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The Fairfax County Park Authority’s Providence RECenter (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The Fairfax County Park Authority wants to know how community members are using its park facilities.

The park authority has launched an equity survey, open through Monday, April 1, as part of its ongoing work to improve access to park programs.

“The Park Authority has intentionally been applying an equity lens to our park system in order to ensure that the accessibility and variety of our program offerings align with the present-day values and interests of our community,” Park Authority Executive Director Jai Cole said. “This latest outreach effort is important to help us identify the barriers that yet need to be overcome such as economic, cultural, transportation and others so that we can continue to make the benefits of parks accessible to everyone.”

The survey asks about the use of parks, rec centers, summer camps, golf courses, nature centers and historical sites. In several cases, respondents have space to explain why they don’t use a given resource. Respondents are asked to provide some personal information, including race, ethnicity and home ZIP code.

“We’re particularly interested in understanding potential barriers that you experience which prevent you from taking full advantage of recreational opportunities,” the survey instructions read.

The survey builds on a recent equity study that found FCPA’s approach to funding some of its programs, including summer camps and rec center memberships, is not consistent with national best practices and is a barrier to their accessibility.

The current model requires fees to cover 100% of both direct program costs, such as equipment, and indirect overhead costs, such as building utilities. In contrast, the median cost recovery from fees across parks and recreation agencies nationally is 25%, and cost recovery typically does not include indirect costs, the study says.

Conducted by the consulting firm HR&A, the study points to greater racial diversity and diversity in household income in Rec-PAC, a recreational program that doesn’t have to recover 100% of its costs, compared to summer camps and other work operating with full cost recovery.

In the case of summer camps, 71% of campers come from households making at least $150,000 per year, even though just 40% of the county’s population meets that income bracket; 69% of summer camp participants are white, compared to 50% of the county’s population.

“These high fees make many programs unaffordable and therefore inaccessible to a large portion of the population, and it hampers the park authority’s ability to provide equitable services,” HR&A Managing Partner Stan Wall told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors when presenting the study’s initial findings in January.

The equity study includes two main recommendations. First, for an estimated $9.4 million, FCPA could reduce some fees across the board by factoring community benefit into its cost recovery requirement. For instance, children’s swim lessons would not require full cost recovery.

Second, FCPA could offer targeted subsidies to help lower-income households take advantage of recreation programs and resources.

In total, the study estimates it would take $17.2 million to implement a sliding fee scale for certain programs and flexible annual vouchers to cover some recreation expenses for qualified households, including costs for administrative work, outreach and software.

To fund these programs, the county could consider “a dedicated tax stream,” according to the presentation.

“The good news is that many other places have dedicated tax streams for parks and recreation, whether property tax levies or other creative funding streams, and these measures consistently have high levels of voter support,” Wall said.

The equity survey’s results will help inform the FCPA’s recommendations to its board and the Board of Supervisors, which are expected to come this fall.

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Fairfax County is seeking public input on a new name and brand for Original Mount Vernon High School ahead of its redevelopment.

The county’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services recently launched a survey that asks community members to consider feelings evoked by a new name, inspirations for the new name and themed word pairings.

The survey is available in English, Spanish and Arabic, and responses will be accepted until this Sunday, Feb. 11.

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck says the Board of Supervisors doesn’t have any names in mind for the former school, which is being turned into a community facility, so the survey will help inform the decision-making process.

“[People] can think a bit more focused about the building itself and what its plans are,” Storck said. “We’re truly looking for input…The only name we have is one nobody wants to keep.”

Built in 1939, the Original Mount Vernon High School is listed as a historic place on both the state and national registers, but Fairfax County started exploring options to reuse the building at 8333 Richmond Highway once the long-term lease was vacated in 2016.

Following a master plan finalized in 2019, the county is turning the 84-year-old building into an accessible public facility with teen and senior centers, a gym and early childhood programs as well as educational programs to support workforce development, business incubation spaces, visual/performing arts programs and event spaces.

According to the county’s webpage for the project, the survey is intended to “ensure the new name and brand reflect the vibrancy of the community.”

“Your responses will help [the county] understand the priorities, values and preferences of [the] community and help us develop a new brand identity and name that are appealing to the entire community,” the project webpage reads.

Storck encouraged everyone in the county to take the survey.

“The county overall is funding [the project],” Storck said. “There are lots of folks who used to live in the district who have connections and still visit here.”

