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In PRC Meeting with County, Reston Representatives Push for Specifics on Future Athletic Fields

Piqued by a plan to increase Reston’s population density in select areas, residents pressed county officials to identify specific athletic field options and open space commitments at a work session this week.

During the meeting, the 10-member panel, which included representatives from Reston Association, the Coalition for a Planned Reston and three county officials, discussed how the county plans to ensure future development in and around Reston’s future urban core will incorporate athletic fields and open, community spaces.

While citizen members lauded the county’s efforts to work with developers, some noted that county plans lacked specific assurances on how and when broad commitments would come to reality.

The meeting is the second in a series of work sessions on topics of concern raised by local residents and community organizations as the county mulls a plan to increase Reston’s population density in its Planned Residential Community district planned from 13 to 16 people per acre.

County officials said planning processes are in place to ensure athletic fields and open space requirements are met. Generally, once major developments are built and occupied overtime and needs are generated through pressure created by development, specific requirements for athletic fields will kick in. 

However, they remained mum about the location of future athletic fields, noting that negotiations with developers are ongoing and that, once property owners learn a land is being considered for an athletic field, the property’s price is often hiked considerably. 

Asked by a member to point to possible locations for fields, Fred Selden, the director of the county’s planning and zoning department, said, “Right now, we can’t.” 

In Reston, one athletic field is required for each Transit Station Area and nine are required outside the TSA areas. Upgrades to existing fields may also be considered. Thus far, the developers have committed $10.3 million to go toward athletic fields in the greater Reston area.

So far, funds have remained untouched.

Others called on county officials to aggressively push developers of major mixed-use proposals — like the 36-acre Reston Crescent project — to identify specific plans for athletic fields.

“Those are the examples where the community feels we were being passed by in some way, shape or form,” said Larry Butler, RA’s Acting CEO.

Dennis Hays, president of the Reston Citizens Association, said he was concerned no immediate plans were on the table.

“Everything that we keep talking about is down the road,” Hays, who led the meeting, said.

Andrea Dorlester, manager of the county’s park planning branch, said the county has been aggressive in pushing developers to identify plans for nearly two years. When working with Brookfield, the developer of the Reston Crescent, county staff said they rejected a proposal by the developer to include a small athletic field suitable for children up to the age of eight.

Now, the plan, which is barreling towards final approval later this month, includes a proposal for the developer to purchase seven acres outside the property and convey it to the Fairfax County Park Authority.

Part of the challenge in securing athletic fields is that Reston’s master plan does not mandate the creation of athletic fields in Reston’s planned downtown core, officials said.

As additional development waits in the pipeline, others worry that challenge may already be difficult to overcome. One question, they say, hovers: As land becomes limited in the area, where will the future athletic fields go?

File photo

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Nationals Outfielder Dedicates Baseball Complex in Fred Crabtree Park

Bryce Harper, an outfielder for the Nationals, dedicated a baseball complex in Fred Crabtree Park named after him on Monday (July 16).

The Bryce Harper All-Star Complex, located at 2801 Fox Mill Road, includes two renovated fields and is the second baseball facility for youth named after Harper in the area. Another field is located at Takoma Community Center in the District.

“I felt like this not only adds to the community but also achieves my objective of making sure this game continues to grow and is left in a better place than when I entered it,” Harper said at the dedication ceremony.

A video of the complete ceremony is available online.

More from social media:

Photos via Twitter user @fairfaxparks

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County Jumpstarts Plan to Reimagine Master Plan for Reston’s Lake Fairfax Park

Changes could come to Lake Fairfax Park as the Fairfax County Park Authority, jumpstarts the planning process to update the master plan for 482-acre park.

The authority will hold a public information meeting on Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. at South Lakes High School (11400 South Lake Drive) to discuss possible revisions to the park’s master plan. The process establishes the longterm vision for how the park will be used in the future and current unmet needs.

Updates come as demand for more recreation and park options grows, according to county officials. The current plan, which was launched in 2001, is outdated as additional parcels and structures have also been added to the park since its creation. Roughly five acres along Hunter Mill Road were also added to the park within the last decade.

“The plan will focus on the features of the added property, potential new facilities, and reevaluating existing facilities to see if they are still meeting the community needs and preferences,” said Judy Pedersen, the authority’s spokeswoman.

The meeting in November will introduce the project to the community and include time for community input as the authority assembles a draft concept plan. At a second meeting, staff will present the draft plan to the community and hear feedback, after which the Park Authority Board will make a decision about the final master plan.

The plan will also recommendations for land uses of recently acquired parcels and potential new facilities, Pedersen said.

“Ultimately, the purpose of the master plan revision is to determine how to best incorporate the newly acquired acreage and determined needs within the existing framework of the park,” she said.

While the master plans lays out a refined vision for the park, it requires capital funding for complete implementation.

The park, which was originally a dairy farm in the early 1900s, currently includes a 20-acre lake with fishing, boat rentals, a carousel, athletic fields, picnic shelters, a skate park and campgrounds. The authority acquired a 292-acre parcel in 1966 and a 129-acre parcel in 1972.

