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The tennis and pickleball courts at Glyndon Park in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Getting court time at Glyndon Park in Vienna may be tougher going forward for pickleball players.

In the hopes of alleviating noise complaints from nearby residents, the Vienna Town Council approved a significant reduction in playing time for the increasingly popular sport at the 11-acre park’s four courts during its Monday (Jan. 23) meeting.

However, the new schedule represents less of a reduction in days than initially proposed, allowing pickleball on four days per week instead of just three. It also eliminates shared playing times between tennis and pickleball, so hours designated for pickleball will be exclusively reserved for that sport.

“I see this as a long-term issue,” said Councilmember Chuck Anderson, who proposed the adopted schedule. “I think we all on council agree on that, that what we need to do is roll up our sleeves and take a look at capacity. This is a rapidly growing game. It’s very popular, but it also has a noise issue, and it’s something I think we need to work on and manage.

Pickleball is now limited at the park to the following hours:

Dec. 1 to the end of February

  • 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  • 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday

March 1 through Nov. 30

  • 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  • 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday

Outside of those hours, only tennis will be allowed. The courts close at 10 p.m.

As part of the approved motion, the council also directed the Department of Parks and Recreation to post signage at the park recommending that pickleball players use “quiet” paddles that supposedly make less noise.

Prior to Monday’s 5-2 vote, pickleball and tennis were both permitted at Glyndon Park (300 Glyndon Street NE) seven days a week, but they alternated during open-play hours on Monday through Thursday mornings — a schedule confusing enough that the town council spent several minutes of a Jan. 23 conference session on the proposed changes trying to get clarification.

Anderson said he had considered continuing some shared usage of the courts as part of his proposal but ultimately decided it would be too complicated. He also found that the suggestion didn’t appeal to either pickleball players or the residents who raised the noise issues.

“If you start sharing [on pickleball days], you have to do it the other way too,” he said. “On a tennis day, if the tennis courts aren’t being used and a pickleball player shows up, it would be used, and I just don’t think that’s workable.”

Since Vienna added pickleball lines to Glyndon Park’s two tennis courts in 2020, some residents have complained that the noise made by paddles hitting the plastic balls is “unbearable,” an issue that has cropped up across the country.

Town staff reduced open-play hours and introduced a reservation system for afternoons, but complaints persisted, with some residents calling for pickleball to be banned from the park altogether, Parks and Rec Director Leslie Herman told the council.

After talking with staff, the residents agreed limiting pickleball to Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays would be acceptable, leading Mayor Linda Colbert and Councilmember Ed Somers to object to the addition of a fourth day.

“I’m just concerned about adding a fourth day at this point. I might get there eventually if more people use the soft paddles, if the noise is reduced, if things change, I could get there very easily, but I’m not there right now,” Somers said to a smattering of claps from the audience.

Anderson and other supporters of the four-day schedule said it would give players more flexibility, while starting play later and ending it earlier.

“There’s just a one-hour difference, and it gives people more peace in the mornings and evenings,” Councilmember Nisha Patel noted.

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Pickleball players celebrate the opening of the courts at Glyndon Park (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The nationwide face-off between pickleball enthusiasts and homeowners has arrived in the Town of Vienna.

In the hopes of quieting resident noise complaints, the town council is set to vote on Monday (Jan. 30) to reduce pickleball play to three days per week at the courts in Glyndon Park (300 Glyndon Street NE).

Currently available seven days a week, the four pickleball courts would open Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays under the proposal from the Vienna Parks and Recreation Department. The hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays would remain the same, but on Saturdays, they would end at 5 p.m.

Town staff recommended an 8 a.m. start time for Saturday, but at a conference session on Jan. 23 that saw some tense back-and-forth exchanges on both the dais and from the audience, a few council members suggested considering 9 a.m. instead, since kids might want to sleep in on the weekend.

“I don’t know that anybody is a hundred percent thrilled with this, but it is in my mind a compromise, and it’s something we can do right now,” Mayor Linda Colbert said.