Rendering via Fairfax County

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Centreville Planning Area (courtesy of Fairfax County)

Fairfax County’s Department of Planning and Development is inviting Centreville residents to share their thoughts on the area’s future development.

In an effort to better understand community preferences, the county published a six-question online survey last month, which seeks to gather opinions on what residents and visitors enjoy about the neighborhood and their desired direction for its future development.

Available until the end of January, the survey is a key part of a 2022 initiative by the Board of Supervisors to gather data that will help county staff formulate a recommendation for revising the 2,700-acre Centreville Planning Area.

The last update to the planning area occurred in the 1990s, says Leanna O’Donnell, the planning department’s director.

“The goals of the study are to review and evaluate existing Comprehensive Plan policies and to recommend additional policies to guide future growth in the area,” she told FFXnow.

She added that, based on residents’ feedback, her team might suggest policy changes regarding transportation, park space and land use in a comprehensive plan amendment to supervisors.

“Study recommendations will establish a policy framework for those interested in redeveloping property in the future,” she said, noting there will likely be a core focus around major arterial roads, including Route 29, Route 28 (Sully Road) and I-66.

The current version of the county’s comprehensive plan classifies the Centreville Planning Area as a mixed-use center and highlights Centreville as a “focus of development” in the western section of the county.

In addition to the survey, the county plans to hold in-person forums to engage directly with residents, business owners and visitors about future development in Centreville.

“Once we’re able to compile early feedback (i.e. survey, in-person engagements) a formal process will begin to evaluate new recommendations,” O’Donnell said.

County staff aim to present their findings in early 2025, although an official deadline has not been established.

Should the board adopt these recommendations, it will then be up to private entities and other stakeholders to initiate redevelopment applications, O’Donnell said.

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Small businesses on Lynn Street near Nachman Way in Herndon (via Google Maps)

The Herndon Town Council wants to move forward with creating a new advisory committee focused on the small business community.

The committee would focus on developing recommendations from the town’s recent business survey, which highlighted the business community’s desire for more support from the town.

Councilmember Kevin LeBlanc introduced the recommendation at a council work session on Tuesday (Oct. 17) in response to the findings.

Respondents to the survey, conducted by Priority Metrics Group (PMG), said they would like to see the town have more business-focused events, such as networking, promotional, or informational sessions. LeBlanc said that would be the focal point of the committee.

“I feel like it’s really important that we do something that’s kind of immediate to show that we’re acting on the results,” LeBlanc said.

According to a town staff memo, the committee will have six to eight representatives of small businesses based in Herndon, and it will be in place for six months or until the recommendations are provided. The group’s job will be to “provide prioritized recommendations with details and analysis of cost/approach specific to events the town can provide or support in collaboration with other groups,” the document states.

Councilmember Donielle Scherff supported the idea of the committee, saying it would benefit the council in multiple ways, even if she feels it doesn’t go far enough.

“We get the benefit of the experience and the background of those who are serving on each individual subcommittee or committee,” she said. “And then they get our immediate attention so that there is no lapse and we are responsive.”

Councilmember Cesar del Aguila also voiced support for the idea, noting that there were “a lot of actionable items” in the survey.

“I think we pick one or two and put resources to it — let’s show that we are committed,” Aguila said.

The next steps include identifying a town council member to serve on the committee and selecting other people to be on the committee. However, the timeline is unclear, as the council said it would need legal advice on how to put the committee together.

Photo via Google Maps

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McLean Pet Fest will return this Sunday, Oct. 15 (courtesy McLean Community Center)

Dogs, cats and other household critters in McLean will get an early taste of Halloween when the McLean Community Center’s annual pet festival returns this weekend.

The McLean Pet Fest will unfold at McLean Central Park (1468 Dolley Madison Blvd) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 15). MCC says costumes will be “welcome” at a pet parade scheduled for 3 p.m.

Other attractions planned for the free event include a Fido’s Bone Bar, live music, pet tricks, a photo booth, giveaways, demonstrations and pet-related vendors, such as trainers and rescue and adoption organizations.

Three gourmet food trucks have also been lined up: Arlington-based Ribeye Philadelphia Steak, the frozen yogurt chain Sweet Frog and a new mobile cafe called Frothy Mug Coffee.

