Autumn on Lake Audobon

Autumn on Lake Audobon
Autumn on Lake Audubon, Photo by Alison Kamat

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Comment on FCPA Chairman's RestonNow Op-Ed re County Parks, May 8, 2014

Today I commented at length on FCPA Chairman Bill Bouie's op-ed posted on Monday responding to my earlier op-ed an the poor future prospect for Reston (and Tysons) parks.  Since the comment stand on its own, I am posting it below.  For those who have not read them:
Here is the text of my comment this morning:

In this op-ed that Mr. Bouie says is to “challenge the myths and misrepresentations presented by Terry Maynard in his recent editorial," he fails absolutely. In fact, he does not identify a single fact, finding, or implication from my earlier op-ed that is inaccurate, much less a myth or misrepresentation. He doesn’t even try. He actually couldn’t because the information in my op-ed (excluding the Manhattan data) comes from official county documents. Instead, he first resorts to an ad hominem personal attack that is outrageous and erroneous, and then changes the topic.

Mr. Bouie’s Manhattan data is an updated version of the same information I used. The only pertinent differences it shows are that NYC has increased Manhattan’s parkland by 0.7% (102 acres) and added five athletic fields in the last couple of years. It begs the question of whether FCPA has accomplished the same for Fairfax County in general over the last couple of years. I know it hasn’t added any public parkland or athletic fields to either of its prospective major urban areas, Tysons and Reston.

Looking backward and county-wide as his op-ed does, I would agree with Mr. Bouie that Fairfax County’s parks as a whole now ranks reasonably well on their extent and availability based on the same Trust for Public Land data I used in my op-ed. Using TPL’s methodology and Mr. Bouie’s data puts Fairfax County’s “park accessibility score”—it’s ultimate measure of park quality—at 33rd among the Top 100 cities in the country in 2010. I would also add roughly another 16,000 acres of regional, state, & federal parkland to that total, which would bring the overall public park accessibility score ranking up to 14th.

Comparing that current countywide picture with the future planned for Tysons and Reston’s urban areas promises a dismal future for future urban residents. Mr. Bouie’s table shows that we now have 21.9 acres per 1,000 residents of county parks county-wide covering 9.5% of the county land with 2.4 athletic fields per 10,000 residents. Looking forward, the table below (see attached image) shows how poorly the Tysons and Reston urban areas will be served if they achieve their planned densities and the county actually meets its urban parks standards. In both Tysons and Reston, that long-term goal would achieve about 1.7 acres of parks for 1,000 residents using the county’s mix of residential and employment categories. That is less than one-tenth of what the FCPA already has for the whole county. It’s also about two-thirds (5.7% in Reston, 7.3% in Tysons) the share of land now devoted to parks in the county as a whole. And it offers fewer athletic fields per 10,000 people than the already overcrowded county park system does.


And, as Mr. Bouie notes, the newly approved Comprehensive Plan for Reston’s urban areas actually calls for reliance on nearby parks, RA’s common areas, and more to fill the County’s obligation for parks to urban taxpayers. As Mr. Bouie notes, the Plan calls for “a total of 12 athletic fields to serve the future growth in the TSA through 2040-2050, with three fields to be located in the TSAs (one field per TSA) and the remainder to be provided through a combination of expanded capacity of existing fields that serve Reston and the provision of new fields that serve Reston.” The second half of that sentence means in suburban Reston—or beyond. He follows up: “Other opportunities to meet the full range of community recreation needs will be explored in concert with the various park providers that serve Reston.” That obtuse sentence means either RA or proffers from developers beyond the existing regional W&OD trail park through the station areas.

In fact, the notion that 12 athletic fields meets the County standard is simply wrong (although it is what FCPA has been using without any official approval). Appendix 3 of the FC Parks & Recreation Plan establishes “countywide” park facility service level standards in both the section title and in the lead-in sentence (pp. 21-22) to its table showing those standards that would mean Reston’s urban areas are entitled to have more than 30 athletic fields based on their prospective urban population growth. Tysons’ field requirement would be even larger.

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