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Ferndale Avenue at the Herndon Parkway intersection (via Google Maps)

Upgrades to Ferndale Avenue and improvements to police infrastructure are among the new projects proposed in Herndon’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for fiscal year 2025-2030.

The CIP is a part of the annual operating budget and includes funding for transportation, sewer and other public facility projects.

At a work session on Feb. 12, the Town of Herndon Planning Commission recommended the proposed draft to the town manager. It includes 36 projects, the bulk of which cover multimodal transportation and enhancements.

In a report, staff noted that the focus of the plan is to “address current facilities and infrastructure from a health, safety, sustainability, and maintenance perspective.”

The town plans to improve vehicular and pedestrian safety along Ferndale Avenue between Herndon Parkway and Park Avenue, adding sidewalks, curb ramps, and crosswalks that meet current ADA standards.

“Preliminary studies indicate vehicular sight distances are inadequate due to vehicular parking and the curvature of the road,” the proposed CIP says. “Studies also indicated the potential need for additional pedestrian crosswalks across Ferndale Avenue. Initial concept plans include the use of curb bump outs as a feature to shorten crosswalks, define parking areas, and narrow the vehicular travel lanes to current standards.”

The total cost of $545,000 is currently budgeted for fiscal year 2030, which would start on July 1, 2029.

Other added projects include a replacement of an aging, rear motorized security gate and overall improvements for the Herndon Police Department’s station to address building accessibility, physical safety and security, and renovations.

The final new project would bring the town in compliance with new Environmental Protection Agency regulations for lead and copper in drinking water by identifying service lines that don’t meet requirements. Expected to start at the beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1, the project would implement new testing requirements, including the first-ever ones for schools and childcare facilities, and replace service lines as needed.

The planning commission will hold a public hearing on the CIP on Monday, Feb. 26, and the town manager will release the proposed operating budget and CIP by May 1.

This year, town staff categorized capital projects by their readiness: imminent for ones with an established scope and funding, priority for ones that have a scope but aren’t fully funded, and future priorities for unfunded projects that haven’t been defined in detail.

The plan calls for $205.3 million in total capital costs.

Staff noted that minor adjustments may be necessary when the town manager finalizes the proposed operating budget.

Image via Google Maps

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Coates Elementary School in Herndon has been prioritized for a boundary adjustment (via Google Maps)

Fairfax County Public Schools is attempting to streamline its approach to managing capital projects to reduce costs and overcrowding in schools.

The school board approved a Capital Improvement Program (CIP) last Thursday, Feb. 8 for fiscal years 2025-2029 with multiple amendments intended to help lower costs, speed up select school renovations, meet green energy goals and enhance the process for tracking infrastructure projects.

The $1.3 billion, five-year plan allocates funding for the following projects:

  • Construction of the planned Dunn Loring Elementary School
  • A new wing to Justice High School
  • Relocation of modular buildings
  • Renovation of 18 elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools
  • Acquisition of land for one new high school

The revised CIP highlights a need to address overcrowding and capacity issues within the school system, with many schools nearing a critical tipping point.

Coates Elementary School in Herndon, for instance, is currently operating at 131% of its student capacity — a figure projected to rise to 172% by 2028. Crowding has been an issue for over 10 school years, according to the CIP.

At the moment, eight elementary schools, one middle school and eight high schools are operating beyond capacity, even though student enrollment has dipped from pre-pandemic levels and is expected to level out over the next five years.

Several other elementary schools, including Parklawn in Lincolnia, Mantua and Bailey’s, are expected to surpass student capacity in the coming years, per the capital plan. The same is true of Irving, Kilmer and Glasgow middle schools and Westfield, Centreville, McLean, Woodson, Robinson and Chantilly high schools.

The school board voted last week to add Coates and Parklawn as priorities for boundary adjustments, even as several members argued a more comprehensive approach to overcrowding issues is needed.

Parklawn is 96% capacity right now, but it’s projected to reach 112% by the 2028-2029 school year. It will still trail McLean’s Kent Gardens Elementary School, which will be at 113% capacity even after boundary adjustments were approved last year.

