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.
Reduced pool hours in the 2017 schedule drew the ire of many in the Reston community.
Now that the season is nearing its end, those members and others will have the opportunity to share feedback from their summer experiences.
The Reston Association Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee will be made available on Sunday, Sept. 10 from 10 a.m. to noon during an open house at The Lake House (11450 Baron Cameron Avenue). They will be collecting member input on the 2017 pool schedule, as well as thoughts and suggestions about what should be done in 2018.
This year, no pools were open on weekdays prior to Memorial Day. (In 2016, both the North Shore and Ridge Heights pools were open from 1-7 p.m. each weekday beginning May 14.) Through June 23, only four pools were open on weekdays, with one (Glade) open only three hours a night.
In addition, as school is starting next week — one week earlier than in past years — North Shore and Ridge Heights will be the only two pools open the week preceding Labor Day, from 4-7 p.m. each evening. However, RA has announced that Lake Audubon and Lake Newport pools will both be opened for Labor Day weekend.
North Shore and Ridge Heights pools will remain open on weekends and weeknights through Sept. 24.
Mike Leone, communications director for Reston Association, told Reston Now in April that the 2017 schedule was developed as part of an effort to “identify significant cost savings.”
“During the 2017 budget development process, the Board directed staff to identify significant cost savings in the budget to accommodate other strategic goals. Based on facility usage data collected over the past three years that shows a decline in pool attendance as well as feedback from the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee, the Board of Directors approved pool schedule options by which the proposed aquatics budget could be reduced while still serving the interests of the membership as a whole.”
Members brought up concerns about the pool schedule during general member input sessions earlier this year. Those suggestions are being considered by the RA Board of Directors as part of their budget process.
Anyone who has input to share but is unable to attend the Sept. 10 event is invited to email comments to [email protected].
The Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee is scheduled to make a report on the issue to the Board of Directors at a budget work session Sept. 18.
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
In order to comply with Virginia code regarding flood protection and dam safety, Reston Association crews will remove 143 trees in North Reston next month.
Most of the trees to be removed (131) are located near Butler Pond. Another dozen trees located near Bright Pond will also be removed.
The issue was brought to RA’s attention during a recent dam inspection by GKY & Associates.
According to Virginia code:
Dam owners shall not permit the growth of trees and other woody vegetation and shall remove any such vegetation from the slopes and crest of embankments and the emergency spillway area, and within a distance of 25 feet from the toe of the embankment and abutments of the dam.
Butler Pond is located on the west side of Reston Parkway near the intersection with Route 7. The trees in question line Reston Parkway, with most on the eastern side.
Bright Pond is located on the east side of Reston Parkway, north of the intersection with Wiehle Avenue. The trees in question there are located on the southeastern side of the pond, near Reston Association’s Pink Trail.
RA’s arborist and environmental crews are expected to begin the work during the first week of September. RA plans to replant trees beyond the 25-foot buffer area within the natural area behind Stones Throw Drive, beginning later in September.
Map of Butler Pond work plan courtesy Reston Association
For the second year, Reston Association will host its “Dog Paddle” event next weekend. It’s an opportunity for man’s best friends to splash in RA pools that have closed for the summer, community events supervisor Ashleigh Soloff said.
“[It’s] a super fun event,” she said.
About 70 canines participated in the event in 2016, Soloff said.
Appropriately enough, Dogwood Pool (2460 Green Range Road) will host the event Saturday, Aug. 26. The next day, the dogs will splash at North Hills Pool (1325 North Village Road) will welcome pets. Each day, the events will go from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
No people are permitted in the water with the dogs, and current dog licenses are required. Dogs must be kept under control and sociable at all times, and female dogs in heat will not be permitted.
Registration can be done through Reston Association’s WebTrac system or by calling 703-435-6531. Cost is $4 for dogs of Reston Association members and $6 for dogs of non-members.
For the second consecutive year, one Reston resident has gone above and beyond in the effort to remove an invasive plant from the community.
In each of the past five years, Reston Association’s Habitat Heroes program has held the Garlic Mustard Challenge to encourage the uprooting of the plant. Garlic mustard is a widespread and aggressive non-native plant species that kills off native plants, which eliminates ground cover or food sources for local animals. According to information previously provided in Reston magazine:
Because it has few enemies in Northern Virginia, garlic mustard can completely dominate a forest floor in less [than] five years by displacing hundreds of native plants, ferns and wildflowers. Garlic mustard also damages local insect populations. For example, several butterfly species lay eggs on garlic mustard because it resembles their native “host” plant, but the larvae die because they cannot eat garlic mustard.
