Newsletter

Morning Notes

County Appoints New Parks Director — “The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors affirmed the selection of Jai Cole as Executive Director of the Park Authority [Tuesday]…Cole, a park professional with more than two decades of leadership experience with award-winning recreation and park agencies will begin immediately, filling the vacancy created by the retirement of…Kirk Kincannon earlier this year.” [Fairfax County Park Authority]

Deadline for COVID-19 Relief Grants Extended — Fairfax County has extended the application deadline for its Active and Thriving Community Grants Program to 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 21. Previously set to close yesterday (Tuesday), the program is intended to help child care providers, community programs, and other small businesses and nonprofits negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. [Fairfax County Government]

Tysons Adapts to Decline in Commuting — With the pandemic keeping many workers at home, local business leaders say a growing emphasis on mixed-use developments like The Boro and Capital One Center will help office-centric Tysons adapt to a world of remote work. Proximity to transit and retail amenities will be key to attracting young employees, ID.me Chief Marketing Officer Jean Rosauer said at last week’s Future of Tysons event. [Bisnow]

Some Teachers Skeptical of Live-Streaming Proposal — “After Fairfax County Public Schools added classroom streaming for students forced to stay home because of COVID-19, some teachers are pushing back…David Walrod, a teacher at FCPS, who also serves as the first Vice President of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, worries that the live streaming will evolve into concurrent learning — which even the superintendent said wasn’t ideal for students.” [WUSA9]

Tysons Security Company Evacuated Clients from Afghanistan — “As U.S. troops began to withdraw from Afghanistan, Tysons-based Global Guardian reached out to its clients there to offer evacuation assistance. On August 5, 10 days before the Afghan government collapsed, the company began evacuating its clients from Kabul and two other cities. By August 18, Global Guardian had successfully evacuated all but one individual, whom it later got out of the country.” [Fairfax County EDA]

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Morning Notes

Virginia Redistricting Commission Splits on Map — The commission will submit two possible maps for new congressional and legislative districts to the General Assembly in October after its Democratic and Republican members couldn’t agree on who will draw the maps. Del. Marcus Simon (D-53rd), who called the commission flawed when it went on the ballot last November, was not impressed. [WTOP]

Virginia Tech Expert Backs Mite Theory for Bug Bites — An entomologist with the Virginia Tech Insect ID Lab says oak itch mites are likely behind the mysterious, itchy bug bites that many D.C. area residents have reported in recent weeks, possibly linked to the cicada emergence. A Fairfax County environmental health official told Tysons Reporter last week that the mites were a suspected cause but had not been confirmed. [ARLnow]

County to Hold Meeting on Pickleball Study — “The Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) seeks the public’s input on the emerging sport of pickleball and invites the community to attend a virtual meeting to introduce its draft Pickleball Study…The event will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at 7 p.m. and will be available online afterward for those unable to attend live.” [FCPA]

Vienna Dog Park Closed This Morning — The Vienna Dog Park at the corner of Courthouse Road and Moorefield Road SW will be closed for maintenance from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. today (Thursday). It is the only publicly owned dog park in the Tysons area. [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

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Dog in floral bandana (via The Boro/Twitter)

Fairfax County’s final Dog Park Park Study calls for the construction of one new dog park, a timeline to build six more, and a better maintenance plan for existing parks.

After a nearly two-year long process full of surveys, drafts, and feedback, the Fairfax County Park Authority Board of Directors endorsed the final report at a meeting late last month.

The park authority initiated the study in 2019 due to the “abundance” of questions about county dog park operations and expansion, including the “perceived demand” for more parks. Feedback was gathered by surveying more than 4,600 residents.

According to a county press release, the final report will act as a “guiding document” for the county as it plans, designs, maintains, and operates dog parks going forward.

Recommendations in the final report include building at least one new dog park by 2025, though an exact location isn’t specified.

Currently, the county has 13 public dog parks, 11 of which are owned and operated by FCPA. An additional one would meet the needs of the county’s projected population in 2025, according to the park authority’s data.