“The problem that I see, while we’re fixing these two tonight, if we don’t fix the process and fix other schools, we’re going to have Coates and Parklawns popping up like hotcakes across Fairfax County, and I don’t want to be in that position,” At-Large School Board Representative Kyle McDaniel said.

The board tasked Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid with formulating a “facility infrastructure policy” and establishing a system to track projects to be presented to the board later this year.

“I see an eagerness on this board, which I’m very excited about, to really look holistically and comprehensively at our infrastructure needs, our funding, and really get sort of our hands wrapped around the policies that relate to infrastructure, but also an overarching policy that guides our decisions regarding infrastructure,” Mason District School Board Representative Ricardy Anderson said.

Board members also asked Reid to propose options for funding capital projects.

Hunter Mill District Representative Melanie Meren expressed an interest in initiatives such as “swing spaces” — pre-existing facilities that students and staff can temporarily relocate to during construction.

“The benefit of that is that renovations could go quicker, which means they could also cost less money,” she said.

Over in neighboring Arlington County, a plan to turn an elementary school into a swing space got nixed last year after an outcry by current and future parents.

Reid is expected to present cost-saving options and the facility infrastructure policy to the school board on April 25. Additionally, she is scheduled to submit a plan for tracking infrastructure projects on May 7.

Image via Google Maps

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Fairfax County Public Schools (file photo)

The upcoming capital projects plan for Fairfax County Public Schools comes with questions and uncertainties about future planning to address overcrowding and school capacity issues throughout the school system earlier this month.

Unveiled earlier this month, the new Capital Improvements Program (CIP) covers fiscal years 2025 through 2029. It sets the location, timing and funding of new schools, renovations and other capital projects over a five-year period.

At a Fairfax County School Board work session on Jan. 9, staff shared that the CIP accounts for cost increasesassociated with inflation, labor and materials increases, and prevailing wage.

Mason District Representative Ricardy Anderson pressed staff for answers how when schools in her district — namely Weyanoke Elementary School, Belvedere Elementary School and Luther Jackson Middle School — will be slated for renovation.

“Their buildings are highly problematic,” Anderson said.

Janice Szymanski, the school system’s chief of facility services and capital programs, a newly created position, said staff are working on building consensus on the renovation queue, which was last updated in 2009. The new line-up that’s currently under development isn’t reflected in the CIP at the moment.

FCPS Superintendent Michelle Reid also acknowledged that the renovation process has become “a bit muddled over time,” raising the need for the new queue.

“We don’t intend to be weasely as staff, but I do think we’re building the process while we take the input, so I want to manage expectations,” Reid said.

Major projects within the next five years include construction of Dunn Loring Elementary School, capacity improvements at Justice High School and the renovation of 22 schools.

The 10-year plan projects new construction of a Silver Line elementary school and a western high school, Pinewood Lakes Early Childhood Center, Tysons Elementary School, Pimmit Hills, and Virginia Hills.

Seema Dixit, the board’s new Sully District member, said she was especially concerned about overcrowding issues on the western side of the county.

“That’s where we have to put our brains together and find some creative ways,” Dixit said, noting that land acquisition for some schools is coming far too late.

Staff hope to lay out a new renovation queue that will establish how renovations — major and minor — are planned. The current renovation line-up has funding for planning, design or construction projects through 2031.

So far, a consultant worked with stakeholders in early 2023 to create possible criteria for new facilities. Phase two of the update includes compiling data and reviewing a new queue. The final phase of the project would incorporate the new system into the annual CIP and future bond referenda.

School board members also lamented a lack of sufficient progress on pursuing net-zero energy goals. Solar power purchase agreements are in place for Annandale High School and Mason Crest Elementary School.

At-large board member Ryan McElveen said he was particularly dismayed about limited progress on ensuring schools are ready for solar power, adding that he and fellow returning at-large member Ilryong Moon developed a list of 90 schools that were on track for being solar ready when they left the board in 2019.

“That is a major blow. Obviously there are reasons for all of this and this is not just an FCPS problem. This is a county problem as well,” McElveen said, referencing the challenges that the county government has faced in implementing solar projects.

Overall, total student membership is expected to remain flat over the next five years. The county’s demographic report also projects a decline in the school-aged population through next year.

School board action on the budget is expected on Feb. 8, followed by official release of the final CIP in mid-February. A public hearing was held on Jan. 18.