This year, volunteers in Reston pulled 3,080 pounds of the plant during the four-month challenge. One woman, Patricia Wagner, did her part and more. Wagner was the winner of the challenge in the individual category, pulling 2,636.5 pounds of the plant. She also won the competition in 2016, when she pulled 2,360 pounds.
In the small group category, CA Technologies won for the fourth consecutive year. This year, they pulled 166.6 pounds.
In the large group category, Reston Environmental Action also was a four-year repeat winner. This year, they pulled 277 pounds.
Image via Volunteer Reston
The figure was discussed during a budget workshop session with the RA Board of Directors on Monday (video/PowerPoint presentation). That number would be a decrease of $42 (5.83 percent) from the 2017 assessment level of $720, which was reduced to $692 using surplus cash.
One of the major factors that influenced the budget development, allowing for the decrease in the proposed rate, is the additional assessment revenue that will be provided by 429 new units at the Sunrise Square and VY developments.
That assessment rate will likely change, though, before the Board finalizes the 2018 operations budget, projected at $14.3 million. The Board has been asked to consider numerous staff and member suggestions which could affect the budget.
One big way it could change depends upon whether the Board decides to pay off the loan on the Lake House. If it does so — at a cost of $182,797 — there will be a reduction of $8.66 in the 2018 assessment rate as a result of no longer making payments.
“Essentially, we’ll be using up our cash to pay off the loan,” Sridhar. “In the corporate world, you give it back to the shareholders, which in this case is the members.”
The 2018 budget currently on the table has the Lake House being maintained on the status quo, through programming and rentals while making payments on the loan. That would result in a net loss of more than $190,000, according to the projection. Other options on the table include continuing status quo for six months and then moving to only rentals, or to use the facility for rentals only. With those latter options, along with paying off the loan, the Lake House is projected to represent a net profit in the 2018 budget.
CEO Cate Fulkerson said staff “highly recommends” the Board pay off the loan at the end of this year.
“I am looking forward to that conversation, because I think that there is a lot of area where the Board can make a positive impact on the community, both financially and through programming,” said Sherri Hebert, Board president.
In addition to bringing in in-house legal support, the cost of which Fulkerson said would be canceled out by the savings from reducing outside legal services, the Board is also being asked to consider other staffing additions.
Anna Varone, director of covenants administration, asked the Board to consider adding a post-DRB project approval inspector. This position is estimated to add $55,885 (salary and benefits) to the budget, with a $2.65 impact on the assessment.
“We’ve been challenged by having projects that have been approved by the DRB and not having someone that’s been able to go and inspect after the member has installed the project,” Varone said. “We’ve not had the resources to go out and ensure that the member has installed the project correctly.”
Mike McNamara, deputy director of maintenance, said the Board should consider adding two seasonal workers to address litter control. This would cost about $40,000 (salary and supplies), with an impact of $1.93 on the assessment.
At a meeting last week, the Board was presented a potential $2.82 million Capital Projects budget.
A community meeting on the budget development process is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14. The Board will then hold further budget work sessions, along with a joint meeting with Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, on Monday, Sept. 18.
The final drafts of the capital projects and operations budgets are to be presented Sept. 28, with public hearings in October and the approval in November.
Budget Work Session Tonight — The Reston Association Board of Directors will have its second budget work session tonight, beginning at 6:30 p.m., at RA headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive). The topic of tonight’s session will be the 2018 and 2019 operating budgets. The meeting will be broadcast live on RA’s YouTube channel. [Reston Association]
Herndon High School Parking Update — Construction at Herndon High School will severely limit the number of available parking spaces this school year. A parking pass “lottery” is currently underway. [Herndon High School]
FCPD Offers Condolences After Chopper Crash — The Fairfax County Police Department helicopter had just brought Gov. Terry McAuliffe to Charlottesville on Saturday when a Virginia State Police helicopter crashed nearby, killing two officers. [Fairfax County Police Department]
Center for Innovative Technology Up for Sale — The 26-acre campus adjacent to the Dulles Toll Road and the Silver Line’s future Innovation Center station is on the market as of today. It is currently home to nearly 20 companies, many of whom have leases set to expire in 2019. [Washington Business Journal]
Free Disaster-Response Training Available — The next available Community Emergency Response Team class is scheduled to begin Wednesday, Aug. 30 at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Academy. There are two sessions each week, on Mondays and Wednesdays, that run until Sept. 27. The class is 28 hours in length, plus the final practical exercise. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]
The topic was addressed once again at the July meeting of the Reston Association Board of Directors, where CEO Cate Fulkerson was authorized (video) to write a letter to the Fairfax County Park Authority “strongly encouraging” allocating funds to support the a countywide dog park study.
