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An example of a wheelchair-accessible swing (via RA)

A new American Disabilities Act (ADA)-friendly playground is in the works in Reston.

Reston Association is working with Friends of Reston to develop a playground that’s inclusive for kids with disabillities.

A location for the project has not yet been identified, according to Reston Association Chief Operating Officer Peter Lusk.

“RA has identified some funding for the project, and the two parties will continue to explore options as a joint venture,” Lusk said.

Lusk said that the project is still in the very early planning stages. A timeline was not available as a result.

At a meeting earlier this month, RA staff noted that there is significant staff and membership interest in adding more inclusive playgrounds to RA’s inventory.

The facility is described as a “destination level” playground and would cost between $250,000 and $500,000, depending on its size and features.

It’s likely the playground would be in south Reston since the Fairfax County Park Authority is planning to install a new park behind Home Depot at Reston North Park.

The project may be wrapped into RA’s next budget cycle, the early stages of which are currently underway.

Image via RA

The playground at Reston North Park (via Google Maps)

A playground behind Reston’s Home Depot is slated for replacement.

The Fairfax County Park Authority is currently in the midst of developing a site plan for the project at Reston North Park, which is located along Stevenage Road near Reston Parkway.

“The playground at Reston North Park is among those next in line for replacement,” Ben Boxer, a spokesperson for the park authority, said.

The new facility will include accessible components and features like play platforms, slides, swings, climbing and sensory features for children from ages 2 to 12, according to the county.

It will also include site upgrades, including a poured-in-place playground surface and improvements to sidewalks surrounding the park.

A timeline for the project has not yet been set, but it’s expected to cost $1.6 million.

“The construction schedule is yet to be determined and is pending the completion of the site and funding plans, material availability and other factors,” Boxer said.

Image via Google Maps

More community amenities are planned for the Hunters Woods ballfield in Reston (via RA)

The redevelopment of Hunters Woods ballfield will begin within the next month, Reston Association says.

The project will include a new pathway network, new landscaping, park furniture, improved storm drainage and a free little library.

“We are excited to share this update on the long-awaited Hunters Woods Ballfield Redevelopment Project,” RA wrote in a statement.

During construction, the site will be restricted. All trail users should follow posted signage and detours to ensure safety.

The concept plan for the field — which is not in use largely due to lack of parking and its remote location — was approved in 2020.

A pathway will line the perimeter of the site, and another formal walkway is planned through the middle of the site. Landscaping, bench seating and education signage are planned along some of the paths.

RA began geological testing at the ballfield in April 2022 as part of Fairfax County’s permitting and site plan approval process.

The Hunters Woods Neighborhood Coalition encouraged RA to repurpose the ball field, which is no longer used by the Reston-Herndon Little League.

Consultant Kimley-Horn Associates has been working with RA on the project.

Two of the six tennis courts at Nottoway Park in Oakton (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A grassroots advocacy group of local pickleball players is taking its campaign urging Fairfax County to provide more facilities to a new, more public level.

The Fairfax County Advocates for Pickleball sent a petition last Thursday (Aug. 3) to the Board of Supervisors and Fairfax County Park Authority calling for two of the six existing tennis courts at Nottoway Park in Oakton to be converted into pickleball-only courts.

Located at 9537 Courthouse Road just outside the Town of Vienna border, the 84-acre park’s size and location would make it ideal for multiple, dedicated pickleball courts, the organization argued.

“It’s somewhat centrally located within Providence, which allows for easy access by more citizens,” Peter Montanino, one of the group’s Providence District members, told FFXnow. “Additionally, there’s plenty of room at Nottoway Park, which allows for pickleball courts and not bother neighbors with noise because that seems to be an argument that a lot of neighbors have.”

The petition was signed by 1,425 people, more than 1,300 of them confirmed to be Fairfax County residents. The largest number of signatories came from Vienna or Fairfax, but some were from as far away as Herndon, Alexandria and even Woodbridge.