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The Cricket Association of Fairfax County is seeking to replace the cricket pitch at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston (via FCPA)

Some facility upgrades are in the works for three Fairfax County parks.

The Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) Board approved a total of $55,325 in Mastenbrook grants on Wednesday (Dec. 13) to help fund improvements at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston, McLean Central Park and Frying Pan Farm Park south of Herndon.

Lake Fairfax Park (1400 Lake Fairfax Drive)

The Cricket Association of Fairfax County (CAFC) was awarded $15,325 to replace Lake Fairfax’s cricket pitch, which was developed in 1997 and is “one of the few in the Northern Virginia region large enough to meet the international standards of cricket,” according to the FCPA.

In its proposal to the park authority, the association reported that it has replaced the field’s artificial turf three times in the past 20 years, but inadequate drainage has damaged the wicket — a concrete base covered by artificial turf used to bounce the ball — and results in frequent waterlogging.

“Recent discussions with the park management have resulted in the determination that the wicket cannot be repaired,” the CAFC said. “A new wicket needs to be constructed with elevation and drainage to prevent water build up.”

The project to replace the pitch’s base and turf carries a total estimated cost of $30,650, half of which will be covered by the cricket association.

McLean Central Park (1468 Dolley Madison Blvd)

The 28-acre park near the McLean Community Center is getting a renovated basketball court, thanks to a friends group formed this year to honor Thomas A. Mulquin, a McLean resident who was “an avid supporter of basketball,” according to an FCPA staff summary for the board.

“The basketball court is currently in disrepair and therefore seldom used,” the Friends of Thomas A. Mulquin wrote in its grant application. “A tree root protrudes through the surface at one end of the court and a thicket downhill at the other end makes retrieving balls difficult and unsafe.”

Supported by $45,176 in community contributions, on top of $20,000 from the park authority, the $65,176 renovation will refurbish the court surface, update the color coating and line painting, replace both hoops and add a 10-foot-tall chain link fence “to prevent basketballs from going into the heavy overgrowth near the court,” according to the FCPA press release.

Frying Pan Farm Park (2709 West Ox Road)

Spirit Open Equestrian also requested and received a $20,000 grant — the maximum allowed for a single project by the Mastenbrook Grant Program, which provides matching funds for park improvements undertaken by local residents or community groups.

The nonprofit wants to bring electricity to the equestrian facilities where it provides therapeutic horseback-riding programs. The four horse barns and three sheds with supply and office space currently rely on solar panels, which are limited in capacity and unreliable, depending on the season, per the grant application.

“The project plan proposes to have Dominion Energy extend power from an existing cell tower, and then to contract with a vendor to outfit the buildings with wiring, conduit, outlets and related electrical components,” FCPA staff said.

With the project estimated to cost $72,458, the park authority grant will be supplemented by $52,458 from SOE.

All three projects are on track to be completed by spring 2024, according to the park authority.

These will be the last improvements supported by Mastenbrook grants for the time being. The FCPA has suspended applications to the 25-year-old program as it conducts a review, prompted by concerns about a gap in the quality of park facilities based on the ability of different neighborhoods to fundraise.

“The goal of the review is to examine the process through an equity lens and determine how to improve accessibility and benefit of the program in all areas of the county — particularly in communities of opportunity,” the park authority said.

FCPA staff are expected to deliver recommendations for the program’s future to the board in early 2024.

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Fairfax County Public Schools is seeking to build a four-level Dunn Loring Elementary School at Idylwood and Gallows Road (via Fairfax County)

Fairfax County Public Schools has settled on a path forward for its plan to construct a new elementary school in Dunn Loring.

A rezoning application recently submitted to the county proposes demolishing the existing Dunn Loring Administrative Center at 2334 Gallows Road and replacing it with a four-level school building that will be accompanied by athletic fields and playgrounds.

Allowed a maximum height of 65 feet, the four-story building appears to have triumphed over an alternate design that would’ve resulted in a shorter but more sprawling building of two to three stories.

The two-story administrative center started life as an elementary school in 1938, but it got repurposed in the 1970s after declining enrollment led FCPS to close the school, the school system’s legal agent in the case, Hunton Andrews Kurth associate Jessica Vara, wrote in a statement of justification.

