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Target Completion Date Set for Pony Barn Picnic Pavilion Upgrades

Upgrades to the Pony Barn, located on the corner of Steeplechase Drive and Triple Crown Road, are expected to be complete by October 1.

A renovation plan — scaled back from initial proposals due to budgetary constraints — was approved earlier this year. Upgrades to the structure, which has not had major upgrades since it was converted from a horse stable into a picnic pavilion in the 1980s, include minor structural repairs, new security lighting in the pavilion, new security lighting, and a new tot lot play area.

ADA-friendly upgrades are also proposed, including an asphalt parkway and parking lot, water fountain, outdoor grill and bathroom enclosure.

The Pony Barn is one of seven picnic pavilions owned by RA. Currently, work is underway on converting the wood chip flooring into concrete flooring. The renovation project began in early July.

Photos by Reston Association

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Monday Morning Notes

Election results released tomorrow — The winners of Reston Association’s Board of Directors’ election will be announced at a meeting tomorrow. [RA]

Girls to the rescue — Registration for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department’s summer camp for girls is open. The academy, which is open to all high school students except seniors, runs from July 9 through 13. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Academy]

Congrats to Tia Baller — The South Lakes High School point guard won all-state honors. [South Lakes Basketball]

Pony Barn renovations march forward — There’s no horsing around here. A plan to renovate the picnic pavilion goes before RA’s Design Review Board tonight. [RA]

Celebrating one year — Scout & Molly’s Boutique in Reston Town Center will celebrate its one year anniversary on April 28. [Scout & Molly’s]

HQ2’s frenemies — The possibility of landing Amazon.com Inc’s second headquarters has united Alexandria and Arlington. [Washington Business Journal]

Photo by Lauren Pinkston

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Scaled-back Renovations to Pony Barn Pavilion Could Finish This Summer

Upgrades to the Pony Barn Pavilion, located on the corner of Steeplechase Drive and Triple Crown road, could be complete as early as this summer if Reston Association’s Design Review Board approves the project on April 9.

The latest proposal is a scaled-back version of initial concept plans originally pitched and approved in 2015. Proposed upgrades — on and off RA’s drawing board for years — include a concrete pavilion floor, information kiosk, asphalt parking lot, grill, water fountain, lighting improvements, an ADA-accessible trail and a screen structure for the bathroom.

Previous plans, formulated with the direction of the member-led Pony Barn Working Group, included an ADA playground, an observation deck, a butterfly garden and additional pathways to access the pavilion.

Chris Schumaker, RA’s capital projects operations manager, said the design proposed in 2015 would have required a major site plan because it exceeded the 2,500-square-foot disturbance limit and storm management — factors that drove the project cost beyond “acceptable limits.”

“The 2018 design is narrower scope with only a 2,300 square foot disturbance and therefore does not require a major site plan and the expenses that come with it,” Schumaker said.

The total cost of the project is expected to hover around $241,000, including $171,237 approved by the board late last year.

RA first approved $30,000 for the renovation project in 2013 and later allocated $350,000 for a major renovation project. Funds were locked up in 2016 when RA frozen major capital projects as it navigated the controversy over the Lake House purchase.

The RFP for the project is available online.

Photos via Reston Association handout

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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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Residents with Disabilities Call for Need of Pony Barn Area Upgrades

At the Reston Association Board of Directors’ budget work session Monday, members spoke (video) about the need to improve access for the disabled to the Pony Barn Pavilion.

Ken Fredgren, chairman of the Reston Accessibility Committee, told a story about trying to use his mobility scooter to get to the park with his family several years ago. The gravel lot kept him out.

“My scooter sank in the gravel, and my family had to hoist me out and carry me from the gravel, and then laboriously pull the scooter out of the gravel,” he said. “The pavilion is still up a grass slope too steep for any mobility device [and] the pavilion floor is mulch, as is the surface of the tot lot with its two swings.”

The Pony Barn Pavilion is among RAC’s list of area properties that need attention to make them more accessible to the disabled. On its website, RAC says the park needs accessible pedestrian signals, an access aisle and an accessible route from the parking lot to the picnic pavilion. It also says the grill, water fountain, picnic table and toilet facilities need to be made accessible.

“Please do create accessible parking, an accessible route or routes, and replace mulch surfaces so neighbors and guests with disabilities can use Pony Barn Park,” Fredgren said. “Accommodating our fellow residents and their guests is doable, right and just.”