Glyndon Park’s pickleball courts were welcomed with gusto by local players — including the mayor, who also partakes in tennis — when they opened in October 2020. With aid from the Vienna Pickleball Club, which paid for some of the equipment, the town added pickleball markings to the two existing tennis courts as part of a planned refurbishment.

However, players have run afoul of some nearby residents, who describe the sound of paddles hitting the plastic balls as “unbearable, loud and constant,” according to one comment in an October survey conducted by the parks department.

“The noise is unbearable,” wrote a resident of Jean Place NE, which is across the street from the courts. “The constant popping 12 hours a day 7 days a week is borderline torture. We cannot use our outdoor space anymore due to pickleball and cannot open our windows.”

The survey went to 34 households and received 17 responses, including seven from people who reported having no issues with pickleball. Parking and traffic complaints also came up, but Parks Director Leslie Herman said those “have been taken care of” with signage directing players to an overflow parking lot by the baseball diamonds.

Vienna isn’t alone in seeing clashes between homeowners and pickleball players. As the sport has grown in popularity over the past decade, so have the noise complaints, leading some communities to close courts and others to be taken to court — including in nearby Arlington County.

The sound level for pickleball is anywhere from 57 to 79 decibels, depending on proximity and the type of equipment used. That’s 25 decibels higher than a tennis racket hitting a ball, according to the Los Angeles Times.

People talking can also contribute to the noise levels, Councilmember Ray Brill said, recalling a visit to Glyndon Park where he saw dozens of people at the courts who weren’t playing.

“I love exercising, and I love playing sports outdoors, but we have neighbors we have to be considerate of,” Brill said. “There’s no shortcuts, so we have to compromise. We have to allow people to play, but they have to take steps to reduce the noise.” Read More

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Beech leaf disease (BLD) has been detected in Fairfax County (courtesy DPWES)

A new tree disease has been detected in Fairfax County, threatening one of the region’s most common trees.

County officials have confirmed, in the fall, they found that a number of American beech trees in three parks in Fairfax County were infected with beech leaf disease (BLD). The parks include Burke Lake Park, Hemlock Overlook Park near Clifton, and Fairfax Station’s Fountainhead Park.

The disease causes the leaves of beech tree saplings to develop dark green stripes in the veins as well as potentially puckered, cupped, or distorted leaves. In more mature trees, it can result in reduced foliage.

It can be fatal to the trees, causing them to possibly die within six to 10 years.

BLD is somewhat mysterious, in that officials and researchers at the county’s Urban Forest Management Division (UFMD) are still trying to figure out exactly how it spreads. There is also no cure.

“Good tree care, including proper mulching and watering during droughts, may be helpful,” the county’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) said in a press release. “There is ongoing research underway to learn more about BLD and how to effectively treat it.”

The disease doesn’t affect humans, animals, other tree species, or yard plants. It hasn’t been detected anywhere else in the county at the moment besides the three noted parks, DPWES spokesperson Sharon North confirmed to FFXnow.

The county is asking any residents who spot a tree they believe might be infected to report it to pestmail@fairfaxcounty.gov with photos of the tree or by calling 703-324-1770 TTY 711.

“Reporting potential infestations will allow UFMD to quickly begin monitoring BLD and providing treatment once it is developed.”

BLD was first detected in Ohio about a decade ago, and Virginia’s first case was found in Prince William County in August 2021. What has officials so concerned is how poorly the disease is understood and the impact it could have on already-dwindling regional forests.

It remains unclear how BLD spreads. Experts are looking into several possibilities, including possible transmission through bacteria, fungi, mites, or even microscopic parasitic worms.

Additionally, the American beech tree makes up about 10% of the county’s forests. Any mass loss of the trees could permanently change the region’s landscape.

“Given the American beech tree comprises a large portion of our eastern trees, the disease can potentially alter the composition of the eastern forest,” DPWES said. “It is one of the most common local giant trees.”

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Entering Blake Lane Park (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The Fairfax County Park Authority has some new financial muscle behind its efforts to clear invasive plants from Blake Lane Park in Oakton.

