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by Dave Emke — September 29, 2017 at 2:45 pm 4 Comments

After hearing a report on the latest plans for a capital project at the Pony Barn Pavilion, the Reston Association Board of Directors still had a lot of questions.

At their meeting Thursday (video), directors heard from Chris Schumaker, RA’s capital operations manager, who presented the most recent information gathered on the project. Schumaker presented the project budget overview, proposed scope options, DRB recommendations for Pony Barn, and a structural analysis of the site.

The Pony Barn pavilion replacement was first approved by RA in 2013, at a cost of $30,000. RA later approved, as part of the 2016-17 capital projects budget, $350,000 for a full-scale renovation project. That money has been locked up since last July, however, when RA put major capital projects on hold in the wake of the controversy over the Lake House purchase.

As the Pony Barn Working Group seeks those funds to be released so the project can get underway, the Board is being presented with four options for the project, with playgrounds and handicap-accessibility being the main variables.

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by Dave Emke — September 1, 2017 at 2:45 pm 16 Comments

During a community meeting earlier this week (video) on a future Hook Road Recreation Area capital project, residents provided their thoughts on what should — and should not — be done at the park.

Hook Road Recreation Area was selected by RA’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee as the pilot project for “full-facility enhancement” after multiple facilities were evaluated in 2016. The idea is to take a facility that has pieces of replacement work in the plans in the capital reserve study and, instead, consider comprehensive work to upgrade the facility all at once.

Tuesday’s meeting was a kickoff to the project, sharing information with the community and beginning the process of gathering input. In between tense moments at the meeting, many residents of the community said they appreciated the effort Reston Association is undertaking to engage the community from the very start of the process.

“We all know, living in Reston, things change,” said John Pinkman, of Rescue Reston. “Things have to improve if we want to keep our property values as high as they are, [so] I really encourage this process.”

Dan Pennington, president of the Orchard Green Cluster Association, asked for clarification on what has been identified by Reston Association staff as “aging components” of the park that require attention. Garrett Skinner, RA’s capital projects director, said everything at the park falls into that category.

“Nothing has been replaced — in terms of the tennis court, the ballfields, the multipurpose court — since 1975,” Skinner said. “Many of these features are all kind of due for rehab around the same time, and this will be a good opportunity to look at everything as one facility instead of the previous methodology for us, [which was] just to fix little things as they’re needed.”

Concerns about parking and restroom facilities at the park are among those that have been brought up in one way or another regarding the project. Upgrades to facilities including the baseball field have also been mentioned by community members.

At Tuesday’s meeting, design consultant Dewberry was introduced to members, and its representatives shared information about the studies that have been done so far and how community input will be used as the project continues to be studied and eventually decided upon. A representative of PRAC also shared information, as did Skinner.

The question was raised of whether the fact that $50,000 has already been allocated from the Repair & Replacement Reserve Fund to develop plans for Hook Road means a “very large” project is being envisioned.

“What you saw tonight from Dewberry, all of that work, that’s where we allocated that $50,000 — all the data gathering, all the community input, all the research they’re doing,” said Sherri Hebert, president of RA’s Board of Directors. “There is no design [yet]. It could be anything from a small little thing to whatever the community wants. There’s nothing out there yet.”

Saying the current RA board is “very conservative” when funds are concerned, Hebert said a large-scale project is not anticipated.

“What will be different this year is an iterative process between the Working Group … and the Board,” Hebert said. “It’s not going to come back with this big project. … Nothing will be a surprise with the community.”

The Hook Road Working Group will be tasked with making a proposal to the RA Board on the project’s scope early next year. Applications for the group are currently being accepted, and interviews will take place in October.

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by RestonNow.com — August 28, 2017 at 2:45 pm 4 Comments

The Fairfax County Park Authority has released the draft version of its latest Parks & Recreation System Master Plan and is inviting the public to give its feedback.

The park system master planning process was first initiated with the 1993 Recreation Demand Study. The plan has been revised several times over the years, most recently in 2011.

According to the Park Authority website, the revisions to the 2011 plan were deemed necessary because a “revision is undertaken when the park system or its surrounding community have notably changed. This is the case with the Fairfax County park system.”

