The Fairfax County Park Authority has opened a 30-day public comment period on its draft plan to allow an arts center at Clemyjontri Park in McLean.
The comment period commenced Thursday night (Oct. 28) with the county’s first public meeting on the proposal since it kicked off the Clemyjontri Park master plan revision process in December.
Possibly the first exclusively in-person public meeting that the park authority has held during the COVID-19 pandemic, the gathering at Franklin Sherman Elementary School was subdued, with county staff appearing to outnumber members of the general public.
The community members in attendance, though, seemed open to the idea of an arts center, albeit with some wariness regarding its potential size and noise and parking impacts.
“As long as there’s screening, the building isn’t too tall, and it stays within the walkway boundary, I’m okay with it,” said a man who lives adjacent to Clemyjontri on the west side. He noted that the park “has been a great neighbor so far.”
Another McLean resident stressed that he’s “not against the arts” but fears the building could end up being too large for the 18.5-acre park, crowding out the families who use its unique playground.
“I just don’t want to see us do something to the park that we’ll regret,” he told Tysons Reporter after the meeting.
The master plan revision focuses on the last of three development phases planned for Clemyjontri Park.
With second phase completed in 2019, the third phase in the current plan calls for the existing house and gardens to host a local history museum or community meeting and event space. It also suggests adding a “small parking area” for event staff and people with disabilities.
Under the revised plan, the house would still be preserved and refurbished, but phase three would instead focus on a new arts center with gallery, studio, and classroom spaces and outdoor amenities, such as a courtyard with gardens for events and a gazebo.
The draft also proposes an overflow parking lot to accommodate increased demand from the arts center as well as tree and shrub plantings to enhance the buffer to adjacent properties and maintain the park’s “natural setting.”
Presented to the Park Authority Board on Oct. 22, the draft plan adheres closely to what was proposed in December, but FCPA staff made a couple changes, including specifying that the plants used for buffering be evergreens in response to public feedback.
“The master plan is for the most part conceptual in detail,” FCPA senior landscape architect and project manager Doug Tipsword said. “However, in this case, clarifying evergreen plants rather than deciduous plants is an important detail for ensuring the intent to mitigate sound and visual impacts has a year-round effect.”
Staff also added a provision for public art, sculpture, and seating along Clemyjontri’s perimeter trails “to further enhance the natural trail experience,” according to the draft. Tipsword says that idea grew more out of refining the conceptual design than as a direct response to public input.
After the public comment period ends around Nov. 27, county staff will revise the draft plan again based on the new feedback before presenting a final plan to the FCPA board for its approval, which could potentially come in January.
If the revisions are approved, the park authority says it will be able to develop a more detailed plan for the development as it goes through the county’s public facilities review and special exception processes.
The county could also start looking for partners to manage the arts center. As the group behind the proposal, the McLean Project for the Arts would be a likely candidate, but it’s not guaranteed, Tipsword says.
“I am thrilled that this proposal has made it to this point,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said. “It is not a done deal…Personally, I hope we’re able to work this out, because I believe it would be a very positive thing.”
McLean Soccer Field Conversion Reaches Completion — “The Fairfax County Park Authority, in collaboration with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and McLean Youth Soccer Association, will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the grand opening of Holladay Field in McLean, Virginia. The celebration begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021.” [FCPA]
Town of Vienna Downsizes Planning Commission — “Seeking to bring the Vienna Planning Commission’s membership in line with those of similarly sized nearby jurisdictions, the Vienna Town Council on Oct. 11 agreed to reduce the commission’s size from nine members to seven…Three Planning Commission members have departed this year.” [Sun Gazette]
Celebree School Tysons to Hold Grand Opening — “Celebree School, a preschool and infant and toddler care center, is celebrating its grand opening in Tysons with a fall festival on Saturday, Oct. 16. The preschool and child care center announced its opening in September at Valo Park, 7950 Jones Branch Drive, McLean.” [Patch]
Fairfax County Urges Flu Shots — The Fairfax County Health Department is encouraging everyone 6 months of age and older to reduce their risk of contracting the seasonal flu by getting vaccinated, ideally before the end of October. Public health nurse Alisa Brooks talks about what people should know about this year’s flu season in a YouTube video. [FCHD/Twitter]
Local Swim Coach Arrested on Child Porn Charges — Fairfax County police have arrested a 21-year-old aquatics instructor for possession of child pornography after finding thousands of explicit images and videos in an online Dropbox account. The suspect has been a Fairfax County Park Authority employee since 2015, but so far, none of the victims appear to be county residents or have connection to his job as a swim instructor. [WTOP]