“Now, the surrounding community is again in need of a new elementary school in the Dunn Loring area to relieve overcrowded schools in the Dunn Loring/Falls Church/Tysons area,” Vara wrote.

According to the submitted plan, the new school building will be approximately 125,905 square feet in size and be constructed at the corner of Idylwood and Gallows Road, occupying roughly the same footprint as the current building.

The building’s ground level will include music classrooms, workrooms, a cafeteria, a staff lounge and a reception area at the main entrance. The second floor will have kindergarten, third grade and special education classrooms, followed by art, first grade and second grade classrooms on the third floor, and fourth and fifth grade classrooms on the top floor.

FCPS has proposed replacing Murphy Field — the soccer field that currently covers the western portion of the nearly 10-acre site — with a dual soccer/softball field that will be supplemented by four playgrounds:

  • An approximately 8,295-square-foot modular playground
  • A 2,009-square-foot paved play area for kindergarteners
  • A 3,318-square-foot “creative” playground for pre-kindergarten students
  • An approximately 11,373-square-foot paved play area

Two new vehicle access points will be constructed on Idylwood Road, replacing the existing driveway off of Gallows Road. The school will have separate drop-off locations for buses and the kiss-and-ride “to minimize the potential for traffic issues,” according to the application.

The school’s parking lot will have 116 spaces, and bicycle racks will be provided. FCPS also plans to construct a new 5-foot-wide sidewalk to connect with the existing concrete path along Idylwood Road.

The application hasn’t been officially accepted for review by Fairfax County planners yet. Per its website, FCPS estimates the project will be completed in 2027.

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An addition is planned at Herndon Elementary School (via FCPS)

(Updated at 1:40 p.m.) The planned expansion of Herndon Elementary School (630 Dranesville Road) is moving forward following voters approved a bond referendum last Tuesday (Nov. 7).

At a meeting tonight (Monday), the Herndon Planning Commission is set to consider a proposal by Fairfax County Public Schools to add roughly 25,000 square feet to the school, which has been in the school system’s renovation queue since 2009 and was built in 1969.

The school currently has an enrollment of 805 students. The proposed addition would boost the student design capacity to 1,050 students, according to materials submitted to the town.

The proposal also includes 63 additional parking spaces in an effort to “alleviate the overcrowding onsite,” according to a memo.

FCPS also plans to create two entrances for vehicles to separate school buses from student drop-offs and pick-ups. The move is intended to create a “safer” and “more efficient environment,” the memo says. The proposal would also reduce long lines that disrupt traffic along Dranesville Road.

Herndon Elementary School was last renovated in 1991. Voters approved a $4 million bond referendum in 2021 to fund planning and design for the project.

Construction on the project is expected to begin in the summer or fall of 2024, putting it on track for an anticipated completion in winter 2026, according to FCPS spokesperson Julie Moult.

In this year’s general election, 67% of voters approved the sale of $425 million in bonds to fund the renovation and building of schools, including Herndon Elementary.

“The approval of this bond referendum is a clear statement that our Fairfax County voters are committed to continued investment in the excellence of the Fairfax County Public Schools educational experience,” FCPS Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid wrote in a statement.

A public hearing on the proposal is set for tonight at 7 p.m. in the Herndon Council Chambers (765 Lynn Street).

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Reston’s Hunters Woods ballfield has finished its transformation from an underutilized baseball diamond into a park with walking paths, new trees and other features is now complete.

Construction on the redevelopment started on Aug. 11 and wrapped up last week, coming in not only four months ahead of schedule, but also about 10% under approximately $400,000 budget, according to Reston Association, which owns the park.

Chris Schumaker, RA’s director of capital projects, attributes the speedy timeline and cost efficiency to “good weather” and an absence of unexpected site issues that could’ve caused delays.

“This redevelopment project gives new life to valuable greenspace in Reston,” Schumaker said. “We’re thrilled to be able to work directly with the community to create a space that is beneficial to the surrounding neighborhoods. It’s really a win-win effort.”