The Park Authority says “[m]any of the strategies detailed in the 2011 plan have been completed despite funding challenges” and “[a]dditional improvements or system changes have also been made where possible in order to address emerging community needs.”

Principles in the “Great Parks, Great Communities” plan include to inspire a passion for parks, meet changing recreation needs, advance park system excellence, strengthen and foster partnerships; be equitable and inclusive; be great stewards; and promote healthy lifestyles.

The goals include to improve and promote natural resource protection and management; ensure protection, conservation, preservation and interpretation of cultural resources; improve access and opportunities for healthy and active lifestyles; enhance and maintain park system quality and condition; advance as an innovative, responsive and adaptable organization; and provide sustainable financial management to advance the Park Authority mission.

Residents are encouraged to read over the plan and submit comments by email to [email protected], the comment box on the Park Authority website during a public input meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 12 from 7-9 p.m. at Green Springs Gardens (4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria).

Comments can be submitted through Sept. 22.

Graphic via Fairfax County Park Authority

by Dave Emke — August 23, 2017 at 2:45 pm 95 Comments

As input sessions on a proposed capital improvement project at Hook Road Recreation Area will soon begin, one member of the Reston Association Board of Directors has big questions.

Ray Wedell, an At-Large director who lived on Hook Road for seven years, has been adamantly against the project proposal from the start. He says the future of that park must be evaluated in a “deeper and more meaningful way” than what is currently being approached by RA.

In a five-page statement (download in full) that he recently presented to the Board, CEO Cate Fulkerson and RA staff members, Wedell argues the emphasis should be on preserving the “beautiful and peaceful open space” at the park rather than on enhancements to what he views as little-used facilities.

I submitted this as part of the record before the first budget meeting, which I could not attend. I asked it be part of the record. Having heard nothing from any of the 18 recipients in the RA brain trust concerning my piece, I brought it up at the next budget meeting (very lightly attended), and again asked that it be included as part of the record,” Wedell told Reston Now. “Although politely added to the record, my sense is that it will be buried. The procedure to follow on this Hook Road project (and maybe even the ultimate outcome) [has] already been determined long ago. My opinions will be circumvented as much as possible.”

Wedell’s opinions focus in large part upon changes to the eastern portion of the property, which features four tennis courts, a tennis practice wall and a basketball court — all amenities the director says are greatly underused.

There are four tennis courts that are lit at night. There is amazingly little use of these courts during most of the year, as I have often documented. There is also no check that I can ever decipher that the few people playing there are actually Reston residents paying for the privilege. Alongside the tennis courts is a practice tennis wall, another wasted space rarely used. There is also a paved basketball court. This is almost never used.

Instead of renovating these facilities, which he says would be “expensive and unnecessary,” Wedell says they are perfect places to increase parking at the recreation area.

All of this territory can be beautifully re-purposed at minimal expense, and likely less upkeep. Furthermore, my proposal could draw heavily from private donations, whereas none of the retrofit projects to keep Hook Road as is would do so.

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by Dave Emke — August 22, 2017 at 2:45 pm 2 Comments

A meeting next week will allow Reston Association members a chance to learn more about a future project at the Hook Road Recreation Area.

“This first meeting on the Hook Road Recreation Area is intended to be a kick-off for the project,” according to Sabrina Tadele, RA’s board and committee liaison. “[It] will be followed by multiple community input meetings this October soliciting member feedback on what improvements (if any) should be made at this site.”

At the meeting, slated for Tuesday, Aug. 29 at 6:30 p.m. at RA headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive):

  • Members will receive an overview of the process undertaken by Reston Association’s volunteer Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee to select this site
  • The schedule for future community input meetings will be shared
  • Staff will provide an outline of final project deliverables
  • The design consultant engaged for the project will be introduced (This firm has been selected to help facilitate the development of a master plan for the site based on community input and the guidance of the Hook Road Working Group)
  • The opportunity to serve on the Hook Road Working Group will be highlighted for any members interested in contributing to the development of this project on an ongoing basis.