Although the report doesn’t say exactly where the new park should be built, it suggests that McLean or Lake Fairfax in Reston would be good options due to demand and a lack of existing dog parks.

Park bond funding should be used for the building of the park, the report proposes.

After that dog park is completed, the report says the county should establish a schedule for constructing six more dog parks, which should meet and, even, exceed demand over the next two decades.

It recommends Baileys, Jefferson, and Bull Run planning districts as options for locations.

A map of existing and planned Fairfax County Park Authority dog parks (via FCPA)

In terms of what those new dog parks should include, survey respondents noted that room for dogs to run, adequate number of trash cans, shade, water spickets, and parking were features most requested by residents.

The report also recommends developing a more thorough plan for park upkeep, including additional and better placement of trash cans, more frequent refilling of waste bag dispensers, and better signage. It says FCPA should encourage volunteer dog park teams to help with this upkeep.

In addition to addressing the state of dog parks countywide, the report makes recommendations for improvements to each individual dog park in that the park authority operates.

Suggested alterations range from converting a hose bib at the Baron Cameron dog park in Reston into a drinking fountain and installing a structure or planting trees to provide shade at Blake Lane in Oakton to redesigning Grist Mill Park in Alexandria to have a separate section for smaller and older dogs.

FCPA estimates that it costs just under $10,000 a year to maintain each dog park.

A draft of the report was first released in early March, which was followed by another public comment period that led the park authority to refine some of its recommendations.

The Tysons area is currently low on public dog parks. The Blake Lane park (10033 Blake Lane) is the closest one owned by the FCPA, and pups can also romp in an off-leash area at Moorefield Park in the Town of Vienna.

A dog park is being considered as part of the McLean Central Park redesign, but the proposal got some pushback after the park authority’s concept plan suggested it would require eliminating an existing tennis court.

The final dog park study report will be posted on the county’s website in September.

Photo via The Boro/Twitter

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New sign at Freedom Hill Park (via Fairfax County)

An upcoming dedication ceremony for new signs at Freedom Hill Park (8531 Old Courthouse Road) outside of Tysons represents more than just recognition of the struggles of local families during the Civil War era.

For the Fairfax County Park Authority, it’s the beginning of a shift in how local history is presented.

The Freedom Hill Park dedication is the first part of the Untold Stories project, which aims to shift historical presentation from a focus on big events and local celebrities to the more personal stories of Fairfax County’s past residents.

“It’s a relatively new initiative,” said Judy Pedersen, public information officer for the Park Authority. “We’ve been doing interpretations of properties and history for many years, but this is linked to the One Fairfax initiative. We’re looking for the more personal stories about families and their contributions.”

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted One Fairfax in November 2017, committing the county government to considering issues of equity in its policies and decision-making.

Originally dedicated in November 2012, Freedom Hill Park derived its name from the sizable community of free Black people that resided in the area during the 19th century, according to the park authority’s website.

Some of the stories told in the new signs at the site include that of Lucy Carter, a free woman of color who may have worked as a Union spy, and stories of intermarriages between the local Black community and the native Tauxenent and Pamunkey tribes.

Pedersen describes these as the stories that “wouldn’t necessarily make a history book” but help paint a better picture of what life was like in Fairfax County’s past.

Pedersen says the Freedom Hill Park signs are the county’s first time putting the project into practice, but there are a few other irons in the fire, and she hopes more residents come forward and share stories from their families’ past.

Scheduled for noon tomorrow (Saturday), the dedication will include a land recognition ceremony performed by Rose Powhatan, director of the Powhatan Museum of Indigenous Arts and Culture.

“It’s a custom dating back centuries to recognize that indigenous peoples were the original stewards of these lands,” Pedersen said. “It’s an acknowledgement of the roots of the origins of the land.”

