4.12.16 Letter to County Board, 2015 Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment Survey results

April 12, 2016

Dear Chair Garvey and County Board Members:

Friends of Aurora Highlands Parks (FoAHP) thanks the County for conducting the 2015 Parks and Recreation Park Needs Assessment survey, which shows an overwhelming desire for more natural spaces and natural recreation (trails) by Arlingtonians.

“Nature is of primary importance to Arlingtonians per the survey results. More than 60 percent said they had a need for nature programs, and many respondents also gave high ratings to outdoor amenities. Residents indicated their greatest needs are for trails (both hiking and biking) and natural areas. They also expressed strong interest in festivals and other events to enliven County parks.” (http://newsroom.arlingtonva.us/release/county-residents-have-big-needs-for-parks-and-recreation/)

FoAHP was created specifically to advocate for natural areas, passive green spaces and unprogrammed, multi-use spaces in order to balance the park amenities in Aurora Highlands and we are encouraged to see that these countywide results echo our goals and mission for Aurora Highlands. However, Aurora Highlands’ need for more natural parkland to complement its large array of existing programmed spaces (athletic courts and playgrounds) is more urgent and critical than ever as new residential projects are developed every year, increasing the use of existing parkland while unprogrammed green and natural spaces have diminished, which could be enjoyed by residents of all ages for passive and unprogrammed recreation and is a staple for urban park design.

We would like to take this opportunity to highlight a number of specific actions that FoAHP and other residents have been considering that can be taken to help address our park needs in Aurora Highlands and surrounding Pentagon City area. FoAHP strongly recommends the county incorporate these concepts into an overall action plan for our area to address many of the needs highlighted in the recent survey for more natural park space:

  1. Virginia Highlands Park – restore the balance.
    1. Convert the softball fields on the west side of the park into multi-purpose green space as well as natural park space.
    2. FoAHP sent a proposal to the County Board outlining why this is something Virginia Highlands Park and its surrounding residents needs.
    3. AHCA membership voted to support their committee’s results which also championed green space in the same area of the park.
  2. River House
    1. FoAHP held a public meeting with Vornado regarding adding and donating parkland to the County on its property if it must increase the number of units and density.
    2. This addition of parkland would also be a great connection to the west side of Virginia Highlands Park, furthering DPR’s desire for “place making.”
  3. Land acquisition
    1. Unbuilt lots or larger lots with older homes in Aurora Highlands to create pocket parks with natural spaces and small multi-purpose green spaces to satisfy the needs of the neighborhood.
    2. Consider acquisition of Dominion site on 18th/Ives that held a former substation.
    3. The Point apartments that is adjacent to Virginia Highlands Park is not currently for sale, but is ideally situated as a parkland addition parcel.
  4. Temporary easements
    1. PenPlace property in Pentagon City could be viable to use as a temporary park space while other land and conversion of land to parkland is on-going. This successfully occurred in Rosslyn at the corner of Wilson and North Moore Streets called CentralSpace. http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/11065/temporary-urbanism-thrives-in-rosslyn/
  5. Purchase of Linden Resources building if it becomes available
    1. Create a larger, much needed community center in the Linden building and convert some of the pervious areas adjacent to Nelly Custis Park to more natural and passive park space for the community.

FoAHP will continue to advocate for more inclusive parks for all ages and uses and asks that the county also implement high-level strategies to support competing needs:

  • Prioritize unprogrammed multi-use spaces as the most cost effective and adaptable way to meet residents needs.
  • Increase amount of parkland through acquisition
  • Balance parkland to meet the needs of the whole community – not just the age and use specific recreation the majority of the parks occupy.

We look forward to working with you to improve the quality of the open space in our neighborhood so that it is responsive to the needs of our ever-growing citizenry.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Kari Klaus and Stacy Meyer

Co-chairs on behalf of Friends of Aurora Highlands Parks.