RA approved a concept plan to repurpose the ballfield in 2020 at the request of the Hunters Woods Neighborhood Coalition. Though once used by Reston-Herndon Little League, the facility’s lack of parking and locked-in location near Breton Court behind the Hunters Woods Village Center made it difficult to access and inhospitable to larger gatherings, like a ball game.

While the new park still doesn’t have parking, it was designed to serve pedestrians and the immediate neighborhood instead of drivers, with footpaths and seating areas that encourage walking and other forms of passive recreation.

“We want people to travel there on foot, so that’s definitely doable with the walkways we added and the connection points to other pathways in the area for sure,” Schumaker told FFXnow.

The roughly 1-acre site is now encircled by a broad asphalt walkway, and a concrete path divides a new rain garden and a meadow reseeded with native plants, though they mostly won’t emerge until the spring. To emphasize the nature-focused setting, the concrete has been stamped with leaves from native trees.

Other amenities include benches, trash receptacles and a Little Free Library Nearby residents started to stock the green box with books as soon as fences around the site came down, according to Schumaker.

In addition to hopefully encouraging more usage, the new park designed by the architecture and landscaping firm Kimley Horn brings environmental and stormwater benefits, RA says.

The rain garden will control and filter runoff from the park and adjacent houses that previously just flowed into streams, Schumaker said. The project also led to 12 new trees getting planted on the site and preserved several existing, mature trees.

“It’s kind of just a nice place to look at right now,” Schumaker said. “I think once the meadow area…kind of grows in through the winter and early spring, it’ll really kind of add a big pop of color and a nice place to walk around and kind of see all the birds and the insects and things of that nature that will traverse the area now versus before.”

After the meadow grows out next spring, RA plans to host a formal ceremony celebrating the new Hunters Woods park.

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The next wastewater pump station to serve Tysons West will be able to handle 25 times as much water as its predecessor.

That added capacity will provide critical support for an area expected to add more than 10,000 new residents by the end of this decade, according to Fairfax County staff and the planning commission, which unanimously approved a plan last Wednesday (Oct. 25) to build a new station at 8608 Leesburg Pike.

“The addition to the public infrastructure must be viewed as essential,” Providence District Commissioner Phil Niedzielski-Eichner, who represents most of Tysons, said. “Without it, development in Tysons would end, and the risk of overflows and backups for the broader community will grow.”

Replacing the existing Tysons Dodge Wastewater Pump Station on the same site, the new facility will consist of an 11,200-square-foot pump station and a 2,500-square-foot generator building, county planning and public works staff told the commission.

With four pumps, including one as a backup, and a storage tank that can hold up to 12,000 gallons of diesel fuel to support the generator, the station will have the capacity for 25 million gallons of water per day — a significant boost from the 1 million gallons that the current station can process.

The facility will occupy just 1.5 acres on the 3-acre site, which includes the adjacent parcel at 8608 Leesburg Pike. Tysons Self Storage, the previous occupant, was razed after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors bought the property for $14.1 million in 2021, according to county property records.

The remainder of the site will be left undeveloped for now, but the county intends to utilize it “for another potential public facility for the future,” according to Mohamed Ali with the Department of Planning and Development.

“This project is probably our highest priority [capital] project right now,” Department of Public Works and Environmental Services engineer Tom Grala said. “The reason for its high priority is both capacity related to Tysons development and also the time when that capacity is needed.”

He noted that the facility will be designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions, odors and its visibility from the road, including with an enclosure for the generator and evergreen vegetation along the north and south property line.

“Since there will be other facilities nearby, that’s going to be very important,” Dranesville District Commissioner John Ulfelder said of controlling emissions and noise from the generator. “I think the last thing the county needs is for people to come in and complain about what they’ve installed and what it’s doing to their quality of life.”

Niedzielski-Eichner praised the design from an aesthetic standpoint as “high quality” and “sensitive to the fact that Tysons is an evolving urban center,” but he and Braddock District Commissioner Mary Cortina questioned why the planned facility isn’t able to meet county standards for stormwater retention.

In a report, county planning staff urged DPWES to find “additional opportunities” to increase the 0.37 inches of rainfall that the facility will be able to retain on-site as currently designed to 1 inch, as required.

“I know we need [the pump station], but if DPWES can’t reach the standard in Tysons, it’s a cringe for asking everybody else to do it,” Cortina said.