The Reston Association Board of Directors voted at its July meeting to form the group. The group’s purpose will be to provide to the Board, by January, recommendations for implementing solutions that affects both park users and adjacent property owners. The recommendations are to be determined after the series of public input meetings, in coordination with the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee and the project design firm.

The group’s recommendations, according to its purpose, should:

  • Enhance the use of Hook Road Recreation Area through facility renovations and improvements including but not limited to restroom facility additions and evaluation of existing amenities;
  • Improve landscaping and hardscaping;
  • Increase accessibility and improve safety for users; and,
  • Fit within the budget constraints set by the Board.

The park was selected by RA’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee for “full-facility enhancement” after multiple facilities were evaluated last year. “Full-facility enhancement” is part of the new capital project methodology that was adopted by the RA board in 2016. The idea is to take a facility that has pieces of replacement work in the plans in the capital reserve study and, instead, doing comprehensive work to upgrade the facility all at once.

In December, the Board authorized the allocation of $50,000 from the Repair & Replacement Reserve Fund for the purpose of developing design concept plans related to the Hook Road project, which may help to resolve any current site configuration challenges that may exist based on community input.

During Board discussion of the project at its March meeting, At-Large Director Ray Wedell was especially vocal in his opposition to the project. During an animated speech, he said it is “an excellent field as it sits” and “what Reston should represent.”

“For the life of me, I have no idea what you people are going to propose to change it,” he said. “[People who live near the park] are quite content with how it is right now.”

The Hook Road Recreation Area was originally developed in 1965, with additions of tennis and basketball amenities in 1973. Since, the property has remained relatively unchanged.

Photo courtesy Reston Association

by Dave Emke — March 24, 2017 at 2:45 pm 39 Comments

Ray Wedell/RA YouTube

Discussion got heated Thursday night at Reston Association Headquarters during talk about a potential future project at Hook Road Recreation Area.

The park was selected by RA’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee for “full-facility enhancement” after multiple facilities were evaluated last year. The idea is to take a facility that has pieces of replacement work in the plans in the capital reserve study and, instead, doing comprehensive work to upgrade the facility all at once.

The Hook Road park was chosen by PRAC as a “pilot” project for the full-facility enhancement plan, said RA capital improvements director Garrett Skinner, because it has a number of amenities all in one place and hasn’t been substantially upgraded for more than 40 years.

“For the capital department, this is also a great pilot to really use and demonstrate all of the new policies and procedures we’re putting into place for project management, for communications, for engagement with not only these departments within the Association, but all of the committees and work groups as well,” he said.

Director Ray Wedell, who said he lived near the park for seven years, took exception to the plan to upgrade the facility. During an animated speech, he said it is “an excellent field as it sits” and “what Reston should represent.”

“For the life of me, I have no idea what you people are going to propose to change it,” he said. “[People who live near the park] are quite content with how it is right now.”

The plan as proposed by staff was to advertise a public information session for next month to determine what the community would like to see changed at the park. Concerns about parking and restroom facilities are among those floated in the plan. CEO Cate Fulkerson and Skinner, though, said the community would have the final say through its input on what — if anything — would be done.

“The capital department isn’t going into this project suggesting any solutions, any removal of anything or the addition of anything,” Skinner said. “The question will be up to the community: ‘Do you want anything at all and, if so, what?’ We can [then] determine going forward what that could look like.”

Hook Road Recreation Area has about $122,000 in as-is maintenance expenditures scheduled through 2020, Fulkerson said.

“We can stop [this proposal] now, it’s entirely up to you,” she said. “But according to the reserve study, I’m supposed to be doing stuff at this facility between 2016 and 2020.”

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by Dave Emke — March 20, 2017 at 11:30 am 12 Comments

Hook Road Recreation Area

The Reston Association Board of Directors at their regular meeting Thursday will hear a presentation regarding a potential project at the Hook Road Recreation Area.

Hook Road Recreation Area/Google MapsThe recreation area, which features a baseball field along with tennis and basketball facilities, is located off Fairway Drive, just north of Hidden Creek Golf Course. According to information provided in the agenda for the meeting, it has remained relatively unchanged since 1973.

