I hope that you are well and enjoying this Memorial Day weekend despite the many issues facing our community and the county. I am writing you to address just one: The gross disservice the DPD staff report does to Reston’s future parks needs, especially for large athletic fields, to serve the 90,000 people who are planned to live and 60,000 people who are planned to work in Reston’s TSAs per the existing and proposed Reston plans. And that doesn’t count the 80,000 people who could live in the suburban PRC parts of Reston at the current 13 people per acre cap, which I anticipate you will propose to increase.
Although you probably know the staff report by heart, I would like to emphasize the section regarding parks and playing fields:
…staff recommends the plan text provide guidance that prioritizes meeting athletic field needs through increased capacity at existing fields located near the TSAs. In addition, the text recommends that complimentary park features and amenities be provided in conjunction with athletic fields to ensure parks meet a range of community needs….
The staff recommendation goes on to note, “According to the population needs in Reston determined by the FCPA, provide capacity equivalent to at least 12 athletic fields, including one in or nearby each of the three TSA‘s.” No, the Parks & Recreation Policy Plan calls for 12 full-size athletic fields in areas with the planned density of Reston’s TSAs, not “equivalent capacity” and not “nearby”. In fact, DPD then defines Lake Fairfax, Stratton Woods, and Fred Crabtree parks as “nearby.” None of them are even in Reston. Except for the inaccessible southwest corner of Lake Fairfax Park, none of these parks nor any of their entrances are within a mile of any of Reston’s TSAs, nor are they accessible by walking, biking, or bus. They are by no reasonable definition “nearby” the TSAs and they do, in fact, discriminate against those without cars—usually the less fortunate in the Reston community.
These shortcomings (among many in the staff report) are set against the county’s Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Plan, approved by the Board of Supervisors, which brags that these parks and facilities, “play a key role in shaping both the landscape and the quality of life through the conservation of natural and cultural resources, protection of environmental quality, provision of public facilities and human services, and management of urban growth.” In the process, it lays out important goals for meeting county park needs. I will focus on two in which the Reston plan fails miserably:
- First, the policy establishes “countywide” Park Facility Service Level Standards. It specifically calls for one full-size rectangular athletic field for every 2,700 residents. With Reston’s TSAs planned for a population greater than 90,000, that means there should be 34 such fields easily accessible to Restonians, not 12 “near” the TSAs, much less 3. The 20 other categories of facilities have similar standards for our burgeoning Reston population, and allowance is given in the draft plan for very few of them, e.g.—construction of a Hunter Mill Recreation Center in RTCN, still a pipe cream despite being long overdue. No, instead you have endorsed a performing arts center instead of viable and needed park option when your district leads the county, a county rich in performance centers of all types, in performing arts centers.
· On a broader scale, the Urban Parks Framework appendix to the Parks & Recreation plan establishes an “element” for park size and service area stating “(n)ew developments should provide 1.5 acres per 1,000 residents and 1.0 acre per 10,000 employees.” This park service area should be “within a 5-10 minute walking distance (or ¼ -½ mile) from nearby offices, retail and residences.” That is, right in the TSAs. So, that means Reston TSAs should have about 140 acres of park land. We are not remotely close to that total, including the space BPX has set aside for mini-parks.
In short, the county staff’s recommendation make a farce of the county parks and recreation policy plan. As a longtime resident, it is utterly amazing to me that the Board continues regularly to ignore its own policies rather than relying on them to guide their decisions. They appear to be just glittery baubles the Board can point to when it serves their interest, not guidance for their deliberations and decisions.
The failure to provide adequate parks for Reston’s urban residents is all the more obvious when compared against Manhattan as I did a decade ago using the Trust for Public Lands data and methodology. First, it shows that Manhattan has more than three times as much land per capita committed to parks as Reston’s TSAs resulting in a similar metric for Park Accessibility Score.
Second, even with the three athletic fields in Reston’s currently approved plan, Reston has only two-thirds the number of fields per capita as Manhattan—and the Town Center has less than half of number of fields per capita as Manhattan.
If you and the Board are truly interested in advancing the county’s parks and recreation policies in Reston, I recommend you propose that the county put its money where its mouth is. Specifically, I propose that the county assume financial responsibility for maintaining, upgrading, and adding parks and facilities for all privately owned, but publicly accessible, parks and recreation facilities in the county, in addition to public lands. This includes Reston’s RA and BPX facilities. In so doing, the county should meet the owners’ expectations for the quality of those facilities and sustain all residents’ quality of life.
I wish you the best in advancing Reston residents—and voters—legitimate interests in sustaining its excellence in respecting our environment and sustaining our quality of life by rejecting the DPD’s proposals to further weaken draft Reston plan language regarding its parks and recreation—and other areas.
For your information, I will be sharing this with our Reston neighbors via NextDoor and other mechanisms. I am hopeful it stimulates their involvement in this draft review process, including participating in the June 6 community meeting you and John Carter are hosting regarding the draft plan and staff report at South Lakes High School at 6:30PM.
Thank you for listening.