Reston Spring

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Reston Spring

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Learn More About Proposed RCC Facility, Colin Mills, RCA President, Reston Patch, March 20, 2013

One of the hottest topics in Reston right now is the proposal for a new Reston Community Center facility at Baron Cameron Park.  There’s no question that such a facility, if it’s built, would have a huge impact on Reston.  It has the potential to add a lot of new or expanded recreation options to the community, and that’s very important with all the new residents and workers that the Silver Line is likely to bring.  But a project this size also prompts a lot of questions: How much will it cost?  Who will pay for it?  Is the proposed location the right one?  How will it impact quality of life factors like traffic and open space?

If you’ve thought about the facility, you’ve probably asked yourself questions like these.  We at RCA have been asking these questions among ourselves as well.  RCC has helpfully compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions about their plan, but we at RCA felt that a community forum would be a good opportunity to help the public stay informed about the project and how it’s progressing.  So next week, we’re holding one, and I’d like to invite all of you to come.

The forum will take place on Wednesday, March 27th at 7:00 PM at the Reston Association headquarters.  (An RCA meeting about RCC at the RA building… talk about organizations working together!)  RCC Executive Director Leila Gordon will describe the history of the project to date, explain the decisions that have been made so far, and tell us what has yet to be decided and what the process will look like going forward.  She will then answer questions from the RCA Board about the facility, and then members of the public will have a chance to offer input and ask any questions we didn’t think of.

I’m excited about the fact that we’re able to hold this forum early on in the discussion of the new facility.  Many of you may remember that RA and RCC talked a couple of years ago about collaborating on a facility at Brown’s Chapel.  One of the criticisms lobbed at that effort was that the public was involved too late, and many people felt that the plan was presented as a fait accompli.  Having learned from that experience, RCC is including public outreach and information gathering earlier in the process this time.  And I think it’s important to make sure that the public is able to stay informed and weigh in from the start, so that everyone’s views can be heard and considered.

The flip side of this, of course, is that lots of aspects of the process have yet to be decided, so Leila may not have many definitive answers to our questions at this point.  To me, that’s actually a benefit: if the issues we raise haven’t yet been decided, our input will help the RCC Board and staff identify areas to consider in putting together their plan, and it means that we as citizens still have a chance to weigh in and ensure that Reston’s best interests are considered.

From my perspective, two of the biggest questions about the project concern financing and location.  According to RCC’s FAQ document linked above, the current thinking is that the Fairfax County Park Authority would supply the land for the facility, while the construction and operating costs would be funded by Reston’s Small Tax District #5 and through user fees.  Almost all of the County’s other recreation centers (with the exception of the original RCC and the McLean Community Center) have been funded using County-wide tax revenues.  Should Reston be funding the facility’s construction on its own?  Is there a possibility of obtaining more County funding for this project?  Will the RCC Board pursue proffers from the new Silver Line-related development to help fund the facility?

As for the location, using a site already owned by the Park Authority saves on land acquisition costs, which helps keep the project’s total cost down.  But Baron Cameron Park isn’t located particularly near the Silver Line, where much of the new development will likely occur.  Have other sites been considered?  Would it be feasible to locate the facility closer to the Metro?  How can we use bus service and other transit options to provide access to the facility, to avoid adding to our community’s traffic woes?

These are some of the things I think we should consider as we discuss the new facility.  You probably have some other questions or concerns.  This forum is the perfect opportunity to speak out and make sure your thoughts are heard.

I know that the timing of this forum may be tough for some of you, since it falls in the middle of our school system’s Spring Break.  But we felt it was important to get the information out to the public as soon as possible.  I promise that I’ll share what we learn in this space, so that if you aren’t able to make it, you’ll still be informed.  Also, RCC will be holding a series of meetings and public input opportunities, so if you aren’t able to come this time, you’ll still have the chance to offer your input.  I’m sure Leila will explain the future opportunities for public input and feedback at the forum, and I’ll be sure to share that as well.

I believe that the proposed new facility presents both an opportunity and a challenge.  As I mentioned at the beginning, with lots more residents headed our way, we’re going to need places for them to play, in addition to living and working.  RCC’s already bursting at the seams with activity, and a new facility is almost a necessity to meet future demand.  If this is done right, it can be a jewel that serves Reston for decades to come and leads us into our community’s future.  But this is also a major expense, and one that’s planned to be paid for with your tax dollars.  So we must ensure that we get this right, and that whatever is built uses our resources wisely and meets our needs into the future.

I hope to see you – and hear you – on the 27th.  Thanks to Leila and RCC for their willingness to meet and engage the public.  I’m confident that if we keep this community conversation going, we can come to a decision that’s right for Reston and right for our future.


  1. I think that Baron Cameron would be a good site for the proposed rec center. Much of the planned new development will happen nearby, such as Fairways and Lake Anne. It would definitely help if there is a shuttle to the metro station, particularly when there are major events; I read that there is a proposal for an Olympic size pool where swim meets could be held.

  2. I do not think Baron Cameron Park is a good location in the least. For one, it eliminates a large plot of Reston's rapidly-disappearing open space. Before we can blink twice, Reston will have none left. Just look at what is happening with the potential loss of the Reston National golf course. We are chipping away at one of the truly special aspects of Reston - and we are like the frog in the boiling water thinking everything is fine, all the while we're being cooked.

    Additionally, by locating the facility at this park, we are disrupting a quiet residential neighborhood with high density traffic, noise, buses, and a huge influx of people. A facility like this belongs in an already established high density and/or commercial area where the people who live nearby chose to live near such facilities. The people in the Baron Cameron Park neighborhood did not and they should not have this imposed on them.

    Finally, there are established recreational amenities already at the park that will be lost. Now the swimmers will have a facility, but the soccer and baseball players, gardeners, and dog owners will have nothing to replace what they've lost.

    Also keep in mind that all the high rises and re-development projects have their own rec facilities that will serve the new residents. For example, the Reston Heights plan includes one of the largest recreation facilities in the area.

  3. I'm in complete agreement with Dara.

    We live in the neighborhood surrounding Baron Cameron Park and it is important to understand that the proposed indoor sports facility is not ADDING to the recreational opportunities here, it is REPLACING existing, very heavily used outdoor sports fields, recreational areas, a dog park and open space. When these fields are not being used for sports activities, they serve as informal recreational areas for those of us who live in the area.

    As almost nobody in the area has a private yard to speak of, these few remaining green spaces are our community's back yard where people gather to exercise, play, and socialize. To replace these limited and irreplaceable green spaces with buildings and parking lots in the middle of a residential neighborhood would be unconscionable. The additional traffic and water runoff issues further exacerbate the problems that accompany such development.

    We moved to this area of Reston because of the parks. We opted against other areas with private yards in favor of shared green space. We thought, perhaps mistakenly, that we were in harmony with the principles that guide Reston as a community. We visit Baron Cameron Park daily, year round, as do many of our neighbors. This is where we come to get away from the buildings, parking lots, roads, etc.

    Baron Cameron Park is not some vacant expanse that sees little use. If anything it is overcrowded on most reasonably nice days. The fields are often mobbed and the dog park regularly exceeds capacity. If anything, the crowds at Baron Cameron are testament to the need for more of these green spaces and a sad reminder of how many of them have already been lost to development.

    I have heard the argument that Baron Cameron Park is an attractive cite for the proposed indoor facility because the land is "free". To us, the soccer players, softball teams, and dog lovers in the area, this space is priceless.


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