(Updated at 2:20 p.m. on 6/4/2023) Pickleball players at McLean’s Lewinsville Park will soon no longer have to contend with wind gusts.
The Fairfax County Park Authority Board approved a $2,382 grant during its May 24 meeting to support the installation of black privacy slats on the fencing around the park’s dedicated pickleball courts at 1659 Chain Bridge Road.
“The increasing popularity of pickleball has been driving high demand for the athletic courts at Lewinsville Park,” the park authority said in a news release. “However, wind often interferes with play and hinders player performance and safety.”
The four courts opened last October as part of a $650,000 renovation that resurfaced all of the park’s tennis and basketball courts. One of the six existing tennis courts was converted into pickleball-only facilities, and another was restriped to support both sports.
Since then, “hundreds of players” have been utilizing the courts throughout the year, and demand “is expected to grow rapidly,” according to Baroody Camps, an organization that provides school and summer enrichment camps and programs.
Baroody works with the park authority to provide recreational programming, including pickleball. The lack of wind screens for the Lewinsville pickleball courts has become a frequent issue for players, the company said in its Mastenbrook grant application to the FCPA.
“Wind impacts all players at every skill level, undermining players’ ability to place and return the ball and in some cases forcing players to rapidly shift running direction to reach the ball in play, creating a safety hazard,” Baroody founder and owner Peter Baroody wrote.
In addition to “slowing the crosswinds that occur at the site,” the slats could also potentially “aid in noise reduction,” Baroody told FFXnow.
With the project carrying an estimated cost of $4,764, Baroody will match the approved grant funds and take full responsibility for maintaining the slats, though it says the equipment provider, Long Fence, describes its windscreen “as virtually maintenance-free.”
According to FCPA staff, the project will add 230 linear feet of 9-foot-high slats on the existing pickleball court fencing along the 120-foot sideline and along 110 feet of endline.
The installation is expected to be completed this summer.
Photo courtesy Fairfax County Park Authority/Flickr
For a weekend, McLean’s up-and-coming soccer players got to learn from some of the best women to ever play the game.
Olympic gold medalists Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and Tisha Venturini all spent last weekend (May 20-21) at Spring Hill District Park teaching a camp for kids and teens.
More than 150 players registered for the TeamFirst Soccer Academy Camp, according to McLean Youth Soccer (MYS), which hosted the event.
“Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and Tisha Venturini continue to serve as an inspiration for young players and have maintained an active presence within the soccer community as well as provide a positive example for all youth aspiring to play the game they love,” MYS Executive Director Louise Waxler said. “MYS is honored to have been given the opportunity to have our players train with these legends in the game.”
Still reminiscing over an amazing weekend hosting TeamFirst Soccer Academy⚽️ Thank you to legends @MiaHamm @KristineLilly and Tisha Venturini for giving a special experience to our players!
📸 https://t.co/xK6H1GUCof#mcleansoccer🟢⚪️ pic.twitter.com/L5I5luRSHD
— McLean Youth Soccer (@mcleansoccer) May 24, 2023
For Hamm, the camp represented a kind of homecoming to the D.C. area, Waxler noted.
Prior to retiring in 2004, when she held the record for most international goals scored until 2013, Hamm played for the D.C.-based Washington Freedom from 2001-2003 as a founding player of the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), the country’s first professional soccer league for women.
She and Lilly were both on the U.S. national team that won the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991. They repeated in 1999, when Venturini was also on the team. All three women won gold medals at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, with Hamm and Lilly winning again in Athens, Greece, in 2004.
Friends since their days playing at the University of North Carolina, Hamm, Lilly and Venturini partnered in 2010 to launch TeamFirst with the goal of developing young players in an environment that encourages discipline and teamwork.
Last weekend’s camp in McLean was open to male and female players aged 6-17. Participants got a Nike t-shirt, Nike soccer ball, and autographed player card.
McLean Youth Soccer has over 3,000 players on more than 200 recreational teams and 70 travel teams. The nonprofit organization is currently working with the Fairfax County Park Authority to potentially install permanent restrooms at Lewinsville Park, one of several local fields that it regularly uses.
The tennis courts at Rutherford Park in Wakefield area will be closed for about two weeks, starting around Memorial Day.