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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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Morning Notes

Verse condos reflected in The Boro office building with U.S. and Virginia flags (photo by John Colby)

Former Mosby Woods ES Cements New Moniker — The Fairfax school formerly known as Mosby Woods Elementary School officially became Mosaic Elementary School yesterday (Thursday), unveiling a new logo and website. The Fairfax County School Board approved the new name in February to replace Confederate Colonel John S. Mosby as the school’s namesake. [Mosaic ES/Twitter]

Metro Police Didn’t Investigate Thousands of Crime Reports — “Metro police didn’t follow through with more than 3,000 complaints filed between 2010 and 2017, the report from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Office of Inspector General says. They included a variety of felony and misdemeanor offenses such as armed robberies, sexual offenses, kidnappings, assaults and other crimes.” [NBC4]

County Rec Centers Introduce “Pay-As-You-Go” Option — Rec Center users can now pay on a month-to-month basis for membership to the nine facilities, including the Providence center in Falls Church and Spring Hill center in McLean. The Park Authority says this has been a longstanding request from customers, especially younger people on a tighter budget. [Fairfax County Park Authority]

Vehicle Thefts on the Rise, Vienna Police Warn — Northern Virginia has seen increased vehicle tampering incidents and thefts, in some cases involving suspects entering unlocked homes or opening garage doors to steal property and car keys. The Vienna Police Department advises residents to “stay vigilant” and lock all doors and garages. [Vienna Police/Twitter]

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McLean Central Park redesign concept plan (via Fairfax County)

Community members have an additional month to share their thoughts on a proposal to add a dog park, amphitheater, and other amenities to McLean Central Park at 1468 Dolley Madison Boulevard.

Fairfax County Park Authority staff told Tysons Reporter on Thursday (June 10) that the deadline for the public to comment on the concept development plan has been pushed back from June 25 to July 30 in response to the amount of feedback that has come in since the plan was unveiled on May 24.

The project webpage has now been updated to reflect the date change. Comments can be sent by email to [email protected] or [email protected]

“As a planner, there’s no better input than from the people that actually use the park every day,” FCPA Project Manager Adam Wynn said. “That information is so valuable, and that’s really the reason we held this meeting, to get a gauge on all the time that’s passed from the 2013 master plan to now.”

The suggested elimination of a tennis court to make room for a dog park has drawn a particularly strong reaction, as local tennis players say the three existing courts are barely enough to accommodate demand amid surging interest in tennis and pickleball.

Chris Parel says he has been utilizing the McLean Central Park tennis courts regularly throughout his 30-plus years of living in McLean. Now retired, he plays with a group called the McLean All Weather Tennis Club.

“Our observation is that, certainly in the times when we are playing, it’s much harder to get a court,” he said. “There are more people waiting to get onto the courts.”

According to Parel, the McLean Central Park courts are especially sought-after, because they are wind-protected and the only ones in the area with lighting, enabling nighttime play. Meanwhile, some courts, like those at Lewinsville Park, are in need of maintenance.

“Love dogs, love the idea of a dog park, would like to see one at the McLean Central Park, but not to be pitted against a service, a facility in the tennis and pickleball courts that are established and that have a record of increasing use, if anything, in a McLean context, where court availability has actually been reduced,” Parel said.

FCPA Public Information Officer Judith Pedersen confirms that the Lewinsville courts need repairs, but there are no plans for a renovation, at least not within the next three years.

“We know that they need repairs, but they’re not the worst in the county,” she said. “Most courts need some type of renovation in McLean, and really, throughout the county, so it is a priority, but we have to sort of do the ones that are the worst first.”

She says the park authority has also observed an uptick in tennis court usage, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the county’s park facilities in general “are really operating at maximum capacity.”

The McLean Central Park project team emphasizes that the plan presented last month was a concept intended to gauge how the community’s interest in various amenities has changed since the master plan was adopted eight years ago.

A dog park was incorporated in that plan, but the tennis courts site is the only place one could be built without interfering with the park’s floodplain or the resource protection area, according to FCPA Project Management Branch Manager Paul Shirey.

