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Fairfax County Park Authority wants feedback on plan to improve park access and equity

People walk and bike on a bridge at Lake Accotink Park in Springfield (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The Fairfax County Park Authority wants feedback on a draft plan to make county parks more equitable and accessible.

County staff is collecting input on its Parks, Recreation, Open Space, and Access (PROSA) Strategy through an online survey and two virtual workshops scheduled this month. The second round of community engagement comes as the FCPA prepares to finalize the strategy later this year. 

FCPA Director Jai Cole said the strategy will guide the park authority toward improved accessibility, park equity, and a “stronger balance of park experiences countywide.”

“The cutting-edge research which we’ve undertaken, coupled with the valuable insights we’ve received by way of community input, will be invaluable tools in our work to ensure equitable access to our park system,” Cole said.

According to the county, top priorities of the draft PROSA report include:

  • Ensuring all community members have access to FCPA parks within a 10-minute walk
  • Enhancing access to “complete park experiences”
  • Enriching habitat connectivity between environmental corridors
  • Analyzing and prioritizing recreation needs and projects with an equity lens, as required by the county’s One Fairfax policy

According to the report, approximately 52% of residents have access to a county park within a 10-minute walk from their home.

Emphasizing its vision of ensuring residents can get to a park without driving, the report states that barriers can include the presence of large roadways with limited pedestrian crossings, a lack of sidewalks, remote park entryways and natural features, such as a stream or forested area.

“Opportunities to remove barriers and improve park access range from adding a trailhead or a new park entrance where feasible, to partnering with an agency to add a crosswalk, or acquiring parkland,” the PROSA report says.

Enhancing accessibility is also about improving the access visitors have to active, “passive,” social and natural or cultural recreation, according to the report, which proposes that the park authority develop parks with limited activities, acquire parkland, and collaborate with other public agencies to achieve its goal.

The objective of enriching habitat connectivity is centered on preserving and enhancing the county’s current and future natural environment.

“Improving habitat connectivity is a critical strategy for addressing habitat loss and fragmentation, a top threat to biodiversity,” the report reads.

The FCPA will identify sites where habitat health could improve, plant trees to bolster area with lower tree canopy, and consider opportunities to improve habitat connectivity when acquiring parkland.

The report commits the park authority to considering “racial and social equity and population density when prioritizing park and recreation needs and projects in order to diminish racial and social inequities within our community.”

The first round of community engagement on the PROSA strategy wrapped up last fall. The virtual workshop for the second round of community engagement is scheduled for July 18 and July 25. Comments through the online survey will be accepted through Aug. 6. 

Registration for the online survey and workshops is available on the PROSA webpage.

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