The park’s three tennis courts are set to undergo resurfacing work from approximately Monday, May 29 until June 12, the Fairfax County Park Authority announced today.
Unfortunately for local pickleball players, no changes will be made to the programming or layout of the facility at 4710 Guinea Road.
“Rutherford Park is not a candidate for pickleball courts and will not receive any pickleball lining,” the FCPA said.
Instead, the project will consist of “pressure washing…cleaning and filling existing cracks, resurfacing, color coating and lining for tennis, and installing new net posts,” according to the news release.
About $38,000 has been allocated to the resurfacing project in the county’s current fiscal year 2023 budget.
Fairfax County Public Schools plans to hire an investigator to find the source of an anonymous email that decried the idea of a “colored individual” coaching Oakton High School’s cheerleading team.
Referencing former coaches from the past two years, the email was sent to the school’s current cheerleading coach, Jillian Domenech, shortly after she took over the position in March, as first reported by WTOP.
Domenech reported the email to administrators, but the school’s technology staff was “unsuccessful” in identifying the sender, Oakton High School Principal Jamie Lee told the community in a message on May 8,
“FCPS works hard each day to create a school environment where all students and staff are valued and feel accepted and supported,” FCPS said in a statement. “We condemn all hateful behavior. FCPS has attempted to establish the origin of the email as part of our own internal investigation. Unfortunately, we have been unable to do so. Moving forward, we intend to retain a third [party] investigator to delve further into this matter.”
News that FCPS plans to initiate an external investigation into the email comes after two months of inaction, the Fairfax County NAACP said in a news release today (Wednesday) calling for an outside, independent investigation.
According to an excerpt shared by the civil rights organization, the email sender claimed to be speaking on behalf of “many” parents and students who “would not feel comfortable with another colored individual coaching cheerleading at Oakton.”
“While this may be seen as racist or having a prejudice against certain races of people, the last two years have shown that this is just not something that has worked out,” the email said. “Our school and history of coaches have been predominantly white. Many of the girls were shocked to see another coach last season with such dark and strong features.”
According to WTOP, the email specifically referenced former co-head varsity coach Faith Dabrio and her predecessor, who are both African American. Dabrio told WTOP that she was unaware of the email until a parent contacted her about it last week.
Dabrio described the culture of the cheerleading team as “welcoming” but felt a lack of support from the school administration when handling “internal drama,” which culminated in a social media threat by a student that contributed to her decision to step down in November.
The Fairfax County NAACP says its education committee has been communicating with FCPS about the email, but those conversations have only “yielded ever more entrenched efforts to obfuscate and deflect blame, rather than to accept the reality of the situation and deal with it effectively.”
“The more time that passes where children are subjected to a threat of unknown origin and unknown magnitude, the greater the danger to their physical and emotional well-being,” the organization said, stating that the message suggests a “racist culture” within Oakton’s cheer team.
The NAACP also requested that it be allowed to see the full results of FCPS’ investigation, citing “the danger this email poses to current students, the failure of FCPS to act with urgency, and the long-standing culture of racism referenced in the email.”
In her message to the community, Lane said she “recently” met with students on the cheer team and their parents to “reiterate that Oakton High School stands united against all forms of hate, racism, and discrimination,” a sentiment for which they expressed full support. Read More
A 12.5% salary increase for police officers will be under discussion later this week for inclusion in Fairfax County’s upcoming budget.
Other items under consideration in the mark-up package include more money for ArtsFairfax, funding for girls’ softball facilities, and establishing a self-help resource center in the Fairfax Courthouse library.
In many years, shifting revenue, expense, and administrative cost estimates enable adjustments to the advertised budget presented in February, opening up funding for some initially unaddressed items.
County Executive Bryan Hill left about $90.2 million in unallocated funds in the fiscal year 2024 advertised budget, but with adjustments, that has now risen to $110.4 million.
As a result, supervisors are able to submit items to be considered at a pre-markup discussion by the Board of Supervisors’ budget policy committee on Friday (April 28) and a mark-up session with the full board on May 2.
Seven items were submitted for the mark-up package, totaling about $26.5 million.