A $20,000 grant from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation will enable the agency to clear an additional 1.2 acres of land and replant it with native shrubs and trees, the FCPA announced last week.

The invasive plant removal efforts will specifically target Ailanthus altissima, also known as tree-of-heaven, a tree native to China and southeast Asia that got introduced to the U.S. in the 1700s.

In addition to being prolific and difficult to remove once it takes root, tree-of-heaven is a host for spotted lanternflies, according to the park authority. The winged pests secrete a honeydew substance that can attract other insects like wasps and ants and spur mold growth, ruining forests and crops.

Since a spotted lanternfly made its way to Fairfax County via a grocery store shipment in Annandale in 2021, the park authority has urged community members to kill the insects immediately.

According to the Jan. 4 news release, Blake Lane Park was chosen for the grant to the Fairfax County Park Foundation “due to the high density of Ailanthus altissima, and strong community volunteer support” for the FCPA’s Invasive Management Area program (IMA).

“Conservation and restoration of our parks and woodlands requires a communitywide effort and our Invasive Management Area program is a shining example of a community-forward approach to achieving those aims,” FCPA Resource Management Director Laura Grape said. “We are very grateful to Dominion Energy and to our community volunteers for their tremendous dedication to environmental stewardship and helping us make a lasting difference at Blake Lane Park.”

The grant went to the Fairfax County Park Foundation, which raises private funds and obtains grants for the park authority to supplement its public funding. The FCPA will match the grant to “provide long-term maintenance and community engagement” at Blake Lane Park, according to the release.

Located at 10033 Blake Lane, the 10-acre park features a forested trail, a dog park, two soccer fields and an open play area. It was targeted for development as a new elementary school, but resident opposition — and the realization that the Dunn Loring Center could be converted instead — nixed that plan.

The park is one of 65 sites in the IMA program, which recruits volunteers to help remove invasive plants and restore habitats. Program Manager Patricia Greenberg previously told FFXnow that 70 to 75% of the county’s parkland is covered by invasive species.

The park authority says the grant for Blake Lane Park will cover enough seedling purchases to plant 100 stems per acre.

“We know how important it is to care for our air, water, and land — including the wonderful parks in our communities,” Dominion Energy spokesperson Peggy Fox said. “We’re proud to support the Fairfax County Park Foundation with an education and stewardship grant to enhance our local parks.”

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The mini golf course at Fairfax County’s Jefferson District Park (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

It could be a little more expensive to visit some Fairfax County parks this upcoming year.

The Fairfax County Park Authority is soliciting public feedback on a proposal to push up fees at local park facilities.

The increase would be, in part, to help pay to keep up with Virginia’s minimum wage increases.

“The FY 2023 budget included a 4.01% market rate adjustment for all employees, in addition to fully funding performance-based and longevity increases,” the proposal said. “The Park Authority Revenue Fund is also significantly impacted by the Minimum Wage increases that continue in 2022 and 2023.”

The park authority said it also had to offer signing and retention bonuses for difficult-to-fill summer positions, like lifeguards and camp counselors, to remain competitive.

“The estimated total for all increases was $1.8 million in FY 2023,” the proposal said. “While the FY 2024 compensation increase is currently unknown, it is anticipated to be similar to FY 2023.”

Retirement contributions and healthcare benefits also rose.

The county’s golf courses and rec centers are funded by user fees, not taxes. In the proposal, the park authority said the fees need to be adjusted to ensure operating costs can be met, as well as repair and replacement needs.

The proposal would increase fees at indoor swimming pools, recreation centers, golf courses and more. Rental of picnic areas, ampitheaters, volleyball courts and more would also get a little more costly.

The proposal also offered some insight into park usage. While the total number of rounds of golf decreased by 7% over the last year, attendance at rec centers increased dramatically over 2021 — though they remain lower than pre-Covid attendance and revenue levels.

If the fee adjustments are approved by the Park Authority Board at a meeting on March 22, it will take effect on April 1.

