The following note on the planned boathouse facility at 1101 Lee was posted to "Arlington ParksWatch" by Bernie Berne, a longtime CivFed parks advocate and currently president of the BlueMont Civic Association.
The note is part of a thread concerning park stewardship (or its lack) and the Park Bond Referendum included in this year's election.
You do not seem to be aware of how the County staff manipulates the County Board when it wants to destroy trees in parks to build something. Let me therefore enlighten you about a project will do exactly that on a property that the County Board acquired from a private owner in 2014 using park bond funds designation for land acquisition.
That property is at 1101 Lee Highway in Rosslyn, between I-66 and the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The Custis Trail passes by the property as it travels between N. Lynn Street and the Mount Vernon Trail. The property contains a woodland with an number of mature trees. Many people see it as they travel on the Custis Trail.
When the County acquired the property, the County Manager's report and a subsequent County news release stated that the County would determine the use for the site following a comprehensive public engagement process. The report and news release state that the County could use the property for an ancillary support facility for a Rosslyn boathouse, for passive recreation or for other uses. Neither the Manager's report nor the news release provided any indication of a preferred use for the property.
However, the County's Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) had its own ideas for the use of the property and how to achieve its goals. As soon as the County acquired the property, DPR informed the National Park Service (NPS) that the County had determined that property should be used for a Rosslyn boathouse support facility and associated parking spaces. This would destroy most or all of the trees.
As a result, in July 2018, the NPS in collaboration with the County issued a draft environmental assessment for an Arlington Non-Motorized Boating Facility whose preferred alternative would construct the support facility and the parking spaces on the property.
When people complained that the County had done this without first conducting any public engagement process, County staff stated the the public review might take place during next several years, after the NPS has selected the final alternative for the boathouse. This will undoubtedly be the same as the preferred alternative. The trees will be gone.
To justify this, County staff fabricated a story. Staff alleged in a message to John Vihstadt that the 2005 Public Spaces Master Plan and a 1990s Open Space Master Plan had recommended that the County acquire the 1101 Lee Highway property for use as a boathouse support facility. However, neither of those Master Plans actually recommended the acquisition of that property or any other nearby private property for any purpose.
Despite the obvious fallaciousness of the staff's story, the County is proceeding on its course. The woodland will be gone, to be replace by impervious surfaces containing a building and parking spaces.
Of course, nobody knew that this would happen when they voted to approve the bond issue that provided the funds for the acquisition of the property. Further, nobody will be able to successfully oppose the use of the property or the loss of tree canopy when the County Manager recommends that the County fund the project when DPR decides to place it in the CIP.
That is because the NPR, in cooperation with the County, will have already selected the alternative that would use the property for a boathouse support facility. Any public engagement process that takes place will probably occur during the development of a future CIP, by which time it will be too late to save the trees.
That is the reason that nobody should support any Parks Bond that contains funds for land acquisition. DPR will determine how the land will be used, making up a story if needed that states that the County Board has already approved a use for the site. That use will be something that somebody wants use for purposes other than preservation of natural areas and trees..