“We got a lot of strong input that folks really want to keep the tennis courts there, so I think we’ve heard that loud and clear,” Shirey said.

While the tennis advocates have been especially vocal, Pedersen says feedback has run the gamut, from people who just want to see the trails or bridges renovated to excitement about an amphitheater, which is something of interest to the McLean Community Center.

The longer public comment period gives county staff more time to meet with community groups, such as the McLean Citizens Association, which approved a letter on June 2 seeking an extension.

Because of the extended comment period, staff won’t start refining the concept plan until August. The project design is expected to be finalized in early 2022 with construction starting that fall. It is being funded with $2.2 million from a parks bond approved in November.

“We put things out there for discussion based on our input from the past and what we see out there in practice, and this is exactly what we want to happen,” Pedersen said. “We want people to say, ‘oh, no, that’s a terrible idea,’ or ‘oh yes, that’s fantastic and we really need it.’ So, that’s what’s going on, that discussion.”

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Starting next week, Fairfax County will join hundreds of cities across the world in documenting local wildlife for the annual City Nature Challenge.

The Fairfax County Park Authority will participate in the challenge this year as part of the Washington Metro area’s team, which includes 14 Northern Virginia counties, five counties in Maryland, D.C., and Jefferson County, West Virginia.

“The ultimate goal of the challenge is to get citizens outside observing nature,” Tammy Schwab, FCPA manager of education and outreach for the resource parks, said. “We love to know folks are enjoying the parks  as that is why we are working hard to preserve these natural resources. We want to share them for the enjoyment and health of the citizens.”

Started in 2016 as a competition initially just between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the City Nature Challenge has evolved into a global event where participants race to find the most plant and animal species in their environment.

Last year’s contest yielded 32,000 species from more than 815,000 observations, according to the City Nature Challenge website.

Organized by the California Academy of Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, this year’s competition will begin on April 30 at 12:01 a.m. local time and conclude on May 3 at 11:59 p.m.

Participants can upload their findings to the free iNaturalist app, and the specimen will be identified through crowdsourcing. Results will be announced on May 10.

Schwab says that, as a zoologist, she enjoys getting to review and identify the many species sent in during the challenge.

“There are lots of side benefits for the parks as the data collected in the parks can help us improve our resource management efforts, and we get to work with partners across the region like the Fairfax Master Naturalist,” Schwab said.

As part of this year’s challenge, the Fairfax County Park Authority will help local Girls Scout troops get involved. Schwab will host a free online program tonight (Wednesday) from 7 to 8 p.m. for scout leaders who want their troops to participate in the City Nature Challenge.

More information on how to sign up, opportunities to volunteer, and other contest information can be found on the FCPA and City Nature Challenge websites.

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The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.

We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean, and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Monday (April 19)

  • ACT/SAT and College Admission in the Time of COVID (Online) — 6:30-7:30 p.m. — The Princeton Review is hosting a free online Zoom session to discuss what it takes to get into college during the time of COVID-19. Attendees must register to receive the Zoom link. FCPS warns that students shouldn’t register with their FCPS email address.
  • Blake Lane Community Safety Meeting (Online) — 7-8:30 p.m. — As a follow-up to a community meeting in January, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik will provide updates on safety improvements in the Blake Lane corridor. The live stream will be available via Zoom and Facebook Live. For the agenda and more information, visit the calendar event on the Fairfax County website.

Tuesday (April 20)

  • Earth Day 2021 — The Fairfax County Park Authority will celebrate Earth Day with volunteer activities from April 20-22. In addition, the agency’s social media accounts will post fun facts, tips, and programs in line with this year’s theme of “Together, We can Restore Our Earth.” For more information, contact the Public Information Office at [email protected] or call 703-324-8662.
  • A Gambling Man Launch (Online) — 7-8:30 p.m. — Author David Baldacci is kicking off the release tour for his new book “A Gambling Man” with this virtual launch event hosted by Bards Alley in Vienna with “Miracle Creek” author Angie Kim. Tickets are available for $5, or a $30.74 ticket also gets you a hardcover copy of Baldacci’s novel.