The park authority started accepting public comments on the proposal today (Wednesday) and will continue to do so through Feb. 2. A community meeting will be held virtually at 7 p.m. on Jan. 18.
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The development plan for Ruckstuhl Park in Idylwood includes a new vehicular entrance (via Fairfax County Park Authority)

Fairfax County’s plan to develop Ruckstahl Park in Idylwood with new amenities came into clearer focus this month.

Building off a 2015 master plan, the Fairfax County Park Authority board approved a scope for the approximately $2 million project at its final 2022 meeting on Dec. 14, the agency announced on Wednesday (Dec. 21).

Staff recommended that the 7.2-acre site at 2445 Idylwood Road get a picnic pavilion, an open play area, an accessible loop trail, a nature-themed playground, a “fitness cluster” and vehicle access and parking improvements. The project will also fund invasive species management efforts at the park.

“This is a valuable parcel inside the Beltway that came to us at an exceptional bargain,” Ken Quincy, the board’s Providence District representative, said. “The community has been very energetic and engaged throughout the process of defining the vision for the future. We’re very excited to move this project forward.”

Located just north of I-66, the parcels that make up Ruckstahl Park were previously occupied by a residential farm owned by Dr. Lillian Ruckstahl, who gave the land to the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust in her will when she died in 2008.

The park authority acquired the property from the NVCT for $250,000 in 2011. The transfer established a conservation easement that prohibits athletic fields, among other conditions, according to the master plan.

Noting that it’s “increasingly rare” to find land suitable for a public park in Idylwood, the master plan envisioned Ruckstahl as a mostly neighborhood-serving park designed to “preserve a sense of the open landscape” and provide “low impact community recreation opportunities.”

The conceptual development plan for Ruckstuhl Park, from a master plan approved in 2015 (via Fairfax County Park Authority)

The conceptual development plan shows a trail looping around the park with exits onto Dunford Drive and Idylwood Road. Placed to accommodate a potential, future widening of Idylwood Road, the trail could be connected to nearby Idylwood Park and the Washington & Old Dominion Trail with additional pedestrian and bicycle facilities, the plan says.

The proposed vehicular amenities include a new parking lot with up to 20 spaces. Access would be provided off Idylwood Road in the same location as the former residential driveway.

The plan also calls for an existing field to be retained as an open space for recreation and community gatherings, an educational nature playground for kids, a picnic area or outdoor classroom, benches and other furnishings, and intepretive signs about the site’s environment or history.

Well before Ruckstahl moved in during the 1950s, the land had been part of a plantation called “The Mount” that lasted from the mid-1700s to around 1900, when it was broken up and sold off for smaller farms in the Civil War’s wake, according to the FCPA.

The property also became one of the county’s first formally recorded archaeological sites in the 1960s after archaeologists found artifacts dating back to the Archaic Period, though the master plan says “little can be gleaned from the records about how the site was used.”

Funded by the county’s 2020 park bond, developing Ruckstahl Park could produce $7,000 in annual revenue for the park authority, while costing $4,000 a year to maintain with an estimated lifetime cost of $1 million after 20 years.

The FCPA says permitting will begin in “the first part” of 2023, and construction could start in the first quarter of 2024.

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The developer planning to convert the former Sheraton hotel (8661 Leesburg Pike) in Tysons into multifamily housing has proposed enhancing the property with nearly 3.5 acres of park space.

A portion of the now-vacant hotel’s existing parking lot would be replaced by pocket parks, larger recreational parks, and an urban plaza to serve both future residents and the general public, according to an application filed with Fairfax County on Friday (Nov. 11).

“The urban park spaces on the east and west sides…will include a variety of amenities including a sport court, a tot lot, an outdoor gaming area, and a variety of seating areas and gathering spaces,” Walsh Colucci land use attorney Robert Brant, representing developer JBG Smith, wrote in a statement of justification.

County planners are currently reviewing a proposal from JBG Smith to convert the 449-room, 22-story Sheraton — which closed in April 2020 — into a multifamily residential building with up to 544 units and 5,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

By renovating the existing building instead of tearing it down and turning the hotel’s relatively small guest rooms into permanent residences, the project will provide a “naturally affordable” housing option in Tysons West, the application argues.