As of mid-October, the authority owns or cares for more than 23,000 acres or roughly nine percent of all open space in the county.

The authority is accepting public comments and questions through Dec. 1 via email at [email protected].  For more information on the planning process and for project updates, visit the county’s website.

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Board Still Has Questions About Pony Barn Accessibility Ramp Design, Pavilion Structure

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.

Residents with disabilities have been particularly vocal about their desire to see the facility upgraded to become accessible to them. At Thursday’s meeting, a video of nearby resident Audrey Diggs was shown, demonstrating her inability to access the park with her two children.

While directors agreed accessibility is an important goal for the project, some were displeased by the ramp design included in the proposal, which features up to 7.5 percent grade and multiple switchbacks. Larry Butler, Reston’s senior director of parks, said the Working Group emphasized minimal impact to trees and green space, which resulted in the presented design.

“I really don’t like what it looks like, especially in a natural setting like this,” said John Mooney, North Point District representative. “You talk about it being landscaped better, and perhaps that would be possible [but] I would love to see an elevation view.”

All plans on the site would need to receive final approval from Reston’s Design Review Board.

A recent DRB inspection of the site showed visible erosion and exposed soil; discolored, damaged, rotted and mismatched portions of the pavilion; an incorrectly installed entrance kiosk; and unapproved removal of the tot lot. The roof also missed a scheduled replacement in 2014, as it has been delayed in anticipation of the renovation project, and a drainage pipe beneath the entrance is in need of replacement.

A structural inspection of the site by engineering firm Keast & Hood reported the overall structure to be in good condition. However, directors questioned whether it may not make more sense to tear down the aging pavilion and build a new one from scratch that better meets the needs of the community, including those with disabilities who may have difficulty maneuvering around posts in the pavilion’s center.

The Board decided to ask staff to come back in October with cost estimates for other ramp options, as well as for options to replace and/or redesign the pavilion itself. Victoria White, Hunters Woods/Dogwood District representative, emphasized that any redesign of the facility would need to be of a similar rustic character.

“That’s part of what the community wants,” she says. “They don’t want a pre-fab structure, and I think that is an inappropriate place for a pre-fab structure.”

The Board also passed a motion, presented by Mooney, indicating that it recognizes the need for a “useful, beautiful” facility on the site that is accessible with appropriate playgrounds or tot lots, and it wants to do that “as soon as we can responsibly.”

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Community Input Process for Hook Road Project Begins with Calls for Fiscal Responsibility

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.

Hook Road Recreation Area has about $122,000 in as-is maintenance expenditures scheduled through 2020, RA CEO Cate Fulkerson said previously. Skinner said full replacement of every aspect of the park would cost around $620,000. Sridhar Ganesan, treasurer of the RA Board, said no budget is currently set aside for the proposed capital project.

In the wake of recent controversies including the Tetra/Lake House purchase, residents such as Laurie Dodd said they are thankful RA is taking a more serious approach about incorporating the community in discussions such as this.

“I would rather spend $50,000 on getting community input and participation in the plan than run the risk of bad decision-making,” she said. “Democracy and public participation cost money, so I think we need to let the light shine on RA processes.”

Many residents who spoke said that while the park has a lot of strong qualities as it sits, they are not averse to thinking about ways it can be improved.

“[The park] works really well, and there’s an adage of ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,'” said Jay McCracken, of South Shore Drive. “But we have to be open to change as well.”

Not everyone is convinced, though.

“It’s a beautiful green space, and RA maintains it very well,” said Tom Brady, of the Waterford Square Condominiums on Fairway Drive. “[Now RA is] spending $50,000 to plan for something that really doesn’t need to be done, especially because Reston Association ratepayers are feeling more and more squeezed.”

Anna Lowit, of Hook Road, said the park is a treasure of the community and that is extremely well-used, but there are maintenance needs and upgrades that can be made. However, she said any changes that are made should be a focus on needs, not on wants.

“[We must] make fiscally responsible decisions — not that we’re sitting on money that we can spend, and we can spend it so let’s just buy something,” she said. “Upgrading and maintaining the things that we have is the best way to spend our money.”

Future community work sessions and roundtable events on the project have been tentatively scheduled for Oct. 4, 10 and 24. Members who would like to receive updates about the process can join the mailing list by emailing [email protected].

Aerial photo of park courtesy Dewberry

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County Parks and Rec Master Plan Available for Review, Comment

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

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Wedell: Hook Road Park Should Be for Community, Not ‘Just Another Recreation Area’

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.

Wedell says adding parking spaces there, instead of finding space elsewhere on the property as has been suggested, would allow for more people to enjoy the activities that take place in the western portion of the property as it currently sits — which he says is a “wonderful open space for picnics, kite flying, frisbee with the dogs, exercise for younger supervised tots, and much more.” His argument is that this would make the park a vital community gathering area rather than “just another recreational area.”

