Whatever Happened to: More Path Lights Near Hunters Woods

by Karen Goff August 4, 2015 at 9:30 am 44 Comments

RA path near Hunters Woods Village Center The last two springs, Fairfax County Police listened to residents’ concerns about the dark stretch of path that runs behind Hunters Woods Village Center and is often a site for crime such as assault and drug activity.

Police said at a 2014 community meeting that plans were in the works to improve lighting and that Reston Association — which owns the stretch of path — would pay for it.

At a 2015 meeting, Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and FCPD Reston Station assistant commander Lance Schiable both addressed concerns about Reston’s overall lack of lighting, even though Reston was planned that way.

“With Metro here now, we have more people walking and riding bikes in Reston, and they want to do it at night,” Hudgins said. “We need to figure out how to make it safer for them. It is very dark here in Reston.”

Reston Association said in 2013 it had set aside $125,000 for the lighting project. It’s more than halfway through 2015, though, and there are no new lights. What happened?

Like many aspects of life in Fairfax County, the costs went up, RA says.

What was expected to cost RA $125,000 grew to an estimated $190,000, RA CEO Cate Fulkerson said last December. While the $125,000 carried over to the current budget, the costs grew even more.

“The actual total cost is closer to $300,000,” Fulkerson told Reston Now in December. “We have not installed pathway lighting in many years, and the original estimate used in building the 2014/2015 Capital Budgets did not account for expenses related to Dominion Power’s engineering and equipment costs, which have increased considerably since the last time the Association installed pathways lighting.”

RA is hoping that Edens, which owns Hunters Woods, will pick up a significant share of the costs. Edens reps did not return messages.

Meanwhile, RA may increase the scope of the project to improve lighting at other areas in need, not just at Hunters Woods, RA spokesman Mike Leone said. RA’s Design Review Board told RA earlier this year it wanted a comprehensive lighting guideline for the whole community.

“We set aside the money in the 2014 budget, but what has happened has become kind of a bigger project,” he said. “When RA started working with Dominion, it got more expensive, based on the police recommendation. But what also started to happen, is we started getting input from Shadowood and other [nearby] condos wanting better lighting in their area.”

Leone said what started as a one stretch of path has now turned into a “urban design guidelines that would include a pedestrian lighting plan for the community.”

Leone says RA will “engage a lighting consultant to help develop that plan, as well as look at the safety of paths and the issue of light pollution while engaging the community in the process.”

He said it is a multiyear project and the costs are not yet known.

“Once that lighting design plan is developed by a consultant, then would go to RA board and the Design Review Board to develop a comprehensive lighting plan for the whole community,” Leone said.

Leone said RA is still hoping Edens will pay for some of the lighting upgrades near Hunters Woods.

Photo: RA path near Hunters Woods Village Center/file photo

  • cRAzy

    Hmmmmmm . . . just wonder if Tetra property’s acquisition/repair/renovation/improvement costs will blow up the same way. I guess if you pay 2-1/2 the value of a property in the first place, it doesn’t really matter. Does it?

    Still, we need to watch Topsy, er, Tetra, costs grow.

  • Emmanuel Goldstein

    So we have money for ponies and bocce ball courts and other follies but can’t provide proper lighting on the various paths near hunters woods. Not that the lights would stop the thuggery that occurs in that area

    • qwerty

      Ponies? If only.

    • Ming the Merciless

      Stopping the thuggery would harm the self-esteem of the yoots and further hinder frontal lobe development.

      Also, Cathy Hudgins wouldn’t like it. All the lights and cameras and call boxes won’t do squat if the police refuse to respond (see: Londonistan).

      • Emmanuel Goldstein

        I made a call to the local precinct under the non-emergency number as it was not life threatening. The operator whom answered the call seemed annoyed that I even called and to the best of my knowledge, no one ever came to the scene to investigate the incident.

        • Ming the Merciless

          Be glad they didn’t send an officer to interrogate you for suspected Thoughtcrime. It will come to that yet.

