Parks & Green Space
GROWING OUR PARKS, GREEN SPACE AND TREE CANOPY
- Protect and enhance our parks, natural areas, and tree canopy through adequate maintenance, land acquisition, and mindful development decisions (such as building up, under and over rather than out)
- Assess and address the impact of our development decisions on our natural areas – we should keep our green spaces green
- Ensure a balanced, data-driven, fiscally responsible approach to determine additional needs for natural areas, casual use space, recreational fields, and facilities
Parks and Green Space
With Arlington’s growth, our network of parks, natural areas and open space is more crucial to our community’s livability than ever before. As the County Board’s liaison to our Park & Recreation Commission, Urban Forestry Commission, the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust and NoVaParks, I am uniquely positioned to continue advocating for both maintenance and augmentation of our network of parks, nature centers, and our tree canopy.
In 2014, I fought ill-considered efforts to host housing in our public parks. It is both counter-intuitive and counter-productive to locate housing, schools, or any other unrelated development in our increasingly precious parkland and recreational sites.
I will continue to work and vote to keep our green space green. At my direction, the County Board agreed to consider the implementation of cost-benefit analysis to examine the impact of development projects on our parks, green space, tree canopy, and more.
As Board liaison to the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, I am working to incentivize more private conservation easements in Arlington by exploring a local property tax abatement program. In the same capacity with NoVa Parks, I recognize that NoVAParks is funding improvements to Upton Hill Regional Park (e.g., playground, climbing feature, mini-golf refurbishment) at no extra cost to Arlington. Yet I have been forceful that plans for a new road and greatly increased parking and impervious surfaces must be reconsidered.
Disappointed that County staff could not find a way to preserve the North Ohio Street dawn redwood tree, notwithstanding its location in a Resource Protection Area (RPA), I have asked the County Manager and County Attorney to collaborate on a public analysis and explanation of why they concluded as they did. I have also asked staff to develop specific action steps that we can take administratively or via Board action to increase tree preservation.
Key Action Steps
With my support, the County Board’s forthcoming update to our Planning our Public Spaces (POPS) Master Plan charts new ground to enhance our natural environment:
- First, we include objective criteria for land acquisition for the first time; yet we also need adequate funding, the nimbleness necessary to take advantage of immediate opportunities that can spring at any time, and the foresight essential to secure what we need and where for our future.
- Second, we will prioritize conversion of athletic fields from grass to turf at fields already lit in order to provide for our growing population of sports enthusiasts. But we must also maximize programming for the fields we already have through better County/Schools coordination and accelerate implementation of multi-use fields.
- Third, we will stress that trees and natural resources are an essential element to our public spaces. We must strengthen enforcement of existing permitting rules on public and private sites and consider a tree preservation ordinance similar to Fairfax that tilts the balance to tree conservation. I am working with our state legislative delegation to seek new legislative authority for Arlington to incentivize the maintenance of existing trees with the Chesapeake Bay Ordinance and as a stormwater management tool, rather than permit compliance by planting saplings that will take decades to flourish.
- Fourth, we will acknowledge that not all parks and green space must be programmed for maximum activity by recognizing the term casual use spaces. And while I lost my motion to expand a new park in the planned Rosslyn Plaza redevelopment 2-3, the Board needs to more aggressively press developers to provide for adequate open space in all site plan projects.
- Fifth, the plan recommends that Arlington explore becoming a “Biophilic Community”, recognizing the innate connection of humans to nature and the economic, social and health benefits of making natural elements accessible to all of our residents.
The Long Bridge Aquatic Center
While I would have supported a smaller community pool, I voted against the $60 million Long Bridge Aquatics Center because I felt that the money would be better spent on basics like parks maintenance and land acquisitions. The County already projects a net operating deficit of $1.1 million a year, and that’s just the initial projection.
As Chair of Arlington’s Urban Agriculture Task Force, I led a County Board-appointed citizen working group that helped raise the collective consciousness of Arlingtonians for both sustainable food growing practices and healthy eating. We now hold a robust network of 10 Farmers Markets across the County, more community gardens, expanded composting, a garden tools lending shed at Central Library, and enhanced agriculture education via the Cooperative Extension and in our schools. I am the liaison with the Friends of Urban Agriculture (FOUA), a community non-profit that provides leadership on these subjects.