“[The Park Authority has] put it off several times, [and] they really do need to fund that,” Fulkerson said. “There are some issues around dog parks … but also there is a need for such facilities and rules around them. It is becoming evermore a problem for the community and it’s important that they pursue it.”
Reston Association formed a Dog Park Working Group in March 2016 to address concerns of residents in the area around the Baron Cameron dog park, which opened in 2001. Moira Callaghan, one of seven residents who sought legal action in the attempt to close the park, addressed the Board (video) at July’s meeting.
“The dog park at Baron Cameron Park is extremely noisy and has serious negative impacts upon those living closely, including me,” she said. “When dog parks were established, residents were promised the county would get it right. I would like the RA Board to hold the county accountable to this.”
Callaghan, of the adjacent Longwood Grove community, said the sound of dogs barking can often be heard over the sound of cars driving by on Wiehle Avenue. She said she had also called the police eight times in recent weeks to report people using the park before its opening time.
“I have been awakened from my sleep as early at 6:17 and 6:34 a.m. on weekend mornings [in recent weeks],” Callaghan said. “I get dressed, I go outside, I go over there and I take a photo, and I send it to the county.”
According to information provided by RA, the countywide dog park study would help these issues to be addressed and corrected.
In March 2016 the Reston Association Board facilitated a community discussion on the Baron Cameron Dog Park, at the request of local residents. Recommendations developed through the community discussion were forwarded to Fairfax County Park Authority, and a dialogue has continued to take place between the two parties.
Fairfax County Park Authority also proposed a Countywide Dog Park Study to determine needs and set parameters for overall use. Due to staffing vacancies the Study has been on hold for a couple of years. Fairfax County Park Authority staff has confirmed the Study was not included in the draft FY18 Planning and Development Work Plan, but will likely be added to the FY19 Planning and Development Work Plan.
“My neighbors and I have endured this for a very long time. I have carried this torch for four years now,” she said “It is horrible. We would really appreciate your help on this matter.”
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
During a work session Monday (video) with the Reston Association Board of Directors, representatives of RA’s Capital Projects department broke down expenditures scheduled for 2018 and 2019.
Just over $2.8 million is budgeted for projects in the coming year. The highest-ticket item is dredging of Lake Thoreau (about $500,000), while other top costs include work on asphalt trails (over $186,000) and lighting for the North Hills tennis courts ($156,000).
Looking forward to 2019, several more high-cost items help the budget go up to nearly $4 million. This includes continued work on the dredging of Lake Thoreau ($646,000) and the asphalt trails (over $192,000). In addition, over $875,000 is budgeted for renovation of the Lake Thoreau pool facility, after about $110,000 for planning in 2018.
The Board approves its Capital Projects and Operating budgets every two years.
Garrett Skinner, capital projects director, said the 10-year study of the Repair & Replacement Reserve Fund is being used in an effort to ensure that assessments don’t spike in years that larger capital projects are planned.
“We know we can still execute the work in that year without necessarily asking residents to pay significantly higher assessments just to execute what we know we need to get done,” Skinner said. “The intent was to make sure there wasn’t a significant impact on the residents to the assessment value if you can kind of make it … a consistent steady amount in terms of the capital contribution to the assessment, so when we get to those significant years, the blow isn’t right at once or a surprise to anyone.”
About $6.3 million in reserve fund balance is projected to be carried over into 2018, Skinner said, with about $1.6 million being unencumbered. To get to those numbers, the Board is being asked to fund the reserve in the amount of $2.9 million, which was already approved by the Fiscal Committee.
The Board is also being asked to consider a number of additional capital projects that have been suggested by members. Each was listed for directors along with an estimated cost and what that impact it would have on the assessment.