Grala said the team is trying to “fine-tune its design,” but the property’s high groundwater table limits options for containing stormwater.

The new pump station is part of a larger DPWES initiative to upgrade the wastewater system in Tysons, including by installing new, larger pipes to carry water from individual properties to the station from the station to the county’s Norman J. Cole Pollution Control Plant in Lorton.

The county estimates that it’ll take until summer 2025 to finish designing all elements, and construction isn’t projected to finish until summer 2028.

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An updated rendering of the planned McLean Central Park playground renovation (via FCPA/YouTube)

McLean got a step closer this week to realizing its wish for a new, improved and more inclusive playground at McLean Central Park (1468 Dolley Madison Blvd).

The Fairfax County Park Authority Board approved a $20,000 Mastenbrook Grant Wednesday (Oct. 25) to help fund the project, which has significantly expanded in scope thanks to the advocacy and fundraising efforts of local parents.

The grant brings the total budget up to $442,609 when combined with $246,670 in community donations and $175,939 in previously allocated FCPA funds.

While supportive of this particular renovation, some board members worried that relying on community fundraising to enhance capital projects might create disparities in the quality of park facilities in different parts of the county.

“I fully expect and hope we do approve this tonight, but we still have the question of equity for this kind of thing and this community’s ability to raise this kind of money to build this world-class facility where that’s just not possible in some other places,” Mount Vernon District board member Linwood Gorham said, referencing the $1.5 million conversion of Holladay Field that utilized $725,000 in private contributions.

FCPA staff said they will look at potential policy changes as part of the Parks, Recreation, Open Space and Access (PROSA) Strategy that the board endorsed on Sept. 27. The plan’s goals include consideration of racial and socioeconomic equity when prioritizing projects and services.

Board members emphasized that “nobody did anything wrong with this one,” but they want every community to have access to the level of facilities found in McLean.

“That really should be the standard,” FCPA Director Jai Cole said. “Instead of saying, ‘Why do they get more,’ how do we make sure this is the standard everywhere that we’re going, that we have the means and opportunity to put in a $400,000 playground in parks that are so centrally located like this? It’s a big conversation.”

Ron Kendall, who represents the Mason District, noted that more elaborate facilities also tend to require more extensive and costly maintenance.

“The bigger we build it, the more it’s going to cost for us to keep it in the condition they expect it to be in in that community,” he said. “That is another hurdle that we haven’t discussed much.”

Following a master plan approved in 2013, the park authority acquired $2.2 million from a 2020 parks bond to redevelop the 28-acre McLean Central Park, but that budget only had enough funds to upgrade the school-aged playground, which was installed in 1988 and scheduled to be replaced.

When the FCPA revisited the master plan in 2021, a group of moms urged staff to also renovate the tot lot and relocate the school-aged playground so the two facilites are combined, making it easier for families with kids of different ages to keep an eye on them at the same time. Read More

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Renovated tennis court and new pickleball courts are debuting at Herndon’s Bready Park (courtesy Town of Herndon)

The tennis court renovations at Bready Park (814 Ferndale Avenue) in Herndon are officially complete.

The renovation project includes the addition of four pickleball courts — an effort to meet growing demand for the sport in the area.

Other updates include new fencing, the application of a new surface called ProBounce.

The park now has four pickleball courts and five tennis courts, two of which are contained in the park’s temporary indoor tennis facility.

“We are pleased to publicly open the newly renovated Bready Park Tennis Courts, featuring the innovative ProBounce® surface which will add many years of use to the courts and enhance player comfort with the cushioned surfacing for both tennis and pickleball enthusiasts,” Herndon Parks and Recreation Director Cindy Roeder said in a press release. “The addition of pickleball courts is a testament to our commitment to meeting the diverse recreational needs of our community.”

A maximum of one reservation per day is allowed per individual. Each reservation is $10 per hour.

Scheduled sessions for pickleball players are available on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to noon, Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 2 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Courts are available from sunrise to 10 p.m. daily, allowing both reservations and drop-in play.

Reservations can be made online or by calling the town’s parks and recreation department at 703-435-6868.

The project kicked off in July after a design phase was completed in August of 2022.

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