With pickleball ranking as the fastest-growing sport in the U.S., dedicated courts at Nottoway would relieve some of the pressure on facilities in Vienna and Fairfax City, whose courts at the Green Acres Senior Center routinely draw over 30 people at a time in the mornings and 20 to 30 people at night, according to the petition.

In February, the Town of Vienna reduced pickleball hours at its Glyndon Park courts after nearby residents took issue with the noise. With the town council’s support, Mayor Linda Colbert wrote a letter to the Board of Supervisors in June asking the county to consider adding more pickleball facilities.

Since conducting a study of its pickleball facility needs in 2020, Fairfax County has expanded its roster by 48 courts for a total of 76 courts, including the completion of two courts at Cunningham Park in Vienna just this month, according to the park authority.

Another 10 courts are currently being developed, and eight more are planned for this fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2024, though Nottoway Park isn’t on that list, FCPA spokesperson Benjamin Boxer told FFXnow.

“This represents the most rapid expansion of pickleball facilities in the region,” Boxer said. “This work follows the outcome of a comprehensive pickleball study conducted in 2020 in response to an overwhelming demand for more facilities.”

Right now, though, the only site with more than two pickleball-only courts is the George Washington Rec Center in Mount Vernon, per the FCPA’s new park amenity locator.

The advocacy group argues that at least four pickleball courts are needed at one location for a facility to successfully support open play, where players can show up and join a game without scheduling one beforehand.

“Players look for multiple courts as there is a greater chance of having multiple players,” the petition said. “…Scattering two pickleball courts around the county in various parks will not be effective. Pickleball players want to switch up playing with many players in order improve their skills.” Read More

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn tours Tysons Forest with community members (courtesy Hunter Mill District Office)

With development starting to pick up in the Spring Hill area, the need to protect some of the last remaining natural green space in Tysons has taken on a new level of urgency.

Acknowledging the potential threat, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn — who represents Tysons west of Route 7 and north of Route 123 — will create a community task force to determine the best way to preserve Old Courthouse Spring Branch Stream Valley, also known as Tysons Forest.

“The Task Force will provide a forum for discussion and recommended action to maximize the ecological benefits of this green corridor while maintaining appropriate access by us humans,” Alcorn said in an announcement at yesterday’s Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Encompassing over 40 acres of wooded land, Tysons Forest extends from the Ash Grove historic site down to the Tysons Towers apartments. It includes Raglan Road Park (8590 Raglan Road) as well as the stream valley park.

The area was dubbed “Tysons Last Forest” by residents who banded together in 2013 to halt plans for a road through Old Courthouse Spring Branch Stream Valley Park.

The county’s Tysons Comprehensive Plan emphasizes that the Old Courthouse Spring Branch and Scotts Run stream valleys “should not only be protected from development and infrastructure impacts, but be restored and enhanced.”

However, the plan also envisions “substantial redevelopment” for Tysons West to transform an area currently dominated by auto dealerships and offices into a mixed-use, transit-oriented district with “significant office, residential and retail components, as well as arts and entertainment uses.”

While that development mostly hasn’t emerged yet, the parkland is already close enough to human activities that a potential deer hunt last year was deemed too risky.

The plan proposes developing “multi-use trail and other passive recreational facilities” at Old Courthouse Spring Branch park, while considering athletic fields or other “local-serving recreational uses” at Raglan Road Park.

No changes to that plan will come from the new task force, which isn’t intended to address development in the area, Alcorn told FFXnow.

“Rather it is a task force of representative property owners along the stream valley to discuss management and ecological enhancement of this green corridor that forms the border of Tysons,” he said. “Some of the area has already completed stream restoration but there is as of yet no coordinated plan for the stream valley that lies between the Dulles Toll Road and Gosnell Road.”

According to Alcorn, the task force will be community-led and include representatives of property owners and other “community partners.” He said the other county supervisors and their staffs are also welcome to participate.

The group will convene this fall and is expected to wrap up its work in early 2024.

“It’s actually going to be a fun exercise to see how those ecological assets could be built upon and used for the broader community,” Alcorn said.

