Pony Barn Group Peeved by RA’s Stop Work Order

by Karen Goff August 3, 2016 at 11:30 am 15 Comments

Pony BarnReston Association’s Pony Barn Working Group has spent about two years brainstorming ideas to transform the small recreational area off of Triple Crown Road.

Money has been allocated by RA, an engineering firm has been working on concepts and the site plan was estimated to have been submitted to Fairfax County this summer.

That is, until the working group recently got the call to stop.

In late June, RA CEO Cate Fulkerson told representatives of the Pony Barn group, as well as principals working on renovations for RA’s Central Services Facility to stop work until an independent review of the Lake House project could be conducted.

RA purchased the Lake House for $2.6 million in July of 2015 with plans to renovate and repurpose the former Reston Visitors Center into a building for community use. The renovations are complete — but came in at $430,000 over estimates. RA has formed a citizens group to hire an auditing firm to determine exactly what went wrong. That review, which will cost the association more money, is expected to be done this fall.

But that is not sitting well with the Pony Barn volunteers, who says stopping their own project “sends the wrong message.”

“Our members are very disillusioned,” Triple Crown resident and Pony Barn group member Renette Oklekwicz told the board at the RA Board meeting last week. “I have heard some say ‘I don’t trust RA. Are there any surprises here? They are never going to let us finish this project.’ ”

The Pony Barn project itself morphed from a $30,000 upgrade (for a new roof and flooring for the picnic pavilion) to a $350,000 overhaul, though RA approved $350,000 last year — before any major work started. 

The Pony Barn area — which once held an actual Pony Barn — is currently a picnic pavilion and a swing set. What the Pony Barn Working Group envisions in its final plan: a playground accessible for people with disabilities, a tot lot, a paved pathway, a historical information kiosk, cooking grills and a deck to overlook a butterfly garden.

In February, it hired Christopher Consultants to do a site plan.

Civil engineers are in the middle of stormwater management planning for the site — and they need to get paid, said working group member Marianne Zawitz.

“They are in middle of doing very complicated and detailed planning and [now] can’t move forward,” she told the board, which voted Thursday to release the money for stormwater planning.

Otherwise, the project remains stalled and the working group remains peeved.

“We have been working for two years,” said Oklekwicz. “We have been persistent and very patient. … and not a single ting has been done to the park. It is extraordinary we we are still at it.

“It’s a slow process. but we don’t believe that this hold is warranted any longer,” she said. “As far as we see, RA has the means and the Lake House overage has been covered. Quite honestly, the Lake House issue should not be our issue. We should not be punished for what happened there. That is how we feel. We have done nothing to warrant this hold.”

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