  • MJay

    The lights obviously were not high on the RA priority list, to the extent such a list exists. Apparently, the biggest issue to face all RA members was to obtain a $2.5 million loan for Tetra, and not safe lighting to reflect Metro’s arrival or even flexibility in regard to the golf course. Heck, RA spent $135,000 on travel according to its own tax filing, to what end nobody seems to know. RA needs some serious housecleaning (and maybe a credible investigation re: travel expenses).

    • Karen Goff

      As an update, “TRAVEL” is the IRS term, but Reston Association says that is the category for the fleet of trucks, snowplows, vans and their maintenance, gas etc. not actual travel.

      • MJay

        Thank you for the clarification!

      • Ed Cacciapaglia

        This is poor classification or a questionable response by RA. It makes this CPA wonder what other gems are hidden away on that recently released 2014 Form 990 submitted by RA.

        • cRAzy

          Should the IRS know about these “gems”?

      • MJay

        Ed brings up a good point. How is it that RA reported its office expenses at more than $1 million, yet are telling you that it only cost $135,000 for the fleet of trucks, snowplows, vans and their maintenance, gas etc. And how is this reconciled with “equipment” that was reported at nearly $600,000? Is there any independent auditor involved in reviewing our homeowner association? Ever since the Tetra debacle, I’ve been much more cynical about RA’s role and abilities.

        • John Higgins

          The tax return alone is not terribly useful for members interested in how our HOA is managed (but there are a few gems of info not found elsewhere). The largest item, and lion’s share, of the office expense category is rent. Equipment expense includes repairs and replacements of low-value (under $5,000) assets.

          The CPA firm BDO does an annual audit of the financial report but it is not a review of management practices. BDO reviews its work with the volunteer Fiscal Committee, usually in March and any RA member is welcome to attend. That committee is fairly informal, so members with questions or concerns have a good opportunity to engage. With topics such as Pony Barn, Tetra and lighting drawing so much interest, I’d recommend sitting in on a monthly a committee meeting or two, especially the meeting discussing the tax return and audit. It may not have been TJ who said it, but there’s merit to “Etetnal vigilance is the price…..”

  • LaureenMT

    More lighting is needed NOW. This has not been a priority of RA, but it is vital to the safety of Reston residents and visitors.

    • Emmanuel Goldstein

      Sending police by those trails once in a while would be great. Too many youths loitering around there doing drugs

    • Richard

      This is not at all vital to safety. This is a measure that’s being promoted by a bunch of fraidicats. If you are bold enough to jog the trails at night, wear a head lamp like the rest of us. Or let your eyes adjust to the dark. Other than crosswalks and businesses, I don’t see a real need for lighting anywhere in Reston. Is this action being taken to address a perceived or a real problem? First show me the evidence of a problem.

      • Avery Straw


        Hunters Woods (area 530) follows RTC (area 510) in crime statistics. I live across from HW and would not walk to the center through the woods/on the paths at night. I would walk around RTC, mainly because they are well lit and have more people.

        According to FC police maps (the my neighborhood feature) there have been 36 events to date this year at HW shopping center alone and 324 in the area, from larceny to drugs.

        I just moved back from London, where we also had mixed housing. A comparable look at my neighborhood crimes there came up with 10 crimes in June in my sub ward, compared to 30+ in July in the HW area.

        So, regardless of the need for lighting, yes, there is a crime issue in the HW area.

        • Richard

          Whether there is crime in Hunters Woods is not the question. The question is whether lighting of the Reston paths will affect the crime rate. I’m curious how many actual crimes occur along the Reston paths, and of those, how many might have been prevented by additional lighting. The same statistics you cite for Hunters Woods show that nearly 25% of the violations are noise complaints (which would maybe go up with added lighting). Within the Hunters Woods part of Reston there are miles and miles of dark paths, but relatively few, concentrated areas where crime is occurring. If your hypothesis is that additional lighting will deter crime, then those few areas are the only places where additional lighting is needed.

  • Richard

    Why has Cathy Hudgins gotten on this big lighting kick now? Many of us in Reston have always appreciated the lack of intrusive lighting throughout our community. I’m pleased that RA is going to address this in a comprehensive manner instead of going off half-cocked like a reactive politician with a fear of the dark.

