the year instead of 8.

      Thanks for your comments.

  • Terry Maynard

    In this op-ed that Mr. Bouie says is to “challenge the myths and misrepresentations presented by Terry Maynard in his recent editorial,” he fails absolutely. In fact, he does not identify a single fact, finding, or implication from my op-ed that is inaccurate, much less a myth or misrepresentation. He doesn’t even try. He actually couldn’t because the information in my op-ed (excluding the Manhattan data) comes from official county documents. Instead, he first resorts to an ad hominem personal attack that is outrageous and erroneous, and then changes the topic.

    Mr. Bouie’s Manhattan data is an updated version of the same information I used. The only pertinent differences it shows are that NYC has increased Manhattan’s parkland by 0.7% (102 acres) and added five athletic fields in the last couple of years. It begs the question of whether FCPA has accomplished the same for Fairfax County in general over the last couple of years. I know it hasn’t added any public
    parkland or athletic fields to either of its prospective major urban areas, Tysons and Reston.

    Looking backward and county-wide as his op-ed does, I would agree with Mr. Bouie that Fairfax County’s parks as a whole now ranks reasonably well on their extent and availability based on the same Trust for Public Land data I used in my op-ed. Using TPL’s methodology and Mr. Bouie’s data puts Fairfax County’s county “park accessibility score”—TPL’s ultimate measure of park service—at 33rd among the Top 100 cities in the country in 2010. I would also add roughly another 16,000 acres of regional, state, & federal parkland to that total, which would bring the overall public park accessibility score ranking up to 14th.

    Comparing that current countywide picture with the future planned for Tysons and Reston’s urban areas promises a dismal future for future urban residents. Mr. Bouie’s table shows that we now have 21.9 acres per 1,000 residents of county parks county-wide covering 9.5% of the county land with 2.4 athletic fields per 10,000
    residents. Looking forward, the table below shows how poorly the Tysons and Reston urban areas will be served if they achieve their planned densities and the county actually meets its current urban parks standards. In both Tysons and Reston, that long-term goal would achieve about 1.7 acres of parks for 1,000 residents using the county’s mix of residential and employment categories. That is less than one-tenth of what the FCPA already has for the whole county. It’s also about two-thirds (5.7% in Reston, 7.3% in Tysons) the share of land now devoted to parks in the county as a whole. And it offers fewer athletic fields per 10,000 people than the already overcrowded county park system does.

    And, as Mr. Bouie notes, the newly approved Comprehensive Plan for Reston’s urban areas actually calls for reliance on nearby parks, RA’s common areas, and more to fill the County’s obligation for parks to urban taxpayers. As Mr. Bouie notes, the Plan
    calls for “a total of 12 athletic fields to serve the future growth in the TSA through 2040, with three fields to be located in the TSAs (one field per TSA) and the remainder to be provided through a combination of expanded capacity of existing fields that serve Reston and the provision of new fields that serve Reston.” The second half of that sentence means in the rest of Reston—or beyond. He follows up: “Other opportunities to meet the full range of community recreation needs will be
    explored in concert with the various park providers that serve Reston.” That obtuse sentence means either RA or proffers from developers beyond the existing regional W&OD pathway through the station areas.

    In fact, the notion that 12 athletic fields meets the County standard is simply wrong (although it is what FCPA has been using without any official approval). County policy language does not distinguish field requirements between “suburban” and “urban.” Appendix 3 of the FC Parks & Recreation Plan establishes “countywide” park facility service level standards in both the section title and in the lead-in sentence (pp. 21-22) to its table showing those standards that would mean Reston’s urban areas are entitled to have more than 30 athletic fields based on their prospective urban population growth. Tysons’ field requirement would be even larger based on its larger planned population.

    There are other smaller factual errors in Mr. Bouie’s op-ed, but the above covers the major points.

  • Terry Maynard

    In this op-ed that Mr. Bouie says is to “challenge the myths and misrepresentations presented by Terry Maynard in his recent editorial,” he fails absolutely. In fact, he does not identify a single fact, finding, or implication from my earlier op-ed that is inaccurate, much less a myth or misrepresentation. He doesn’t even try. He actually couldn’t because the information in my op-ed (excluding the Manhattan data) comes from official county documents. Instead, he first resorts to an ad hominem personal attack that is outrageous and erroneous, and then changes the topic.

    Mr. Bouie’s Manhattan data is an updated version of the same information I used. The only pertinent differences it shows are that NYC has increased Manhattan’s parkland by 0.7% (102 acres) and added five athletic fields in the last couple of years. It begs the question of whether FCPA has accomplished the same for Fairfax County in general over the last couple of years. I know it hasn’t added any public
    parkland or athletic fields to either of its prospective major urban areas, Tysons and Reston.

    Looking backward and county-wide as his op-ed does, I would agree with Mr. Bouie that Fairfax County’s parks as a whole now ranks reasonably well on their extent and availability based on the same Trust for Public Land data I used in my op-ed. Using TPL’s methodology and Mr. Bouie’s data puts Fairfax County’s “park accessibility score”—it’s ultimate measure of park quality—at 33rd among the Top 100 cities in the country in 2010. I would also add roughly another 16,000 acres of regional, state, & federal parkland to that total, which would bring the overall public park accessibility score ranking up to 14th.

