Last night, RCA held its latest community forum
, concerning Reston Community Center’s proposed new rec center
at Baron Cameron Park
Over 50 people turned out for an exchange that was spirited and open,
but respectful and informative. I think we all came away with a clear
understanding of where the proposal stands, what we agree on, and which
issues concern the community. For those of you who couldn’t make it,
here’s a summary of what we discussed.
Leila Gordon, Executive Director of RCC, started off by providing a
summary of the project to date. She explained that RCC’s current
facilities, especially the pool, are overbooked and limited. Therefore,
the RCC Board has made the expansion of aquatics offerings
a priority in its Strategic Plan. Program data and community surveys
confirm that there is demand for more swimming options, and the need
will only increase as Reston grows.
Leila stated that RCC is committed to building the facility
cost-effectively. This is why RCC is exploring a partnership with the
Fairfax County Park Authority: building at Baron Cameron, which the Park
Authority owns, would save on land costs and would provide a County
contribution to the project. Leila also said that starting the project
now would be smart financially, since financing and construction costs
are at or near historic lows. She noted that the RCC Board would be
open to receiving proffer money from future development to reduce the
cost to Restonians.
Leila also mentioned that RCC will include citizen input in the
planning process. She noted that beauty and environmental concerns are
important, and that the new rec center should be an asset to surrounding
neighborhoods. She said that if the facility is built at Baron
Cameron, RCC has no intention of destroying or eliminating the existing
features (the fields, the dog park, the community garden, and the
trees). Reston’s citizens will ultimately have the final say on the
project, as they would need to vote for a bond referendum to allow the
rec center to be built.
After Leila finished her presentation, the community had its say. I
was glad to see the citizens so engaged on this issue; it’s obviously
something that we’ll be talking about for a long time to come.
Most citizens who spoke were in favor of, or at least open to, a new
rec center. Almost everyone acknowledges the need for more indoor pool
space. A representative of the Masters Swim Team pointed out that not
only is RCC’s existing pool small, but it’s got a temperature problem.
Swimmers like the water to be cool, but the pool is also used for
aquatic therapy, and those users need the water warm. RCC compromises
by setting the temperature somewhere in the middle, which pleases no
one. More aquatic space is needed, and the community seems to be on
board with that.
While they generally supported the idea of a facility, most citizens
who spoke also expressed concerns about the proposal. By far, the
biggest concern was the proposed location. Many of those who commented
live near Baron Cameron Park, and they were concerned or outright
opposed to building the rec center there.
The speakers noted that the park is very well-used already: the
soccer and baseball fields are fully subscribed, the dog park is
extremely popular, and the park is also a nice spot to take a walk.
They pointed out that outdoor recreation space is just as scarce in
Reston as indoor recreation space, and warned about supplanting one
shortage with another. They expressed concern about losing one of
Reston’s few remaining open spaces. They noted that the park is home to
wildlife, and they worried that the rec center would drive the animals
away. Several people argued that the rec center would bring additional
traffic, light, and noise to the surrounding area. In short, many
people thought it was the right facility in the wrong location.
Several speakers suggested alternate locations. The most popular
suggestions included the North Town Center area (near the library, where
the Park Authority owns some land), the Tall Oaks Village Center
, and the southwest corner of Lake Fairfax Park
(closest to the new Wiehle Metro station
). These sites would all be closer to the Toll Road corridor, where new growth is most likely to happen in the coming years.
Leila replied that alternative sites, including the ones mentioned,
are being considered. She did point out, however, that several of the
suggested sites had similar issues to Baron Cameron. For instance,
building at Lake Fairfax would also involve losing open space and
disrupting wildlife, while the North Town Center and Tall Oaks sites
would also present traffic challenges. She also pointed out that
building on a non-County-owned site would add to the project cost.
The other major concern expressed was how the project would be
financed. Several speakers pointed out that Reston does not have a
County-built rec center, and asked why Restonians shouldn’t ask for
their fair share of County funds. They urged RCC to seek out developer
proffers to help pay for the project. They noted that the cost of
living in Reston is high, and that additional taxes and fees would price
more people out of living here.
In response to the call for a County-funded facility, Leila said that
we could get one, but that Reston would be added to the lengthy list of
County funding request, and it could be years or even decades before
the County built a facility here. She also noted that local funding
brings with it local control, assuring that the new facility could be
programmed to meet the community’s needs. She said that partnering with
the Park Authority represented the best of both worlds: a County
contribution to the project, but built on Reston’s schedule and kept
under Reston’s control.
One of the things that pleased me about the forum was that several of
my fellow community leaders came to listen to the community. In
addition to several of my RCA Board colleagues, multiple RA Board
members (including President Ken Knueven) showed up, as did George Kain
of the ARCH Board, a number of cluster board members, and Bob Simon
himself. I’m glad that we were able to provide a forum where the
citizens were able to speak and the community’s leaders were there to
There’s a long way to go on this project before the referendum, and
Leila noted that both RCC and the Park Authority will offer many more
opportunities for public comment. So if you weren’t able to join us
last night, you still have a chance to be heard. I’m glad, though, that
RCA was once again able to help keep Restonians informed on an issue
that matters to our community’s future. I hope to see you at the next