The biggest ask, by far, is a 12.5% salary increase for police officers at rank of second lieutenant and below from Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity. The raises would cost $26.2 million and come in addition to the 2% market rate adjustment increase already in the budget.
“Budgets should be about priorities and public safety is a priority. We are short about 200 officers; we have had to disband many of our specialty units to staff patrol, and changed shifts which have had a negative impact on our current officers,” Herrity told FFXnow. “It is past time to address a staffing shortage we have seen coming for many years. We can address the public staffing crisis without increasing the tax burden on our residents.”
He added that he’s “very optimistic” the board will approve at least some level of salary increase, if not the full 12.5%.
Last year, the county gave raises to certain public safety workers as part of the mark-up package, but it was a step increase and cost the county $6.1 million.
Herrity also is proposing to reduce supervisor office support budgets by $1.1 million, the same amount it was increased by in last year’s budget.
“This is a microcosm for the illogical spending in our County. Last year, no one answered my question about who proposed the $1.1 million increase for Board office budgets,” Herrity said. “We certainly do not need increased staff budgets, certainly not on top of the 38% salary increase. The money would be better spent focusing on improving access and customer service by county agencies as Board staff spend about 75% of their time helping residents with services.”
Also set to be considered is a proposal from Board Chairman Jeff McKay and Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw to provide $300,00 to reduce the “disparity between girls’ fastpitch softball and boys’ baseball facilities.”
In February, the two requested funding after a recent study revealed a widening gap in the quality and quantity of fields in the county available for softball compared to baseball. The supervisors asked for $1.7 million in one-time funding and a recurring cost of $300,000 for consideration in this year’s budget.
Other items that will be considered at the mark-up sessions in the coming weeks include:
- Expanding the Opportunity Neighborhoods initiative into Centreville at a cost of $413,000
- Establishing a self-help resource center within the law library at the Fairfax County Courthouse at a cost of $96,000
- An increase of $200,000 to ArtsFairfax for operating expenses
- Providing $350,000 to nonprofit projects that make home repairs and accessibility modifications so low and moderate-income households who are aging or disabled can stay in their homes
The 2024 fiscal year budget is set to be adopted on May 9.
Residents are sounding off about a proposal to renovate the Barton Hill tennis courts in Reston.
Concerns about noise management dominated a March 22 community meeting where staff offered an update on the project, which would convert some tennis courts into six permanent pickleball courts.
Megan Murphy, a mom of two who moved from Rosslyn to Reston for the calm of the latter’s more suburban environment, said the pickleball court could compromise the quietness she desired for her 5-year-old child, who has special needs.
“I’m so excited for all the pickleball players that you have found your passion, that you found your love, that you’ve got something that’s getting you out there and active and social,” Murphy said. “But I think we need to be really careful and not just footstep all of the concerns that people have expressed.”
Concerns about the noisiness of the popular sport have mounted nationwide. Earlier this year, the Town of Vienna cut restricted pickleball hours at Glyndon Park due to noise complaints. Over in Arlington, the sport has fueled warring flier campaigns between neighbors and lawsuit threats.
The tennis courts on the west side of the facility at 1901 Barton Hill Road would have blended lines to allow additional courts as needed, and dividers would separate pickleball and tennis courts.
Both parking lots will be repaved, and drainage improvements are planned at the southeast corner of the site. The project is currently in the early phases of planning and scoping. Construction could begin later this year, depending on the approval process.
Chris Schumaker, Reston Association’s director of capital projects, said a noise study at the Autumnwood pickleball courts found that decibel levels did not exceed 60 or 100 beyond 150 feet of the facility. The March 9 study was done during peak afternoon play when all pickleball and hybrid courts were at capacity, according to RA.
The sound for pickleball ranges from 57 to 79 decibels, depending on proximity and the type of equipment used. That is 25 decibels more than a tennis racket hitting a ball, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Schumaker also noted that scheduling for pickleball and nearby soccer events can be staggered to reduce the chances of overflow into the street.
“What we did did is a preemptive measure to kind of see what we are dealing with from a data standpoint,” Schumaker told residents.