    • vdiv

      There’s a middle ground. You can have safely lit trails and sidewalks and not have projector lights in your bedroom window at the same time.

      • Richard

        True, I’m pleased to hear that RA is spending the time that’s necessary to best identify that middle-ground. This is hardly an emergency. Let’s do it right and get the best value for our dollars.

        • cRAzy

          If it’s done by Reston VOLUNTEERS and not overpaid “public lighting consultants,” that would be OK. But since RA can only get the answers it WANTS (not that their right–see Tetra) when it pays people a lot of money, that won’t happen.

      • Mookie Taylor

        Yes, but it is still bad for the wildlife.

        • vdiv

          Really?! 🙂 The wildlife loves my porch light! Spiders, mosquitoes, gnats, moths, slugs, ground frogs, all come over for an all-night party 😉

  • ItsNotMyMoney

    Original budget $125,000, current estimate over $300,000. We can’t afford it now, so how about we expand the scope and “engage” a lighting consultant to develop an “urban design guideline”.

    It’s interesting to note in the linked article a carryover of “$26,710 for renovations for replacement of the Pony Barn”. After “engaging” that has morphed into $350,000.

    $300,000 + $350,000 = $650,000
    Gee, I wonder where we could have gotten that kind of money from. OH! I remember now, it was squandered elsewhere.

    • Emmanuel Goldstein

      You mean TETRA?

  • vdiv

    Get some string lights from the dollar store and be done. They don’t last you say? For a quarter of a million dollars you could keep replacing them for decades.

  • Metro Snake Eating a Bird

    Lights alone wont work, they need to install cameras and call boxes.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Here’s a free solution: open carry.

    • Ming the Merciless

      Yeah but better light will improve their aim!

      • Emmanuel Goldstein

        The next youth I see holding a gun properly will be the first. Too many suge knight impersonators

  • Mookie Taylor

    It seems I hear a lot about crime happening in that area during the day. I don’t see how lighting will help. In fact, it could make things worse because more people will venture down the path at night if it is lit, and it will be easier for muggers to hide just outside the lighted area and watch their target approach.

    • Emmanuel Goldstein

      They all loiter under neat the walkway that goes over the Reston Parkway. You’re correct in that proper lighting will not suffice

      • cRAzy

        That underpass is lit, but people keep knocking out the lights–wonder why???

  • assult

    That whole area needs more lights, heavier police patrolling, and put some god damn guns on the Helicopter already!

  • Greg

    Here is information on Dominion Virginia Power’s outdoor lighting program:


    And the prices for the lights:


    It’s a complex price tariff, including all materials, energy used, and maintenance, but there’s nothing close to $300k in the tariff. Installation costs are negotiable with Dominion and are generally reduced or eliminated as the number of fixtures installed increases.

    • vdiv

      Municipalities worth their salt require utilities to provide street lightning as a condition to providing residential service. Alas we’re not a municipality.

  • Greg
  • vdiv

    Wait, is the incandescent lightning 125 years old, energy-wasting, and obsolete or is the DRB? 😉

    • cRAzy


  • Rational Reston

    Obviously, this is a bottom line issue, and the bottom line is that RA does not care about the actual people. Especially those around Hunter’s Woods.

    • Greg

      The socialist way — Uncle Milton Matthews’ and his disciple Cate’s bills, especially for the needlessly oversized, poorly located and over-outfitted RA HQ that serves very few but those who work at RA, are coming due. Which, of course, means our assessments will be going up ever more to pay for things that are neither needed nor wanted and that benefit few.

      • Reston Crimewatcher


        You are exactly right. All the money is going to feed the beast. Please run for the board. We need to insist on a lifetime cap on assessments and make them live within their means. And it should be capped at the current level. Not another dime, ever. Pony barn project starts at 30K and rises to 350K. Lights were 125K, now estimated at 300K and growing. Plus we have to hire a lighting consultant for a multi year project. And Cate’s response is ” we haven’t installed lights in a long time and the cost went up”. Oh really? She should have known costs before she quotes prices. Its her job to know. RA is out of control and they need to be stopped.


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