Another resident, Audrey Diggs, spoke about a park she has been unable to visit even though she’s lived across the street from it for about 15 years.

“I went through one time and got stuck in the gravel,” she said. “I got more adventurous when my son came along, and I got a bigger scooter that I thought could do it … and I flipped myself. I was laying on my side.”

Diggs said she and her son have to travel to Hunters Woods Park or Hunters Woods Elementary School so he can play.

“It would be nice to be able to let him play with his buddies and be able to go down and interact and see what’s going on and use it,” she said. “I hear people singing and I hear people talking, but I can’t get down there.”

A statement from Michele “Cookie” Hymer Blitz, Hunter Mill District representative on Fairfax Area Disability Services Board, was also read. Blitz said updated to the park are much-needed and should be done in a timely fashion.

“I have always been very impressed with the Reston community’s reputation and behavior regarding progressive, healthy living,” read Blitz’s statement. “I am disappointed and quite surprised that long overdue, relatively simple changes to this area are being pushed aside.”

A pavilion replacement for Pony Barn Park 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.

Screenshot via Reston Association YouTube channel

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Pony Barn Working Group Seeks Release of Funds for Project

Members of the Pony Barn Working Group weren’t pleased last year when Reston Association gave them a stop work order.

Now, they’re looking to get going again.

Representatives of the group will address RA’s Board Operations Committee at their meeting tonight as they seek approval from the Board of Directors of a new design plan, as well as the release of the remaining funds allocated for the Implementation & Construction phase of the project.

The Pony Barn Parks are located at the corner of Steeplechase and Triple Crown roads in the Hunters Woods section of Reston. There is a picnic area and pavilion on the north side of Triple Crown Road, with a butterfly meadow on the south side.

According to information provided by the Pony Barn Working Group:

Access to and through the park is limited by the lack of sidewalks. The pavilion and other amenities are not accessible to people with disabilities. The gravel parking lot is an impediment to people with strollers, wheelchairs and bicycles. The picnic pavilion remains much as it was almost 30 years ago with fewer amenities. Despite its many limitations it is used by RA summer camps, Girl Scout troops, students at Hunters Woods School, families and friends having get-togethers, and parents swinging their little ones. People frequently park at the Pony Barn lot so they can walk through the Glade Valley Stream Park.

A 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.

Now that an independent review of that purchase has been completed and RA is working toward remediation, the Pony Barn group is bringing its project is back to the table.

Since the project was put on hold last summer, the Board did allow stormwater management planning work to continue. Project cost estimates were provided to the working group in January, according to information they will present to the BOC, and it was “determined the costs were too high.” Civil engineers were then “instructed to minimize the footprint to reduce grading and related costs,” according to the working group.

The revised design the working group will present reflects many of the original goals of the project, including a focus on accessibility and the addition of a butterfly meadow overlook. A handful of items have been removed, however, including:

  • a paved pathway access from Triple Crown to Steeplechase
  • the paving of the natural trails to the Glade Stream Park and around the meadow connecting to county path on Steeplechase
  • the installation of an accessible playground at another suitable park

Cost estimates of the new design are about $233,000 for construction and just over $40,000 for maintenance. Adding in the nearly $65,000 that has already been spent in planning, the total cost of the project would be about $338,000.

Graphic via Reston Association

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Hunters Woods Candidates Tout Their Strengths in RA Election Forum

Hunters Woods/Dogwood candidate forum

Syazana Durrani and Victoria White, candidates for the Hunters Woods/Dogwood District seat on the Reston Association Board of Directors, squared off in a candidate forum Thursday at Reston Association headquarters.

White, a contracts administrator who has lived in Reston since 2004, said she has become distressed with the way the RA board has operated in recent years.

“The big commitment I’m going to make is to find out why we aren’t making good decisions within the RA, why we’re not meeting our budget line items such as at the Lake House, and what I can do to help preserve green space within Reston Association lands and in our community in general,” she said.

Syazana DurraniDurrani, a six-year resident, described Reston as a charming place with an unmatched sense of community she wants to help grow and prosper.

“We need to keep beauty in the green space, beauty in the people, beauty in the community, beauty in the association,” she said. “When we work together, I think that’s when we are our best.”

White said bringing “civility” back to the board is a goal of hers.