Laura David, a local resident, said she was concerned the “wonderful enthusiasm” of pickleball players would attract crowds, teams waiting for a turn, and significant noise in a natural habitat ravine near the property, which has a neighborhood in roughly 1,000 feet of the courts.
“There’s no way parking and traffic will be safe for our kids on bikes, for our people walking dogs, and for the general appreciation of a Sunday morning 7 a.m. quiet cup of coffee on the deck of our back of our properties,” David said.
In response to reservations about the safety of an adjacent crosswalk where turning vehicles are faced with a blind side, Schumaker emphasized that any changes would require VDOT approval and are not part of the project.
Rob Richardson, a player and local resident, said it was important to acknowledge that the scenario of having 24 players on the court and 24 waiting for their turn may only occur during peak hours. But he also conceded that “no one wants pickleball in their backyard,” and he might be opposed if it was in his.
Others voiced concerns about tension between tennis and pickleball players in the hybrid facility.
“The pickleball/tennis battle…can get nasty and contested,” resident Renee Shipe said. She suggested that RA implement a possible reservation system or process improvements to help enforce rules and regulations.
RA CEO Mac Cummins said the current plans are preliminary, and the feedback may inform future changes.
“Part of our job is to hear you all tonight and report back tot he board and make the final financial decision,” Cummins said.
Photo via Joan Azeka/Unsplash
Len Forkas, a Reston-based businessman, is skiing to the North Pole in a few weeks to break the ice on support for kids with cancer.
The 63-year-old — who is described as an “ultra-endurance athlete” — plans to ski 60 miles to the North Pole in order to raise money for Hopecam, a nonprofit organization he founded that connects children undergoing cancer treatment with their friends.
“I know some people think I’m crazy,” Forkas said. “But I think of myself as crazy about Hopecam’s kids. I hope I’ve convinced everybody that I’ll go to any length to support them.”
For Forkas, the trek is will bring him one step closer to his goal of completing the Explorer’s Grand Slam, a physical challenge that includes a trek to the North Pole, the South Pole, and all the highest mountain peaks on each of the seven continents, known as the Seven Summits.
So far, Forkas has travelled to five of the Seven Summits. He hopes to check off this physical challenge by August 2024 in time for his 65th birthday.
He plans to fly to a Norwegian village at the end of the month to meet the expedition team. They will then fly to a temporary camp in the Arctic Ocean.
Forkas founded Hopecam through personal struggle.
In 2002, his son, Matt, was diagnosed with leukemia. Forkas received permission from Fairfax County Public Schools to install a webcam in the classroom of a school in Great Falls to make sure Matt could participate. He began competing in ultra-endurance sports at the time of his son’s diagnosis.
“The exercise helped me cope with the stress of Matt’s illness,” he said. Matt, now 30, survived the bout of illness.
Forkas hopes to raise $60,000 for the nonprofit organization by matching the 60 miles he will ski to the North Pole. So far, the campaign has raised over $10,500, as of this morning.
With Hopecam, kids are provided with a tablet computer with a webcam, internet access if it’s unavailable, and assistance to work with the school so they can take part in some classroom activities and see their friends.
The nonprofit organization is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. It aims to overcome the social isolation that kids often experience while they receive cancer treatment.
“His North Pole journey presents a timely opportunity to showcase this noteworthy occasion,” Brett Fox, Hopecam’s development director, said.
Just one day after Major League Baseball’s Opening Day, Capital One will kick off the inaugural season of its newly built baseball stadium in Tysons.
Capital One Park, located at 1600 Scotts Crossing Road, will host its first-ever games on March 31, introducing itself to the neighborhood with a double-header between Arlington’s Marymount University and Centenary University from New Jersey.
“Capital One Park, when it comes online in late March, will be an attraction for the community to come together and experience America’s favorite pastime,” Capital One Center Managing Director Jonathan Griffith said.
Approved by the Fairfax County Planning Commission in October, the park represents the first step toward developing the 6.9-acre site known as Capital One East.
Previously occupied by a parking lot, the property will be an extension of the Capital One Center campus where the financial company has its headquarters. It was part of the planned Scotts Run North development until Capital One acquired the land in May 2019.
Though a representative for Capital One told the planning commission it would discuss letting residents of the adjacent Gates of McLean condominiums use the field when it isn’t booked, Griffith says the baseball stadium isn’t designed for casual recreational use like a public park.
