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Residents Decry Bocce Presence, Procedure

Cabots Point ParkTraffic. Parking woes. Drinking. A direct disregard for the principles of Reston and infringing on green space.

Those were some of the comments from residents of Reston clusters close to Cabots Point Recreation Area at Reston Association’s regular board meeting on Thursday night. Nearly two dozen residents of South Bay, Cedar Cove and Cabots Point spoke to or sent in comments to the board in opposition of the bocce court that the RA Board approved last winter.

The plan calls for a 60-x-12 foot court, with the projected $2,500 cost to be paid for by Friends of Reston. The court would be built in the open lawn area of the park, which is used for a variety of activities such as soccer, lacrosse, baseball and simple running around. The remainder of the park contains benches and playground equipment.

In July, RA CEO Cate Fulkerson proposed taking bocce off the table and starting over because “proper notification and opportunity for public input or a hearing was not made regarding the proposed project and change in use of the recreation area.”

But after explanation from South Lakes Director Richard Chew that proper procedures were followed, Fulkerson’s proposal was voted to be taken off the agenda prior to the July 31 RA meeting.

The residents of the nearby clusters are not at all pleased with Chew, who lives in Cedar Cove. Many speakers at the meeting say the director reached out to one of the clusters but not the other, and that the project was pushed forward without the clusters’ knowledge.

“I object to this project for many reasons, including that the approval processes were blatantly ignored,” said Chuck Cascio, a longtime South Bay resident. “This was an appallingly self-centered breach of trust.”

South Bay cluster president Bill Parker said that mail to affected parties in the clusters was never delivered and was returned to RA. He also said that the field was recently marked off — but at 80-by-55 feet the space is much larger than the application approved by the Design Review Board in June.

“That will take up 4,400 square feet — almost half the park,” said Parker, adding that that those plans were not in the original application.

Parker also said the refusal to accept an appeal was improper and the listing of Cabots Point, Cedar Cove and South Bay clusters as affected parties and subsequent revocation of affected party status was misleading and incorrect. He added that Chew’s role in project and subsequent actions should preclude his further participation in it.

Other speakers appealed to the board that the bocce court would dramatically affect the area in a variety of ways. Among them:

Loss of green space. “Restonians can engage in impromptu, unstructured activities at the park.” South Bay resident Faye Cascio said in an email to the board that RA president Ken Knueven read. “Disrupting the tiny park’s natural appeal in order to install bocce would be a major violation of what Reston is all about. There are precious few places anywhere these days where parents and children can run and play in an unstructured environment.”

Adults at the park. “There is a real possibility that bocce can draw in less than desirable behavior, litter, crime, and drinking,” said a Cedar Cove resident . “That will interfere with families with young children that would enjoy the tot lot.”

Another resident pointed out that a NPR.com story that called bocce “a social game at a social gathering.”

“It’s a civilized game that brings people together … it’s mostly for the booze,” one recreational player says of bocce in the 2013 article.

Safety. Several speakers reiterated that South Bay, on the left side of the entrance to the park, has narrow streets and very limited parking. If more than a few cars parked there, emergency vehicles would be unable to get through, creating a public safety hazard.

Expense. While RA says the total cost of the project is $2,500 and will be paid for by Friends of Reston, one resident said that builders would likely have to level the slightly sloped lot. That could cost as much as $50,000, the speaker estimated.

“I would suggest RA spend its money elsewhere,” said one resident. Another resident suggested via e-mail that Reston spend its money on becoming a bat haven in order to better control insects.

RA has learned from the bocce issue. The association said in August that a new development review process has been established that will better involve residents before projects are approved.

Photo: Cabots Point Park/file photo

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