    Comparing that current countywide picture with the future planned for Tysons and Reston’s urban areas promises a dismal future for future urban residents. Mr. Bouie’s table shows that we now have 21.9 acres per 1,000 residents of county parks county-wide covering 9.5% of the county land with 2.4 athletic fields per 10,000 residents. Looking forward, the table below (see attached image) shows how poorly the Tysons and Reston urban areas will be served if they achieve their planned densities and the county actually meets its urban parks standards. In both Tysons and Reston, that long-term goal would achieve about 1.7 acres of parks for 1,000 residents using the county’s mix of residential and employment categories. That is less than one-tenth of what the FCPA already has for the whole county. It’s also about two-thirds (5.7% in Reston, 7.3% in Tysons) the share of land now devoted to parks in the county as a whole. And it offers fewer athletic fields per 10,000 people than the already overcrowded county park system does.

    And, as Mr. Bouie notes, the newly approved Comprehensive Plan for Reston’s urban areas actually calls for reliance on nearby parks, RA’s common areas, and more to fill the County’s obligation for parks to urban taxpayers. As Mr. Bouie notes, the Plan calls for “a total of 12 athletic fields to serve the future growth in the TSA through 2040-2050, with three fields to be located in the TSAs (one field per TSA) and the remainder to be provided through a combination of expanded capacity of existing fields that serve Reston and the provision of new fields that serve Reston.” The second half of that sentence means in suburban Reston—or beyond. He follows up: “Other opportunities to meet the full range of community recreation needs will be explored in concert with the various park providers that serve Reston.” That obtuse sentence means either RA or proffers from developers beyond the existing regional W&OD trail park through the station areas.

    In fact, the notion that 12 athletic fields meets the County standard is simply wrong (although it is what FCPA has been using without any official approval). Appendix 3 of the FC Parks & Recreation Plan establishes “countywide” park facility service level standards in both the section title and in the lead-in sentence (pp. 21-22) to its table showing those standards that would mean Reston’s urban areas are entitled to have more than 30 athletic fields based on their prospective urban population growth. Tysons’ field requirement would be even larger.

  • Tammi Petrine

    Gee, Bill Bouie. You can state all of the “facts” that you wish and pat yourself on the back for all the awards you have won, but please answer the one question that all Restonians and Small Tax District #5 people (yes, commercial taxpayers are people too) are asking now and have been asking for years: Why do we pay, with our Fairfax County taxes, for Rec Centers all over the county but continue to be the ONLY district in the ENTIRE county NOT to have a county-funded Rec Center????

    You as a member of RCC’s BOG (#5’s elected bosses) with Leila Gordon, Director of RCC are pushing for us to SELF-FUND a Reston Rec Center. Why do you do this? You are supposed to represent Hunter Mill taxpayers and are indeed CHAIR of the FCPA. We would hope to have super duper facilities in Hunter Mill but instead we have minimal ones with no plans to provide a Rec Center despite plans for thousands of new residents coming into our community. WE WANT A COUNTY FUNDED REC CENTER and WE WANT IT PRONTO. We have been paying for others for over 30 years! When is our turn??? When are you going to look out for US, YOUR constituents???

    • Leila Gordon

      Tammi, I don’t know why you haven’t absorbed or believed our Board discussions about this. The RCC Board’s commitment to pursuing a new facility has been predicated on these principles: that the community be engaged in and supportive of our efforts; that the funding come from any and all sources that can minimize the impact on SD 5; and that the SD 5 contribution – whatever it might be – be sustainable within our current tax resources and assure that preferential treatment be given to Reston patrons as a consequence. I wish you would take greater care to reflect Bill’s and the rest of the Board’s and my discussions and actions.

      • Tammi Petrine

        How does asserting common sense offend you, Leila Gordon? You neither live in Fairfax County nor do you pay taxes here. Yet you are fast to plan extra expenses for those of us who do! You are our employee; not our BOSS. Goody if your plans are predicated on the community being engaged in supporting this nutty idea that #5 patrons want to pay for something that every other FFX Co. residents gets for free!!! Why don’t you get that? Why doesn’t Mr. Bouie get that and stand up for us? Where has he been for all the years he has served on the FCPA? Isn’t he supposed to be our champion? At the presentation of FCPA’s master plan for Barron Cameron Park, a gentleman stood up and demanded that #5 STOP treating us like your personal piggy bank. EVERYONE gave him an ovation. Did that not resonate? At the RCA forum on the master plan, not one of the attendees supported a Rec Center in that park. BB was there; he can verify that. Make no mistake: we get that you want to build a Rec Center on our backs; we say NO. Let all the other taxpayers in the county chip in and provide for us what we have been providing for them for as long as Reston has existed. Now I wish you would “take greater care to reflect” on this idea: NO REC CENTER RUN OR SPONSORED BY SD#5.

        • Leila Gordon

          Sorry, I’m done trying to have a rational exchange. I don’t question your motivation, Tammi, nor do I attack you personally when we disagree.

          • Tammi Petrine

            How is stating facts attacking you personally, Leila? Just because you are hearing AGAIN that #5 should not be attempting to put more burden on #5 patrons is NOT a personal attack.

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