Alcorn’s full announcement is below: Read More

The pool at Herndon Community Center is slated for renovations (via Herndon Community Center/Facebook)

The tennis courts at Bready Park in Herndon are slated for major upgrades — one of several renovations projects undertaken by the town’s park and recreation department this month.

All six courts at 814 Ferndale Avenue will be closed today (Monday), as crews work to install new fencing and replace the court surface, bubble structure and mechanical equipment.

Players can turn to Chandon Park (900 Palmer Drive) and Bruin Park (415 Van Buren Street) for playing options. Parks and recreation programs will also be relocated to Bruin Park to ensure “uninterrupted” access for participants, according to a news release from the town.

The tennis courts are expected to reopen by Oct. 9, according to the town.

In addition, the indoor pool at Herndon Community Center will close starting July 22. Crews plan to remove lighting fixtures, repair tail and replace the boilers and ultraviolet (UV) light systems. General maintenance and application of a new white coat is also planned.

The pool is expected to open on Sept. 11.

“We apologize for any inconvenience caused by these temporary closures but believe that the resulting improvements will greatly enhance the overall enjoyment of our facilities,” the town wrote in a statement. “We appreciate the continued support and understanding of our valued citizens and patrons during these projects.”

The town also plans to build a new picnic pavilion at Haley Smith Park. While the impact to parking will be minimal, the town will set up a restricted area around the new facility. Work is expected to begin today (Monday) and end on July 28.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new pavilion is scheduled for Aug. 16 at 11 a.m.

Photo via Herndon Community Center/Facebook

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.

The Annandale Civic Space design finalized in July 2022 (courtesy Fairfax County Park Authority)

Construction is well underway on Annandale’s new civic space, but it will take a little more money to bring Fairfax County’s full vision to fruition.

The cost of the project, which will turn a parking lot at 7200 Columbia Pike into an urban park, has exceeded the available funding, leading to some elements getting revised or eliminated, Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross told the Board of Supervisors yesterday (Tuesday).

Gross requested that the county consider providing an additional $100,000 so those elements, including lighting and parking lot changes, can be reincorporated.

“While the project could be completed as-is, I believe strongly that the inclusion of certain design elements…would position the park for greater visitor safety and long-term success,” Gross said. “Pursuit of these elements during a subsequent phase of construction would contribute positively to the park’s visibility, connectivity, and ability to serve as an anchor for civic connection in an important revitalization area.”

In the works since 2018, the Annandale Civic Space will transform the county-owned site with a plaza, a green lawn with a “topography” playground, an educational garden and an accessible walkway linking Daniels Avenue to Columbia Pike.

Currently, construction is on track to finish this fall, according to the Department of Planning and Development’s community revitalization section.

Initially, the county estimated a “ballpark cost” of $600,000 to $650,000, DPD staff said at a community meeting in 2021. However, by the time construction began this past March, the total estimate had grown to $700,000, according to the DPD’s project page.

Lighting along the walkway through the park and enhancements to the parking lot shown in the final design concept in 2019 were dropped from an updated rendering approved in July 2022.

If approved, the additional funding will primarily go toward realizing the county’s vision of the parking lot as a pop-up programming and events space, according to Gross.

“As the project evolved, designers saw an opportunity to utilize excess parking lot surface by shifting some of the parking spaces to install a more direct sidewalk construction and landscaping panel from the plaza area to the public sidewalk along Columbia Pike,” she told FFXnow. “Funds for Phase 2 also would implement the envisioned catenary lighting, reseal and repaint the parking lot, and install bollards around the refuse collection pad to ensure the bins remain in their proper location.”

During business hours, the lot is expected to provide parking for the Annandale Christian Community for Action (ACCA) Child Development Center, which operates out of the former Annandale Elementary School building on the site.

Gross said the project has “required creativity and flexibility,” including when it came to financing. Since 2020, the county has assembled funds for construction from a variety of sources, including a $363,250 environmental improvement program grant and Economic Opportunity Reserve funds.