The only part of the hotel building that won’t be preserved is a porte-cochère over the main entrance, which will be removed so the driveway can be realigned with Cornerside Blvd to the east. An existing underground parking garage and loading dock will remain.

The submitted final development plan amendment also shows possible expansions of the hotel’s private, interior courtyard spaces. The building’s southeast corner could serve as commercial space or be subdivided into three additional two-bedroom residential units.

The park spaces that JBG Smith has proposed around the Sheraton hotel property in Tysons West (via Fairfax County)

In addition to the Sheraton conversion, JBG Smith is also seeking to increase the 245 units approved for another building in the Tysons West development — a residential mid-rise designated as Building C — to up to 300 units.

With its new application, the developer says it will provide an open lawn and meadow as an interim park on the future Building C site, an undeveloped parcel at the intersection of Cornerside Blvd and Ashgrove Lane that’s currently used for parking.

Replacing Ashgrove Lane east of Cornerside, which will be extended to the north side of the Sheraton, the 89,000-square-foot interim park would give Tysons West 3.46 acres of public park space in all — well above the 0.9 acres recommended by the county. The total includes an existing “pocket park” of benches and flower planters outside Moby Dick.

Proposed transportation improvements include a “Tysons West Trail” for pedestrians and bicyclists on the northeast corner of the Sheraton property by Route 7 and a 6-foot-wide sidewalk by the interim park along Cornerside.

“Approval of this FDPA will continue to implement the County’s vision for Tysons by expanding upon the type of residential housing options and advancing its transformation into a transit-oriented mixed-use neighborhood,” Brantley wrote.

Overall, Tysons West encompasses 16 acres, including the existing shopping center, and could total 1.1 to 1.6 million square feet of construction as approved by the county in 2013.

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Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill, Fairfax Poet Laureate Danielle Badra, and Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay (courtesy AE Landes Photography)

Fairfax County has a new ambassador for poetry.

Danielle Badra will serve as the second Fairfax Poet Laureate through 2024, leading a program to bring poetry-related activities to local parks, ArtsFairfax shared yesterday.

Introduced by the arts agency in 2020, the poet laureate is intended to celebrate poetry and promote the art form to new audiences through a community service project and events. The title was first bestowed on “How to Prove a Theory” author Nicole Tong for the inaugural 2020-2022 term.

“The Fairfax Poet Laureate is a remarkable example of how support to a single artist can impact the whole County,” ArtsFairfax President and CEO Linda S. Sullivan said in the news release. “Danielle’s vision to bring poetry to the parks is inspired, and we’re as excited to learn from her as we are thrilled to share her work with the Greater Fairfax community.”

Badra was selected by a six-person panel of Tong, Maryland Poet Laureate Grace Cavalieri, Poetry Daily Managing Editor Gregg Wilhelm, Beltway Poetry Quarterly Editor Kim Roberts, Fall for the Book Festival Director Kara Oakleaf, and Anya Creightney, a programs specialist for the Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center.

The panel considered applicants’ proposed community projects, their professional activities, and the artistic merit and impact of their work, according to Arts Fairfax.

“Grace Cavalieri emphasized that Dani’s style of poetry and delivery allows her to be vulnerable, warm, friendly, and accessible, which in turn helps her meet people where they are in their poetry journey whether they are new to the form or avid fans,” the agency told FFXnow.

A Clifton resident who works as a technical writer for the county’s Land Development Services, Badra sees the poet laureate position as an opportunity to share her love of poetry with the community.

“Poetry is one of those subjects that a lot of people learn in school and never want to learn again. And I want to change that,” she told FFXnow by email. “Poetry is inspirational, it is healing, it is empowering. I want to share that with the community.”

An ArtsFairfax spokesperson says that while the selection panel was aware that Badra had a county government job, it “was not a factor in their selection,” though they saw a “potential benefit of having representation of a poet who does not work in academia.”

Originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan, Badra has published two collections: “Dialogue with the Dead,” which was published in 2015 and dealt with the loss of her sister, and “Like We Still Speak,” which won the 2021 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize, according to her website.

The $1,000 prize is awarded annually by the University of Arkansas to a writer of Arab heritage for their first or second book of poetry in English. Badra is of Syrian and Lebanese heritage.

She obtained a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Kalamazoo College and a master’s of fine arts degree from George Mason University. The latter program also counts Tong as an alum.

Badra told GMU that her “Poetry in the Parks” project reflects her enthusiasm for the outdoors and nature — a source of “poetic inspiration” for her.

“Poetry in the Parks looks to not only provide inspiration for creative expression but to also advocate for environmental stewardship,” Badra told FFXnow.

Her plans for the next two years include poetry readings, workshops, a “Poetry Beneath the Stars” event, and “poetry plaques” that will display a poem and prompt at scenic stops around local parks.

The plaques will specifically appear at Riverbend Park, Huntley Meadows Park, Burke Lake, and Ellanor C. Lawrence Park. A QR code will let visitors upload their own writings.

Readings during National Poetry Month, which comes in April, will likely be held at Ellanor C. Lawrence in Chantilly, she said.

“My experiences in life and in the literary world directly inspire my vision for the next two years as Fairfax Poet Laureate,” Badra said in a statement to ArtsFairfax. “Through poetry workshops, readings, and activities in the Parks, I want to illuminate how language and our natural environment can be a source of comfort and creativity.”

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Holmes Run Stream Valley Park (via Google Maps)

Five MS-13 members have been sentenced to life in prison yesterday for kidnapping and killing two teens at Annandale’s Holmes Run Stream Valley Park in 2016.

Elmer Zelaya Martinez, Ronald Herrera Contreras, Henry Zelaya Martinez, Pablo Velasco Barrera, and Duglas Ramirez Ferrera were each handed six terms of life imprisonment as well as two 120-month terms by U.S. District Court Judge Rossie D. Alston, Jr., the Justice Department announced yesterday.

A federal jury convicted the men in July for the brutal murders of a 17-year-old Falls Church resident — identified by prosecutors by the initials E.E.E.M. — on Aug. 18, 2016 and a 14-year-old Alexandria resident, identified as S.A.A.T., on Sept. 26, 2016.

“This is a profoundly disturbing case involving gang members taking the lives of young members of our community,” Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said. “We are proud to work with our federal partners on cases like this to keep Fairfax County and surrounding communities safe.”

Ranging in age from 24 to 31, the men attacked and stabbed E.E.E.M. over 100 times after meeting him at Holmes Run park, because they “erroneously suspected” that he was a member of the rival 18th Street gang, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office:

On the night of August 28, 2016, the gang lured E.E.E.M. to Holmes Run Stream Valley Park in Fairfax County under the pretense that there was going to be a gang meeting there. Instead, in a wooded area of the park, gang members restrained, attacked, and killed E.E.E.M., stabbing and chopping him more than 100 times with knives, a machete, and a pickaxe. Afterwards, the gang broke one of E.E.E.M.’s legs so that his body would fit into the pre-dug hole that was nearby.

Prosecutors say S.A.A.T. was killed in a similar manner based on an unfounded suspicion that he was a police informant:

The gang told S.A.A.T. that there was going to be a gang meeting later that night and encouraged him to attend. Not long thereafter, S.A.A.T. went outside in his pajamas, telling his mother he was just taking out the trash. Eventually, several gang members picked up S.A.A.T. and drove him to the same park where they had killed E.E.E.M. The gang members restrained, attacked, and killed S.A.A.T., stabbing and chopping him with knives, machetes, and a pickaxe. They also filmed the murder with a cell phone so that they could prove to gang leaders in the United States and in El Salvador that they deserved to be promoted in rank. Once S.A.A.T. was dead, the gang broke his legs and tied him up with his own pajama pants so that he would fit into the shallow grave that was dug for him that night.

Police didn’t find the remains of the two teens until March 2017 after they received a tip that prompted a two-day search of the area, according to news reports at the time. The park was also the site of murders by different MS-13 members in 2013.