The Hook Road park was selected by RA’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee for “full-facility enhancement” after multiple facilities were evaluated last year. “Full-facility enhancement” is part of the new capital project methodology that was adopted by the RA board in 2016, according to the information provided.

“This methodology focuses on the revitalization of facilities as a singular unit instead of the periodic replacement of individual components of the site. The former methodology looked at facilities on an amenity-by-amenity basis spread out over several years. The thrust of the Full Facility approach is to improve RA facilities in a comprehensive and holistic manner to create a greater visual impact and maximize value for the membership.”

In December, the Board of Directors allocated $50,000 to fund the initial design concept of the enhancement of the Hook Road Recreation Area. According to information provided, the project’s scope would be to do the following:

  • Enhance the use of Hook Road Recreation Area through facility renovations and improvements including but not limited to parking solutions, restroom facility additions and evaluation of existing amenities
  • Improve landscaping and hardscaping
  • Increase ADA accessibility

The board materials for Thursday’s meeting also indicate that an improved effort to engage members in the process will be undertaken.

“It is important that the Board and staff take into account lessons learned from recent events. A popular criticism the Board received from members regarding the Lake Newport Soccer Proposal was the lack of notice and failure to engage the residents directly adjacent to the site early in the process. Accordingly, during its meeting on February 23, 2017, the Board directed staff to develop an improved member notification process to gather community input when considering major recreation amenity proposals.”

At Thursday’s meeting, the board will consider holding a public information session on the Hook Road project April 26, with notice of the meeting to be sent out March 30. A call will be put out for volunteers to serve on a working group of RA members, first focusing on neighborhood representation, to receive input on facility and site improvements.

The tentative timeline for the project sees it coming before the board for budget approval in October.

Other items on the agenda for the meeting include:

  • the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee’s 2017 work plan
  • pedestrian lighting recommendations from the Environmental Advisory Committee
  • the revised Code of Ethics project plan and proposed amendments to the CEO performance appraisal process
  • proposed amendments to the Pool & Tennis Use/Access Policy

The meeting will be held Thursday, beginning at 6:30 p.m., at RA Headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive). It will also be streamed live on RA’s YouTube channel.

Map via Google Maps

by RestonNow.com — April 30, 2014 at 3:00 pm 6 Comments

Park“Great Parks, Great Communities” is the clichéd theme of the Fairfax County Park Authority.  And the theme may be true, but the Park Authority is promising — a promise it may well not fulfill — Tysons and Reston urban areas among the most poorly parked-served areas among the top cities in the country.

It raises the question, will poor parks mean poor communities?

As Reston Now suggests in its April 29 article, county park availability standards for the newly urbanizing areas of the Dulles Corridor are less than half of the county-wide “suburban” standard — and the Park Authority plans to put fewer parks in Reston’s station areas than in Tysons because we have parks and facilities elsewhere.

Here’s where we are in the arithmetic of public parks.  The county standards described in Tysons’ and Reston’s plans shoot for providing about 1.7 acres of park per 1,000 residents.  That’s about 154 acres of parks in Tysons and 95 acres in Reston — if fulfilled.

Now let’s see how that stacks up. A national non-profit, the Trust for Public Lands, tracks park availability annually for the 100 largest cities in the country. When Fairfax County’s urban park standard is included in the ranking of acreage per 1,000 residents, both Tysons and Reston rank in the bottom 5 percent of all the cities.

If Tysons and Reston achieve the county urban goal, they would bracket New York City’s Manhattan Borough near the bottom of the list. Yet Manhattan has two and one-half times the density planned for Tysons and more than three times the density planned for Reston.

Moreover, despite having some of the most expensive real estate in the country, Manhattan has been able to set aside 18.3 percent of its land for parks.  That’s more than 10 times the share planned for Tysons (1.4 percent) and more than three times the goal for Reston (5.6 percent).

And the county has no intent to meet its own standard for Reston because, as the Reston Comprehensive Plan says, “Need generated in the TSAs should primarily be met through the integration of urban parks, recreation, and cultural facilities within the mixed use developments of the TSAs. To supplement these parks and facilities, elements of the larger Reston area’s robust park and recreation system (outside of the TSAs) may be able to be improved to help meet the needs of future residents and employees.”

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