At Gross’s request, the project will now be considered for funding from the county’s fiscal year 2023 carryover review, an annual process that allocates any leftover money from the previous fiscal year.

The county’s fiscal year ends on June 30, so the Board of Supervisors typically approves the carryover package in the fall.

Kite fighting is banned in Fairfax County parks (via order_242/Wikimedia Commons)

The Fairfax County Park Authority is asking people to stop fighting with kites.

Last week, the park authority issued a warning about the dangers and harm caused by kite fighting, which is prohibited at county parks.

Kite fighting is an old tradition that has seen its popularity rise in recent years, partly due to the book and movie “The Kite Runner.” It’s particularly practiced in South America and a number of Asian countries, including India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Korea, and Vietnam. The main objective is to cut an opponent’s kite line before they cut yours.

But kite fighting can also be dangerous, since the already-sharp strings are sometimes coated with pieces of glass mixed with glue. Strings prepared this way can cause severe injury or, even, death. Earlier this year, sharp strings killed three children at a festival in India.

The FCPA says visitors could be banned from county parks if they repeatedly violate the kite fighting prohibition.

“The Fairfax County Park Authority has prohibited kite fighting at Fairfax County Parks, citing increasing reports of harm to wildlife, vegetation, maintenance equipment and the inherent risks to public safety,” the agency said in a press release. “Individuals observed to be kite fighting will be asked to stop. Individuals who refuse or repeatedly violate this rule may potentially be banned from park use.”

FCPA spokesperson Ben Boxer told FFXnow that kite fighting has been prohibited in county parks for “well over a year.”

However, the authority decided to issue a warning after getting complaints from community members and reports from volunteers and maintenance crews who are consistently “removing kite string/wire and debris from trees, trails and from our maintenance equipment.”

The county has received a dozen complaints from the community and volunteers in 2023, Boxer said. It also has led to increased maintenance costs with strings getting caught in mowers and other equipment.

“We’ve begun to encounter these hazards at more of our parks within the last 12 months, so this is not an isolated issue,” he said, noting that the issue isn’t confined to a specific park or area of the county.

The park authority has “seen evidence of kite fighting and received concerns from several locations,” Boxer told FFXnow.

Beyond presenting a potential danger to humans, the sharp lines can get caught on treetops and low-lying brush or end up in the water, which can be fatal to wildlife.

“Often, the kite debris and attached string are not recovered and disposed of, leaving a potentially near-invisible hazard for animals and people,” the park authority said. “Park patrons, wildlife managers and Park Authority staff are regularly documenting potential harm to birds, reptiles and other wildlife caught in kite line.”

An herb garden aims to promote awareness of medicinal uses of plants (via Friends of Colvin Run Mill)

A new herb garden inspired by a 1910 classic on home remedies has officially opened at Colvin Run Mill in Great Falls.

The garden was started by Larry Herman, the master gardener on the board of Friends of Colvin Run Mill. He was inspired by the book, “Mother’s Remedies: Over One Thousand Tried and Tested Remedies from the Mothers of the United States and Canada,” which offers guidance on how to grow and prep herbs to treat ailments by making teas, ointments, plasters, syrups and tinctures.

The garden officially opened up in early June. Friends of Colvin Run Mill are working with camps to teach children about homemaking in the late 1980s

“In addition to grinding corn and baking, they make butter and candles, pickle beets, etc,” a representative of the organization told FFXnow. “Recently we have redone the family garden with flowers. The medical garden is an extension of the educational program and garden renovations.”

Herbs in the garden include yarrow, hollyhock, chamomile, feverfew, parsley, peppermint and thyme. Stems of clematis, a flowering vine, were used to make rope to bind sheaves of grain in order to prevent mice from gnawing on it.

Located at 10017 Colvin Run Road, Colvin Run Mill is open every day from dawn to dusk and features a 19th-century, water-powered gristmill as its main attraction. The historic site also has the miller’s house and a general store.


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