“When you go to a board meeting, at times there is a lack of civility among board members and a lack of civility between the board and the community,” she said. “I’d like to bring it back to where there is a modicum of respect between the two.”

When asked about the need for pedestrian lighting in the area, including around Hunters Woods Plaza, White said she is “not necessarily a fan” of the idea.

“I worry about the animals that live in the woods and how the light would impact their sleep cycles,” she said. “I also wonder about the safety benefits from having lights — as anybody who walks through lights on a lighted path at night knows, when you’re under the light you see everything around you, but when you reach the end of the light you can’t see what’s two feet in front of you.”

Victoria WhiteWhite said additional patrols by Fairfax County Police Department officers are necessary to increase safety and decrease crime in the area. Durrani said CCTV could be used to make problem areas more safe, and she also believes cluster associations should be engaged in public safety.

“Just getting together, I think, and helping one another — that’s what community is about,” she said.

Both candidates spoke about the Pony Barn proposal, which is currently on hold, saying that it is the type of project Reston Association must be more careful when undertaking.

“How in the world [did we go] from a $30,00 budget that suddenly went up to $350,000?” White said. “These are things that made we want to get interested [in becoming a board member].”

“Everyone loves a beautiful butterfly garden,” Durrani said. “But I don’t think right now we need something like that.”

Director Ray Wedell’s proposal for tiered assessments based on property values was something both women said they can get behind — at some point in the future.

“As time has marched on, the difference between the high end and low end of property values in Reston has gotten further and further apart,” White said. “This is definitely something we should be discussing; however, I think maybe we should be discussing it a little bit further down the road, because we do have some very pressing issues.”

Durrani said the proposal is in line with her goal of continuing Reston’s sense of community for all.

“The vision that I have for Reston is all within our fingertips — the brilliant minds, the passionate communities, the efficacy of the symbiotic relationships,” she said. “I see the discussion, the proposal of the tiered assessments, really mirrors that.”

The candidates also answered questions on better member outreach, future capital improvements and more. The forum can be viewed in full on Reston Association’s YouTube channel.

The candidate who wins the race will serve a three-year term on the board. Voting will continue through April 3 and can be done by mail or at reston.org.

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Pony Barn Group Peeved by RA’s Stop Work Order

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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Reston Association Picks Engineering Firm for Pony Barn Plan

Pony Barn Renderings, July 2015/Credit:RA

Reston Association set to hire Christopher Consultants to do civil engineering work on the new plans for the Pony Barn Recreation site.

RA recently put out a request for proposals. Four proposals were received and reviewed, it said.

Christopher Consultants is a Fairfax-based group that has done work for Springfield Town Center, The National Zoo, Mount Vernon, Arlington’s Long Bridge Park, Dulles Sportsplex and many more.

The firm’s tasks will include development of a minor site plan, ensuring ADA compliance for site features, addressing Fairfax County code requirements, and coordinating with the Pony Barn Working Group.

RA says its Design Review Board will consider site plans for the renovations in late spring or early summer before submitting the plans to Fairfax County.

After discussing for over a year what should be done to remodel and repurpose the aging picnic pavilion and surrounding land at Steeplechase Drive and Triple Crown Road, the RA Board approved the renovation plan in July.

The remodeling plan began as an idea to add a concrete floor to the pavilion but in the end morphed into a total remodeling of the small park, including 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.

The makeover has also upped the price tag from $30,000 to about $350,000. Money is available in the capital budget, but RA has said it is also looking into partnerships.

The Pony Barn area was once the site of an actual pony barn in Reston’s early days. It currently has a swing set, a grill, a small parking area, a grassy area and a picnic pavilion with a mulched floor.

RA asked members for ideas at a series of meetings in summer 2014, where the mention of a Memorial Garden of Reflection, endorsed by the Initiative for Public Art Reston (IPAR) caused some friction among citizens.

By late 2014, that idea was tabled, and a Pony Barn Working Group was formed. The group came up with the current proposal.

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RA Approves Pony Barn Concept, But Must Find $350K to Implement

A project that began as an idea to add a concrete floor to Reston Association’s Pony Barn Pavilion has morphed into a total remodeling of the park, including 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.

The makeover has also upped the price tag to about $350,000.

Reston Association’s Board of Directors unanimously approved the new concept at its meeting on Thursday. The RA Board allocated $30,000 for the project more than a year ago, but it has not made a commitment to paying the remainder of the costs.