Instead, it’s meant to be “an attraction for friends, families, and community baseball aficionados to experience the game played at a high-intensity level,” he said.
Primarily made out of artifical turf, the field was built to meet NCAA standards. The facility can seat over 300 spectators and has picnic areas, restrooms, and a press box.
A schedule of games through Aug. 1 is now on the Capital One Center website.
In the spring and fall, the stadium will host college and high school baseball as well as the Northern Virginia Travel Baseball League. In the summer, the Potomac League — a wooden bat league for D.C.-area college players — will take over with nightly double-headers.
“In planning for Capital One Park, we have worked to ensure that the fan experience is front of mind with easy parking, game-day activations, and a robust concession program all as elements to complement and amplify the action on the field,” Griffith said.
Capital One plans to have an official grand opening celebration for the stadium in June.
Intended to be temporary until the site is built out, Capital One Park will later be joined by a publicly accessible urban park with a water feature, landscaping, a playground, a fitness zone, a plaza with seating, and food truck parking, according to the plan approved by the county.
According to Griffith, construction on that next phase of Capital One East is expected to begin later this year for a potential opening in late 2024.
Fairfax County officials are guarding their wickets carefully as they size up a recent pitch for a possible cricket and baseball facility at George Mason University.
The Board of Supervisors directed county staff last week to monitor and get involved in a feasibility study that Mason and Major League Cricket (MLC) initiated in November.
Since the study is still in its early stages, major questions remain, including what sites are being considered, but there is definitely demand for a regulation cricket pitch, Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk and Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity said.
“I’m just interested in seeing if we have the opportunity to at least have a conversation and to see if there’s any feasibility on this coming to fruition,” Lusk said during the Feb. 21 meeting. “…There are many in the community who have been asking for this and would really enjoy having this opportunity to play cricket in a facility of this nature.”
GMU announced on Nov. 29 that it’s collaborating with MLC to study the possibility of building a multi-purpose facility that could host international-level cricket games as well as the university’s baseball team.
Funding for the study comes from technology entrepreneur Sanjay Govil, a founding investor in MLC, according to the press release. The group aspires to have an operational facility that would serve as a home for an MLC franchise by summer 2025.
A regulation cricket field is the size of three baseball fields, making it “extremely difficult to assemble” within the Fairfax County Park Authority’s standard field dimensions, Lusk and Herrity said in their joint board matter.
“This innovative approach has the potential to fill a recreational void in our community, provide a multi-use amenity of benefit to the entire county, and generate a meaningful economic impact as the sole facility of its kind in the region,” the board matter said.
In the community immediately surrounding GMU’s Fairfax campus, however, the proposal may face an uphill battle.
Though he expressed support for both GMU and cricket, Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw warned it will be “really important to manage this process” to avoid a repeat of “some decisions that the university made that created some real challenges and animosity in the neighborhoods.”
He didn’t specify which decisions he was referring to, but he noted that the proximity of Mason’s existing athletic facilities on the west campus to residential neighborhoods “has presented a lot of challenges over the years.” In addition, one possible, currently undeveloped site at Braddock and Shirley Gate roads is in the Occoquan Watershed.
The new facility’s potential traffic impact could also be an issue. An extension of Shirley Gate Road from Braddock to Fairfax County Parkway is in the works, but that’s about it for planned road improvements in the area, according to Walkinshaw.
“If we’re going to be building a facility here that will bring large groups of people, the university’s got to take some responsibility for how people are going to get to and from the campus, because the existing transportation network doesn’t support it,” he said.
Board Chairman Jeff McKay concurred that the county needs to approach the proposal “with our eyes wide open,” noting that GMU-owned properties aren’t subject to local land use review processes like private or county developments.
The One University and Capstone housing projects near the university campus, for instance, may have ruffled feathers, but the public was still guaranteed opportunities to provide input.
“Unlike the county, [GMU doesn’t] go through our regular land use process,” McKay said. “That’s one of the reasons you’re hearing some of the caution flags about making sure this process works right and the board is informed of what’s going on.”
Photo via michael weir/Unsplash
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.