Next Monday, the Board will have another work session on the 2018 and 2019 Operating Budget.
Screenshot via Reston Association YouTube channel
Flash Flood Watch in Effect — The National Weather Service says multiple rounds of showers and thunderstorms are expected today with localized heavy rainfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour possible. [NWS Alert]
RA Budget Work Session Tonight — The Reston Association Board of Directors will meet tonight at 6:30 p.m. at RA headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive) for a work session on the 2018-2019 Capital Projects & Budget Plan, as well as the Five-Year Strategic Capital Projects Plan. [Reston Association]
Volunteers Needed for Senior Olympics — The Northern Virginia Senior Olympics is looking for volunteers ages 16 and over to support the games, Sept. 9-20. The annual event is a celebration of fitness, camaraderie and living healthy longer. Over 50 events are scheduled at 20 venues. Anyone interested in helping should email [email protected] or call 703-403-5360. [Northern Virginia Senior Olympics]
Kids from around the area laughed, screamed and honked horns Friday morning during Reston Association’s annual “Totally Trucks” event at the Central Services Facility.
Kids were encouraged to climb on all the big construction equipment that services Reston, including RA trucks and a fire truck, police vehicle and other public safety vehicles. All children who took part in the event received a “Totally Trucks” construction helmet.
The annual summer event included blasts of water from a tanker truck, demonstrations from dump trucks and other equipment, and much more.
There is also a Big Trucks event scheduled for 5-8 p.m. tonight at the Fairfax County 4-H Fair and Carnival.
Photo at left: Jack Blanchard, of Herndon, climbs a tree with help from RA staff.
Hook Road Project Info Session — Anyone interested in learning about the Hook Road Recreation Area project and the forming of a working group may attend an information session on Tuesday, Aug. 29 at 6:30 p.m. at Reston Association headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive). Email [email protected] for more about serving on the working group. [Reston Association]
Third Outreach Session on Bikeshare Announced — The Virginia Department of Transportation has announced a third public outreach event to gather community input on the proposed sites for Capital Bikeshare expansion in Reston. It will be Saturday, Aug. 26 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Reston Farmers Market. [VDOT]
Aquatics Center To Close for Annual Maintenance — The Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center at Reston Community Center (2310 Colts Neck Road) will be closed from Aug. 19 to Sept. 15. It is scheduled to reopen at noon Sept. 16. [Reston Community Center]
County Short-Term Rental Survey Ongoing — Fairfax County is developing regulations to govern the use of short-term rentals (e.g., Airbnb). It is gathering community input through Aug. 31. [Fairfax County/Survey Monkey]
Column: Virginia Should Not Pay for ‘Skins Stadium — Regular ARLnow columnist Peter Rousselot wrote this week about how the costs of bringing a new Washington Redskins home field to Virginia would far outweigh the benefits for taxpayers. [ARLnow]
The Reston Association Board of Directors will meet throughout the month of August to work toward drafting the 2018-19 biennial budgets.
Monday, RA staff will provide an overview to the board on the draft 2018-19 Capital Projects & Budget Plan, along with the Five-Year Strategic Capital Projects Plan. The following Monday, Aug. 14, the Board will receive and provide comments on CEO Cate Fulkerson’s first draft of the proposed 2018 and 2018 Operating Budgets.
At a Monday, Aug. 28 session, directors are scheduled to consider the Decision Points presented within the drafted Operating and Capital budgets. They are also to provide guidance to staff about what should and should not be included in the second draft of the budgets.
Each of the three August sessions is scheduled for 6:30-9 p.m. at RA headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive).
Directors heard a presentation at their meeting last week on the results of community engagement workshops where input on budget priorities, among other issues, was provided. The Board has been asked to consider incorporating the feedback provided through the community listening sessions into its budget development process for the coming year.
Sridhar Ganesan, At-Large director, said he would like to see more such listening sessions held before the budget is finalized.
“I think we will be doing some public sessions, [and] I hope to do substantive ones so that people can actually give feedback on it,” he said. “For example, ‘These are the projects we’re proposing — how do you react to that?’ [It’s about] actually having a way to get real data back from the people.”
The process is scheduled to continue with another work session in September and the final draft presented at the Board’s Sept. 28 meeting. There will then be a pair of public hearings on the budget in late October, followed by approval of the budgets and the 2018 assessment rate at the Board’s November meeting.