Code Violation Pushes Farmers Market Out of Vienna — The NOVA Central Farm Market has moved to Marshall High School outside of the Town of Vienna’s limits, because the town code only allows one farmers market. Operated by Central Farm Markets, the market had operated at Marshall High until the closure of schools due to COVID-19 last year prompted a relocation to Holy Comforter Church on Beulah Road. [Patch]
New Tech Company Launches in Tysons — The new technology startup LevelFields announced the public launch of its artificial intelligence platform that helps investors predict stock prices on Monday (Oct. 4). Based in Tysons, the company was developed in response to the volatility introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic and has received funding from the Center for Innovative Technology, among other sources. [LevelFields]
Meet New Fairfax Parks Director — “Jai Cole, who on Sept. 14 became the new executive director of Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA), wants to make the park system more accessible and equitable. Cole spent the past 16 years with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Montgomery Parks. During a recent phone interview, the Silver Spring resident told the Sun Gazette why she returned to her home county.” [Sun Gazette]
Vienna Debates Zoning Changes for Lot Coverage — As part of its ongoing zoning code rewrite, the Vienna Town Council held a public hearing on Monday (Sept. 27) to get feedback on proposals to ease the town’s 25% limit on lot coverage for residential properties. Commenters were split on whether to maintain the existing rules or allow more space for front porches, decks, and other structures. [Sun Gazette]
County to Give Update on Clemyjontri Master Plan Revision — “The Fairfax County Park Authority is holding a Public Comment Meeting to gather public input on the draft master plan revision for Clemyjontri Park. The meeting will be held on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021 at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria at Franklin Sherman Elementary School located at 6633 Brawner Street, McLean, Virginia.” [FCPA]
MCC Board Commits to Prioritizing Equity — The McLean Community Center Governing Board issued a statement yesterday (Wednesday) saying it will make diversity, equity, inclusion, and access top considerations when developing facilities and programming. The commitment aligns the organization with Fairfax County’s One Fairfax policy “to promote a responsive, caring and inclusive culture.” [MCC]
Photos: Wolf Trap Concludes 50th Anniversary Season — “The Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts closed out its 50th anniversary season over the weekend, with a giant gala that raised over $2 million.” [Washingtonian]
Firefighters Wear Capes to Cheer Up Inova Patients — “Earlier [Tuesday], #FCFRD firefighters rappelled down the @InovaHealth Children’s Hospital building to visit and encourage young patients. ‘I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.’ — Superman” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department/Twitter]
Tysons Wegmans Reopens After Hazmat Event — The Wegmans at Capital One Center (1835 Capital One Drive) was closed throughout the night on Wednesday (Sept. 22), a tipster who told Tysons Reporter, adding that there were “lots of fire trucks outside.” The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department says one of the store’s refrigerator lines had a leak, which “is considered a HAZMAT incident.” The scene was cleared that evening, and the store reopened yesterday (Thursday).
Falls Church Development to Delay Traffic Tomorrow — “Drivers should expect delays at the intersection of Broad St. (Rt. 7/Leesburg Pike) and Washington St. (Rt. 29/Lee Highway) on Saturday, September 25, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The traffic signal at that intersection is expected to be dark, and lanes will be closed…The closures are due to a contractor testing for the upcoming Broad and Washington private development project at the intersection.” [City of Falls Church]
Park Authority Recognizes County Leaders for Pandemic Response — “The Fairfax County Park Authority Board is honoring two individuals this year with Chairman’s Choice Awards for outstanding long-term support, service to, and advocacy on behalf of the Park Authority…County Executive Bryan Hill and Fairfax County Director of Health Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, are being hailed for their outstanding leadership during the challenging COVID-19 pandemic.” [FCPA]
Watch Demolition of Old NADA HQ in Tysons — Have a few free hours? Spend them watching the vacated National Automobile Dealers Association headquarters get reduced to rubble to make way for The Boro’s expansion. Demolition work is nearly complete on the building, which was among the first office towers in Tysons when it was constructed in 1975. [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]
1st Stage Theater Reflects on Staying Busy During Pandemic — “Instead of shutting down and laying off workers, 1st Stage took a different tack. The company committed to fulfilling every contract for three scheduled productions, keeping its entire staff employed and continuing to function at the fullest capacity possible under the circumstances, [artistic and managing director Alex] Levy said.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
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]
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]
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.
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
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.”
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.