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Citizens group calls for rethinking of McLean Central Park upgrades amid concerns

McLean Central Park redesign concept plan (via Fairfax County)

The McLean Citizens Association has concerns about how Fairfax County is approaching changes to McLean Central Park.

The MCA board of directors approved a resolution on Wednesday (July 7) questioning the concept development plan that the Fairfax County Park Authority has proposed for the park, which would add facilities such as an amphitheater and a dog park. It called for further community input, such as a community-wide survey, notices posted in the park, and another extension of the comment period.

“Document the need. Document why,” Barbara Ryan, chair of the environment, parks, and recreation committee, said in describing part of the resolution. “Don’t just destroy green…space to build things that aren’t needed.”

Adjacent to the McLean Community Center and Dolley Madison Library, the 28-acre McLean Central Park (1468 Dolley Madison Blvd.) currently has tennis and basketball courts, playgrounds, and trails.

With $2.2 million in construction funds available for the project, thanks to park bonds already approved by voters, park authority officials say the proposed ideas were in line with a 2013 master plan and held a meeting on May 24, kicking off a 30-day comment period.

The deadline for community members to submit feedback was later extended from June 25 to July 30, in part due to a request for more time by MCA.

The association has raised concerns over the amphitheater in a quiet neighborhood next to residences, saying it could create undesirable light, noise, and traffic.

In a June letter to the park authority, MCA President Rob Jackson also cited possible pedestrian safety issues, suggesting the county should study traffic impact and mitigation alternatives and have a professional conduct a parking study.

“While this may have been a community desire 8 years ago, there is simply no demonstrated need for the amphitheater,” Jackson said in the letter, which was also sent to county officials. “This is especially the case in light of the…Alden Theater at the McLean Community Center as well as the new, several stages nearing completion at the Capitol One Center.”

MCA also noted that an existing gazebo already provides space for outdoor events. The group has 500 dues-paying members and also assists others who reach out to the group when they face an issue.

FCPA spokesperson Judy Pedersen told Tysons Reporter last month that the McLean Community Center “is very interested” in seeing the amphitheater move forward.

The MCC governing board held a special called meeting on Tuesday (July 6) that focused on articulating its position on the park redevelopment plan and developing an “outreach strategy to drive support” for an amphitheater, according to the agenda.

The county has also suggested that the proposed dog park would require eliminating a tennis court, which drew concerns from players who have enjoyed the wind-protected, lighted courts and felt that money could be better used for maintenance.

While the design isn’t expected to be finalized until early next year, park authority staff told Tysons Reporter in June that the park’s three tennis courts will likely remain in their current positions in deference to the community’s expressed desires.

The MCA resolution says the county’s new proposal calls for new park elements “for which demand has not recently been articulated, documented, or even surveyed in the community, such as the proposed amphitheater, bocce courts and game tables, while neglecting needed maintenance of existing facilities, such as tennis courts, and features that were removed without community notice, outreach or comment, such as disc golf.”

A nine-hole disc golf course was in place for decades at the park but removed around 2017 or 2018, at-large board member Kevin Kierce said.

The park authority has suggested reinstating the course if possible.

FCPA Project Management Branch Manager Paul Shirey previously said the disc golf was removed due to a stream restoration project. He said the county is aware of interest in bringing it back and also checked with a disc golf course designer but need to make sure it doesn’t interrupt restoration improvements made.

“The green space was well used for over 30 years,” Kierce said.

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