MCC Special Events Manager Catherine Nesbitt says the goal of McLean Pet Fest is to provide some entertainment and an opportunity for humans and their pets to spend time outdoors, while also educating community members about adoption, animal health and safety, and other topics.

“McLean Pet Fest is an inclusive community event that brings people and their pet companions to McLean Central Park to learn, be enriched and have a joyful experience together,” Nesbitt said.

Other events coming to the community center this month include a screening of the original Broadway show of “Sweeney Todd” next Thursday (Oct. 19), the McLean Community Players’ production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Proof” starting on Oct. 27, and a Festival of Frights and Trunk or Treat at the Old Firehouse on Oct. 28.

A full calendar of events can be found on the MCC website.

As it develops a budget for the next year, the McLean Community Center is seeking feedback on its programs and services with a community survey. The survey is available in English, Spanish and Korean, and the results will be shared with MCC staff and the governing board.

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Recycling bin (via Sigmund on Unsplash)

Fairfax County wants to know what trash collectors are telling residents about recycling.

In anticipation of Fairfax Recycles Day, which will fall on Nov. 15, the county’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services is surveying residents throughout October about whether their hauler is sharing educational materials on recycling.

“The survey takes about two minutes to complete and includes inquiries such as the type of information received and how often,” DPWES said in a news release yesterday. “The goal is to receive data that will provide a clearer picture of the overall countywide recycling services of County and private collectors.”

The survey is available online and will remain open until Oct. 30. Participants will receive “a cool gift” and, if they want, a mention on the county’s website, according to DPWES.

The department developed the survey as part of a Four Touch Points (FTP) initiative, which took effect on Jan. 1 and requires trash collectors to provide information about waste reduction and recycling to their customers in order to be licensed to operate in Fairfax County.

According to DPWES, about 90% of county residents and businesses get waste collection services through private companies, which must get the certificate permitting them to operate in the county renewed every year. Participation in FTP is now being considered as part of that renewal process.

The county’s reliance on private haulers has become a challenge in recent years, as staff shortages led to service disruptions and the closure of one operator.

While county leaders have explored getting more authority from the state to manage trash pick-ups, public services have encountered staffing and operational issues as well. DPWES has proposed eliminating fall leaf collection services, starting with the 2024-2025 season.

According to the county, materials universally accepted in curbside recycling bins include plastic bottles and jugs, mixed paper and cardboard, metal food and drink cans, and paper cartons. Glass can be recycled in the purple containers that have popped up around the county and at the I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex.

Photo via Sigmund/Unsplash

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Lake Newport Pool in Reston (via RA/YouTube)

A survey of Reston Association members found high levels of interest in maintaining and expanding current parks and recreation facilities instead of investing in new facilities.

The survey results — which included over 1,700 responses and is among the largest RA survey to date — will inform RA’s future decisions about parks and recreation, particularly a long-range plan for facility maintenance and upgrades.

“This successful survey response was achieved because of a carefully designed survey, education, community and outreach campaign,” RA staff said in a presentation for the board of directors.

The board was slated to discuss an initial overview of the survey results at its meeting last Thursday (Sept. 28), but it voted unanimously to instead discuss it at a later date.

The survey found that members who use RA facilities are most satisfied with them. Additionally, Reston’s paved paths are used by almost all RA members and are its most widely valued resource.

However, members said they were dissatisfied with its swimming pool facilities, flagging pools as the most pressing area for improvement.

RA’s leadership is expected to release the full survey data to members this month. The results will inform a work plan developed by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee in the fourth quarter of the year. RA’s Board of Directors will consider the work plan in December.

In recent years, RA conducted surveys in 2005 and 2015. This year’s survey was conducted with the assistance of the consultant Noise Doctors.

The survey is intended to inform future parks and recreation planning, along with resource management. Survey results were collected over an eight-week period.

Photo via RA/YouTube

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Walkers and bicyclists on the W&OD Trail in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

For Town of Vienna residents who have thoughts about traffic on Maple Avenue or the state of local parks, a chance to share those opinions has arrived.

Starting this month, the town will conduct a National Community Survey to gauge how it’s doing on education, transportation, recreation, public services and other topics that affect the quality of life for its 16,544 denizens.

The survey typically crops up every two years, but this will be its first appearance since 2018 after a 2020 version got scuttled “for pandemic-related reasons,” the town says.

