Park Service unveils long list of upgrades for Wolf Trap National Park

Better traffic circulation, accessibility, and amenities are some potential changes that could come to Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.

The Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts and National Park Service unveiled a proposed amendment to the park’s general management plan during a virtual public meeting on May 25.

“In general, the goal, in very broad strokes, is to improve the visitor experience,” Wolf Trap National Park Acting Superintendent Ken Bigley said. “In keeping with the preservation mandate of the National Park Service, we want to preserve the natural beauty and the character of this very special space…This is exactly where you come in as members of the public.”

The upgrades will focus on improving amenities, accessibility, safety, and security features; addressing long-documented site challenges, such as transportation access, pedestrian circulation, and stormwater management; addressing deferred maintenance areas; improving the visitor experience, and expanding opportunities for year-round park use.

The approximately 130-acre park located on former farmland has three outdoor venues: the Filene Center, the Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods, and the Meadow Pavilion, each served by a collection of structures that could be removed, rehabilitated, or upgraded. Other structures could also be added.

Concession buildings in the Filene Center area are outdated and could get upgrades, according to the presentation.

A food services building will be rebuilt to provide concession services, restrooms, and a deck area, while a service building will be replaced with two new buildings that will provide concession service, a security screening area and restrooms, and a rooftop-accessible picnic area.

The Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods could get needed support facilities, such as an area for parents to comfort their children. The facility is also slated to get a pavilion.

The plan recommends rehabilitating a building to provide offices, a catering kitchen, restrooms, and a cabin to house U.S. Park Police and work as a space for park ushers.

Existing trailer offices would be removed.

Other additions include a security perimeter and a new pedestrian tunnel.

Architects are also looking at parking, traffic, and circulation. The three options being considered all widen the Main Circle Road to add a bypass lane for vehicles that need to access certain lots or parts of the park, while removing existing parking around Main Circle Road.

Existing structures that will stay include the Box Office Trailer (B), the Main Gate (C). The Main Gate Canopy (R) will be updated and a new structure, a security perimeter (V), will be added.

Option A would retain more trees than Option C, while Option B could incorporate a parking garage, the location of which has not been vetted, according to the presentation.

Here’s an illustration of how each of the options would impact circulation:

Service vehicle (blue), visiting vehicle (orange) and pedestrian (purple) circulation in each of the proposed scenarios (Image via NPS)

During the meeting, some participants raised questions about parking and traffic and wondered about the projects’ cost and anticipated sources of funding.

“What we’ve outlined here potentially has a huge impact financially,” Wolf Trap Foundation President and CEO Arvind Manocha. “We do think of these as a roadmap for many years ahead.”

He said the foundation is willing to raise funds for specific projects and work with NPS and the arts community to realize these changes.

“To the extent that funding is available through a public or private source, either would be great, both would be welcome, but there isn’t an expectation that all or none fall into one category,” he said.

Bigley said Wolf Trap can apply for federal funding but would be competing with 422 other parks throughout the U.S.

“That would be a challenge,” he said. “Even if all these projects are not able to be funded at the same time — likely they wouldn’t be — what we decided early on is that we wanted to take a holistic look of what the long-term vision would be, rather than evaluate a number of these options piecemeal.”

Wolf Trap is currently in the midst of a privately funded renovation project to replace several temporary tents with permanent pavilions, a change intended to support more year-round use of the facilities. The park is also preparing for its 50th anniversary season, which will launch on June 18 with “The Anonymous Lover” in concert.

Photos via National Park Service

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