This can easily be accomplished and would serve the needs of many more citizens. It would give many more people who do not use the tennis courts (the overwhelming majority of Restonians) a reason to think their assessments DO provide value. It clearly is environmentally robust.

At a time when Reston is literally fighting for its life against the seemingly insurmountable development forces, the establishment of such a park stakes a claim that we value our quality of life, and the citizens want to define how our community should look.

The director says the proposed redevelopment at Hook Road is “a golden opportunity for the citizens to call for a timeout and demand that we re-think the entire purpose of the park.” Wedell says there should be parks similar to his vision for Hook Road Park in areas such as Hunters Woods and the South Lakes District. He says the open-space park concept should be the new approach for Reston.

Rather than forge forward with the current debate on how to retrofit the existing structures at Hook Road, isn’t it time to take a “30,000 foot view” and determine what type of park best meets the needs of the overall community?

The first public meeting on the Hook Road Recreation Area project is slated for Aug. 29 at 6:30 p.m. at RA headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive).

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First Community Meeting on Future Hook Road Recreation Area Project Set for Next Week

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

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After Fiery Debate, No Action Taken By RA Board on Future Hook Road Project

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.”

Hook Road public meeting notification area/RA YouTubeThe proposal called for 430 residences in the area of the park to be notified of the public meeting. Wedell said that would be far too many people.

“I don’t know why we’re looking at 430 houses; it’s just going to dilute it,” he said while pointing at a map of the area. “There’s 12 houses right here [on Hook Road] and a few apartments and townhouses right along Fairway Drive. … None of these [other] people are going to care.”

Other directors including Sherri Hebert said a budget cap needs to be set on the project before it is brought before the community or any work group for input. She cited the Pony Barn project as reason her concern.

“I would just like to know what we think our ultimate budget is, and what we’re willing to spend,” Hebert said. “We don’t want the community coming in, kind of like the Pony Barn — we had $30,000 and now we’re at $300 [thousand]-something because the community was asked what they’d like to see without leveling expectations.”

Wedell, raising his voice at times, remained adamant that there is no need to upgrade the facility beyond regular maintenance.

“We don’t need this to be a huge study simply because it’s on the list of things to do,” he said. “I know I’m right about this. … We should be looking at ways to cut costs, not add costs.”

Ultimately, the board decided to take no action on the proposal. Fulkerson said she and staff would “regroup and figure out how to move forward.”

Meeting screencaps via RA/YouTube

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RA Board to Begin Discussion of Hook Road Park Project at Thursday Meeting

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

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Op-Ed: Poor Parks, Poor Communities?

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.”

So, yes, the County envisions that the park and natural areas that we as Reston Association members own and pay for annually in our RA assessments will count against its obligation to meet county park requirements. It is the grinding down of Reston as a special place to live, work, and play to just another mediocre county sub-division.

But that is only half the story. The other half has to do with the availability of facilities within the parks, especially space-consuming recreational fields.

Using Manhattan has our benchmark again, we find that Manhattan has 150 athletic fields (mostly baseball diamonds) serving its 1.5 million residents — or about one athletic field for every 10,000 residents.  This benchmark is not as good that planned for Tysons:  20 athletic fields for 89,000 residents or about 4,500 residents.

Reston falls way behind both:  The planned 56,000 residents of its station areas will have “at least” (and don’t expect more) three athletic fields or one for every 18,700 residents.  That’s about half the ratio found in Manhattan. It will be the worst in the country among TPL’s 100 top cities.

The rationale, as explained by the Park Authority’s Chairman Bill Bouie, “There is so much here (in Reston) already,” says Bouie. “We don’t have nearly the assets in Tysons.”

Wait a minute!  The county athletic fields in Reston serve the 60,000 people who already live here and, as Mr. Bouie knows well, are fully utilized by Restonians and thousands of people who live beyond Reston.

In fact, a recent RCA Reston 2020 on the Baron Cameron Park master plan shows that, even with the three athletic fields the current Reston urban plan proposes, there will be no improvement in the athletic field accessibility and the certainty of a major loss of athletic field accessibility if a recreation center is built in the park.

The other athletic fields in Reston are bought and paid for by the members of Reston Association as part of their annual assessments.  The apparent expectation of the county is that the residents of Reston should build more athletic fields in their 1,200 acres of common land to fulfill the county’s commitment to the community.

The picture painted here is that the county has no intention of sustaining Reston as a model planned community and, indeed, wants to take private Reston property — RA’s common areas — so that it can meet its so-called park commitment on the cheap. Actually, most RA members would like to preserve their common areas, especially their jointly-owned natural areas, rather than turn them into athletic fields to make up for shortfalls in the County’s willingness to fulfill its obligation to the community.

It is hard to imagine a more cynical county approach to providing basic, even substandard, public park services to Restonians.  Not only will Reston’s urban residents have about the worst park availability in the country, but Restonians will be forced to absorb the overflow into their privately-held common land — and pay for it.

Soon we will be living with poor parks and a much poorer community as the result.

Terry Maynard, Co-Chairman
RCA Reston 2020 Committee

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