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

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.


William G. Bouie
Fairfax County Park Authority Board

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