The five men sentenced yesterday were all convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder in aid of racketeering activity, conspiracy to kidnap, murder in aid of racketeering activity, and kidnapping resulting in death.

There was a total of 17 defendants in the case, including nine people who pleaded guilty before the trial earlier this year, according to the DOJ.

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Jessica Aber called the life sentences a “fitting” response to “appallingly violent murders” that resulted in “wrecked families and fear-stricken communities.”

“They will protect the public from these five defendants, send a message to other members and associates of MS-13 that there will be severe consequences for committing violent crimes in furtherance of their gang’s illicit activities, and provide a measure of justice for the victims and their families,” Aber said in a statement.

Image via Google Maps

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(Updated at 11:45 a.m. on 10/14/2022) The Richmond Highway corridor’s first parklet and southern food restaurant Della J’s are both getting grand openings at Mount Vernon Plaza next week.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is set for 11 a.m. on next Wednesday (Oct. 19) to unveil a new 3,200-square-foot parklet in the shopping center at 7694 Richmond Highway, adjacent to Moe’s Southwest Grill.

Mount Vernon Plaza is owned by Federal Realty, which also owns a number of other developments in Northern Virginia and across the country.

The new parklet is being touted as the first such amenity in the Richmond Highway corridor and will feature a trellis, porch swing benches, cafe seating, landscaping, and green space. Construction on the space began in May and finished about five months later.

The parklet was developed in partnership with the nonprofit Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation (SFDC), whose mission is to develop and support projects that help economic growth along Richmond Highway.

“We were excited to work with Federal Realty for the first parklet project on the Richmond Highway Corridor,” SFDC Executive Director Evan Kaufman said in the press release. “The team at Federal Realty immediately realized the value of this project, not only to their businesses at the Mount Vernon Plaza but to the general community in the area. We look forward to working with more visionary property owners to help develop parklets and community spaces up and down the Corridor.”

Kaufman told FFXnow that space like this is hard to find in the corridor and the addition of this parklet helps with the “liveability” of the community. There have already been talks of movie nights, public art, and other events in the space, he said.

“These types of projects…brings identity, character, and livability to the corridor that’s sometimes been lacking,” Kaufman explained.

The collaboration with Federal Realty could be a model for public-private partnerships at other developments along the corridor, he said. In fact, SFDC is already in talks with other Richmond Highway shopping centers about creating their own parklets.

Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, who is expected to be at the ribbon-cutting, also believes the parklet is a crucial amenity.

“The parklet will be a valuable amenity that will stimulate local growth, and attract visitors from across our region,” Lusk said in the press release. “Federal Realty’s investment is a clear commitment to making the Richmond Highway Area a destination defined by mixed-use and transit-oriented development.”

Della J’s is cooking again

Also officially opening its doors at Mount Vernon Plaza on Oct. 19 is Della J’s Delectables, the popular family-owned southern comfort food restaurant that started in Springfield before deciding to relocate to a larger space.

Now located right off Richmond Highway in a former Ruby Tuesday’s, the restaurant actually had its soft opening about a month ago, employees told FFXnow, but the full grand opening is next week.

Della J’s is owned by Alexandria natives Jerry and Lydia Young and serves up southern cuisine, like chicken biscuits, sweet potato pie, grits, fried fish, and barbeque meats. The new location is envisioned as a bit more “upscale,” with plans to eventually host live jazz music a couple of times a week.

Jerry Young grew up right behind what was then called T.C. Williams High School, and his dad was a member of the nearby historic Bethlehem Baptist Church in Gum Springs. Its current pastor, Reverend Dr. Darrell Keith White, is a regular at Della J’s.

Named after Jerry’s mom, the restaurant serves a number of the recipies that he helped her cook when he was a kid. Though she died at 68, cooking and booking remind Jerry of her.

“Cooking is a huge stress reliever for me,” he told FFXnow in June. “I have this ability to just open the cookbook up, look at a recipe, and pretty much nail it the first or second time.”

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