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Funds needed to replace ‘unsafe’ Lake Accotink Park playground

Lake Accotink Park sign (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Lake Accotink Park’s playground has seen better days, not unlike the lake itself.

The Fairfax County Park Authority closed the playground at the popular Springfield park in November after an inspector determined the rusting equipment was “unsafe for use,” Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said at a Board of Supervisors meeting yesterday (Tuesday).

The supervisor proposed allocating $300,000 to replace the playground. An attempt to repair the equipment faltered because the vendor that originally provided the playground in the mid-1990s is no longer operating, according to Walkinshaw.

“Other playground vendors do not offer matching replacement components that would allow for a safe repair and re-opening,” Walkinshaw said. “In the months since the playground’s closing, FCPA has exhausted every avenue possible to procure the needed matching replacement part. At this point, the only option left for the opening of a safe playground at Lake Accotink Park, is a full replacement.”

The funding request will be considered as part of the board’s budget review for the third quarter of fiscal year 2023, which ends June 30. Other items being discussed for the $51.2 million available to the county include upgrades for the county’s tax payment system and running bamboo clearing projects.

Originally installed in 1995, the playground near the marina at Lake Accotink Park (7500 Accotink Park Road) features a swing set and a structure with five slides, ramps and inclines, a “shaky bridge” and a tic-tac-toe game.

The new playground will be different from the current one, according to Fairfax County Park Authority spokesperson Benjamin Boxer, though the agency is still determining the scope of the project.

“While there may be some common features, it will be an updated design and composition,” Boxer said. “Once a final project scope is determined, contingent upon approved funding, we will have a more concrete idea of the final playground concept. The updated playground will be in the same location as the existing playground area.”

The park authority won’t know exactly what materials are needed — and therefore, when construction can take place — until funding is approved, according to Boxer.

“If approved, we could proceed with completing the scope and ensure conformance with permitting,” he said by email. “An actual timeline will be available once the requisition is created and availability and potential delivery of materials is arranged.”

The playground project comes in the middle of a larger existential challenge to the 493-acre Lake Accotink Park, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in August and saw more than 300,000 visitors a year before the pandemic, according to Walkinshaw.

After years of planning to dredge accumulating sediment, county staff recommended earlier this year that the lake instead be allowed to fill up and transform into a wetland, stating that dredging would now be too costly and have too many negative community and environmental impacts.

The Board of Supervisors will discuss staff’s proposal at an environmental committee meeting on April 25.

“The replacement of the playground would not be affected by the outcome of the Board’s decision whether or not to dredge Lake Accotink,” Boxer said.