Wednesday (April 21)

Thursday (April 22)

Saturday (April 24)

  • Prescription Drug Take-Back Day — 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Falls Church Community Center (223 Little Falls St.) — National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is a day when the public can return expired, unused, or unwanted pills and patches. The program is free and anonymous. Liquids and needles are not allowed. Vape pens and other e-cigarette devices will be collected without the battery in them. More information can be found on the U.S. Department of Justice website.

Sunday (April 25)

  • Spring Open Air Market — 12-5 p.m. at the Windover Building (243 Church St. NW) — The Vienna Arts Society is holding an open air market where local artisans and food retailers will sell various goods, ranging from hand-painted glass from Sovereign Treasures to pastries from Pourie-Mourie. The first 250 visitors will receive a free shopping bag.
  • Virtual Afternoon Tea: Six Degrees (Online) — 3 p.m. — Join a conversation at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria about the theory that everyone is six or fewer social contacts apart. Learn how to find links to famous relatives. The lecture is $12 per person, and there is an optional tea box for an additional $24. Register online, and for more information, call 703-941-7987.

Photo via Tysons Partnership/Facebook

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The cicadas are coming.

17 years after their last appearance, swarms of cicadas known collectively as periodical cicada Brood X are preparing to stage a sequel this spring, with the D.C. area as the epicenter of a natural phenomenon that will encompass 15 states across the eastern and midwestern U.S.

Tammy Schwab, a naturalist and education and outreach manager for the Fairfax County Park Authority, says the insects are expected to emerge in the county around the middle of May, when the ground temperature reaches about 64 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cicadas are special because of their extremely long life cycle,” Schwab told Tysons Reporter by email. “Cicadas spend 2-17 years as a larva underground feeding on the roots of trees.  Most other insects have much shorter life spans.”

According to the National Wildlife Federation, adult periodical cicadas are black with orange underneath. They are just over an inch in length and boast clear, “membranous,” black-veined wings that span three inches across.

These cicadas are different from annual cicadas, which live underground for two to five years before emerging as adults, typically between May and September. Because their life cycles aren’t as closely synchronized as periodical cicadas, some annual cicadas appear every year.

Fairfax County last saw Brood X — one of 15 periodical cicada broods in the U.S. — at the scale anticipated this spring in 2004, but a handful of the insects were spotted locally in 2017.

“As part of the cicada survival strategy some of each brood can emerge between 1 and 4 years early in case some catastrophe were to destroy all the cicadas in a given emergence,” Schwab explained.

In comparison, Schwab says “millions” of cicadas could blanket the D.C. region this year, though the numbers could vary across different areas depending on how much land development has occurred over the past 17 years.

Both adult and larval cicadas depend on trees for food, so they tend to be more prevalent in forested areas. However, people in more developed residential neighborhoods might notice them sooner, since the ground warms more quickly in open spaces than in the woods, according to Schwab.

She says the loss of tree cover to development “will definitely decrease populations,” but reforestation prior to an emergence could result in an increase. Fairfax County had stream bank stabilization projects at Snakeden Branch in Reston, Difficult Run in Oakton, Accotink Creek, and Cinnamon Creek in the Wolf Trap area in 2003, the year before Brood X’s last emergence.

“It would be very interesting to see if these project areas had any effect on the population,” Schwab said.

While the appearance of millions of loud, winged insects may sound alarming, cicadas are harmless for humans. The most notable impact will be on newly planted trees, which can be damaged by cicada egg laying.

Schwab advises residents to wait until the fall before planting new trees or utilize insect netting to protect their branches.

She also says people should watch what their pets are eating.

“A few are not likely to hurt pets but too many could cause digestive issues,” Schwab said. “They are edible by people if you’re are brave enough to try it.”

Photo courtesy Fairfax County Park Authority

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