Administered this year by the community engagement contractor Polco, the survey will roll out in two phases, per a press release:

In the first phase, which begins in early October, a randomly selected representative sample of Vienna households will receive a notice in the mail requesting participation in the statistically valid survey. In the second phase, set to begin Oct. 30, community members who did not receive the survey in the mail will be invited to provide their feedback by completing the survey online. The surveys provided during both phases are identical and take approximately 15 minutes to complete.

In the 2018 questionnaire, which was a National Citizen Survey conducted by the National Research Center, residents reported feeling good overall about Vienna, but traffic flow and the availability of quality affordable housing were sore points.

The results of this year’s survey will be shared on the town’s website and at a Vienna Town Council meeting in January 2024.

“Ultimately, the feedback will be used to help inform future Town government decisions that affect the community,” the Town of Vienna said.

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A person can be seen panhandling on the median of International Drive in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

After years of debating the issue of “panhandling” in board rooms, Fairfax County will now actually talk to the people asking for money, often from sidewalks and street medians.

At Chairman Jeff McKay’s request, the Board of Supervisors approved $75,000 for a survey of people engaged in panhandling as part of a budget carryover package adopted on Tuesday (Sept. 26).

“Understanding that asking for money is a protected act under the First Amendment, it is imperative that the County better understand the needs of the people who are panhandling and explore innovative approaches to responding to panhandling,” McKay wrote in his request that the item be added to the package, which allocated $203 million in leftover funds from fiscal year 2023.

Per the memo, the survey will be conducted by a contracted firm that should have experience surveying “marginalized populations” and “a proven track record of producing high-quality data.”

Collected data could include:

Demographics; reasons for panhandling; how long they have been panhandling; experiences with employment, poverty, and homelessness; panhandling income and spending patterns; possible coercion and collaboration among people panhandling; and opinions on what it would take to stop panhandling.

The memo notes that the surveys “must be conducted safely and confidentially.”

A start date hasn’t been determined yet, but the survey is expected to take six months. The results will be presented to the board at a future committee meeting.

The planned survey will be the county’s latest effort to address panhandling, following rejected attempts to prohibit the practice or install anti-panhandling signage. The county did launch a clean-up program in 2019 that gives temporary work to people experiencing homelessness.

While panhandling is protected as free speech, the county discourages community members from giving money to people on the streets who ask for it, arguing that it’s more effective to connect them with long-term assistance.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, who has led the charge against panhandling, said earlier in Tuesday’s meeting that he’s reviewing “ordinances involving prohibiting the exchange of objects in the roadway that have been successful in other jurisdictions,” including Loudoun County. Read More

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Sunset Business Park (via Google Maps)

Herndon’s business community expressed overall levels of satisfaction with the town in a recent survey, but some say they want the town to focus more on expanding support for businesses.

Presented at a Herndon Town Council work session on Tuesday (Sept. 19), the results were gathered from a business survey by Priority Metrics Group (PMG), which included 155 respondents, the average of which has been in the town for 17 years.

At the work session, council members emphasized the need for the town to more actively support businesses and expand town events that draw customers — two themes of improvement from the survey.

“They want a more business-friendly government,” Councilmember Donielle Scherff said. “We’ve talked a bit about customer service-centric leadership and staff, and this just sort of buttresses into that.”

Most respondents say they chose Herndon because of its location.

“They like being here. There are amenities and attributes that are here that they like,” said John Barrett, owner of PMG.

Overall, sentiments about the town’s general business environment dipped only slightly since the last survey was conducted in 2018.

Business owners said they were drawn by the access to airports — which expanded last year with the opening of Metro’s Silver Line extension — as well as the overall quality of life and the image of the town. Top concerns included licensing, taxation, regulations, crime rates, traffic and the quality of new development.

Many business owners said they wanted to see more special events in the town — a move that Councilmember Cesar del Aguila said emphasizes the need for the council to focus extra attention on event development.

“What I’m hearing here solidifies my personal belief that we’re on the right track,” del Aguila said, noting a need to focus on branding for the town. He said it was “painful” to hear that some business owners did not feel noticed by the local government.

So far, use of the Mason Enterprise Center — a business accelerator program from George Mason University that launched earlier this year — appears limited, according to the survey. A little over 80% of respondents said they had not heard about the center.

Most respondents — 77% of businesses — said the Metro Silver Line has had no impact or a neutral impact on their businesses.

PMG also recently completed a survey of town residents, who flagged traffic as a top concern.

Photo via Google Maps

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