Larry Butler, RA’s senior director of Parks, Recreation and Community Resources, pointed out that the board has “$175,000 for each of the next two years available in the capital budget.”

Whether to allocate the needed money will be discussed at upcoming 2016-17 budget hearings. There was also mention on Thursday of fundraising and partnership opportunities to be explored.

Butler said the $350,000 price tag is not out of line considering the North Hills Pavilion area cost about $250,000 to build in the early 1990s.

The Pony Barn area, once the site of an actual pony barn in Reston’s early days, is a small park at Triple Crown Road and Steeplechase Drive. It currently has a swing set, a grill, a small parking area, a grassy area and a picnic pavilion with a mulched floor.

RA asked members for ideas at a series of meetings in summer 2014, where the mention of a Memorial Garden of Reflection, endorsed by the Initiative for Public Art Reston (IPAR) caused some friction among citizens.

Pony BarnBy late 2014, that idea was tabled, and a Pony Barn Working Group was formed. The group came up with the current proposal.

“We really value the parks,” said group member Renette Oklewicz. “Our primary goal is to refresh the parks and keep them part of the neighborhood and accessible to all Restonians.”

Oklewicz said the Pony Barn is really two parcels of land “that have been neglected.”

“Maybe we have earned some extra [money],” she said.

North Point Director Dannielle LaRosa questioned whether the working group had a prioritization list in case the entire funding amount does not come through. At-Large Director Ray Waddell said that the board should save money for what may a battle to fight development at Reston National Golf Course.

“This is a pretty big budget,” he said. “I am not saying it is not necessary, but I consider the golf course the biggest issue in this town. This is one example of competing for resources. The Pony Barn may be able to wait 6 or 12 months; the golf course cannot.”

RA will pay for an upcoming engineering study, said RA spokesman Mike Leone. The concept will also move on this fall to RA’s Design Review Board for discussion, changes and approval.

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First Look: Potential Plans for Pony Barn Area

Reston Association’s Pony Barn working group is looking over conceptual sketches of what the reimagined Pony Barn Recreation Area could look like.

Three renderings by Urban. Ltd. have been presented to the working group. All incorporate upgrades and elements the group determined are important, but there are slight variations and pros and cons to each (see pictures attached to this post).

The working group has been discussing upgrades at the pony barn since last summer. The group decided in December that it would move forward with renovations in 2015, but will not include a proposed memorial garden.

After several community meetings over the spring and summer, ideas for everything from an archery range to leaving it as is to building the memorial garden were considered for the quiet, wooded plot at Steeplechase Drive and Triple Crown Road in south Reston.

The space once held an actual pony barn, but since the 1980s has been mostly a picnic pavilion and swing set. The wooden-beamed picnic pavilion is badly in need of restoration or renovation.

Some of the top priorities include replacing the picnic pavilion floor with a solid surface, upgrading electrical access, adding children’s play equipment and historical information about the area.

This year, RA allocated $30,000 from the 2014 Capital Improvement Budget for upgrades or changes. That will be carried forward to the 2015 budget.

The group has given some feedback on the proposals. Visit Reston Association’s website to see their pros and cons list.

There will be upcoming opportunities for public comment on the project, RA officials said.

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Afternoon Poll: A Memorial Garden on RA Land?

Pony Barn area in South RestonReston Association is currently in the process of reimagining the Pony Barn Recreation Area.

The association has allocated $30,000 from the 2014 Capital Improvement Budget for upgrades or changes to the space at Steeplechase and Triple Crown in South Reston.

The space currently features a 2,006-foot pavilion with tables, grilling areas, a lawn and a swing set.

The Initiative for Public Art Reston (IPAR) has approached RA about using the space for a memorial garden of reflection.

Reston has no cemeteries, and the memorial garden will not fill that role, IPAR has said. Rather, it envisions the garden as a place to reflect about lost loved ones.

However, many of the comments from community members have said it is a poor place for such a garden, citing, traffic, parking, noise from the Deepwoods Pool, among other reasons.

At Thursday’s monthly RA Board meeting, the board heard from several residents who said, among other reasons, that the memorial garden is a sacred space that does not belong on public land.

“RA just needs to say no,” said Vic Moravitz, whose home is near the Pony Barn space. “There should be more memorial gardens but not on common grounds.”

Moravitz called for the separation of “statecraft and soulcraft” in considering the placement of the memorial garden.

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