Letters to County Board concerning Benjamin Banneker Park

September 17, 2019
Dear Chair Dorsey,
I have been sent a copy of a letter from E2C2 expressing concerns regarding the proposed improvements to Benjamin Banneker Park, with a request for more information.
I don’t know who has seen this letter or whether anyone responded to E2C2’s concerns and request. So I am forwarding it on to you and the rest of the County Board in case you have not seen it.
With kind regards,
Suzanne Smith Sundburg
Arlington, Va.



September 16, 2019
Dear Chair Dorsey,

I’m writing to request that consent agenda item 37 on the County Board’s 9-21-19 agenda be pulled so that the item can be discussed at the recess meeting on 9-24-19 and public comment can be heard.

Having reviewed staff’s report, I see at least two issues are worth additional discussion.

1) E2C2’s meeting minutes for 1-28-19 and 3-25-19, (https://arlingtonva.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2019/05/1-28-19-Meeting-Summary-mh.pdf and https://arlingtonva.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2019/05/E2C2-summ-3-25-19-.pdf) discuss E2C2 members’ concerns about the loss of trees and the net increase of impervious surfaces on a site prone to flooding, among other things, as well as a letter to the County Board regarding the project.

Unfortunately, E2C2’s letter to the County Board is not contained in the staff report for consent agenda item 37, nor is it posted to E2C2’s webpage. So it’s impossible to know what, if anything staff did to address E2C2’s concerns.

As I understand it, at least two members of the public also expressed similar concerns when the County Board reviewed this project, which occurred before the catastrophic flooding that occurred on 7-8-19.

2) The fact that Benjamin Banneker Park lies in a floodplain and contains both a floodway and a resource protection area is indisputable. Staff appears to have ignored the special constraints of this site in its planning.

The flood risk in this area should have incentivized staff to decrease impervious surfaces and plant more trees (since this is a public park), rather than removing trees and creating additional impervious surfaces. Reducing stormwater runoff in this area to reduce flood hazard is a matter of public safety.

I have attached a movie file. This short film documents the extensive flooding not only in Benjamin Banneker Park on 7-8-19 but also on the adjacent streets, including 18th Street North and what appears to be N. Van Buren Street.

Based on my own research (see below), I believe there are feasible options for porous paving options that could be utilized instead of asphalt. A company with a long-standing track record of successfully installing ADA-compliant, porous/permeable gravel and grass pavement systems for trails and parking lots nationwide, including a trail system on Jekell Island, GA, which has withstood hurricanes. The costs for these systems also appear to be highly competitive with other porous and conventional paving alternatives.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Suzanne Smith Sundburg

Video-Benjamin Banneker Park – Flooded where staff will put the new playground

Porous Pavement Alternatives
Where land is flood-prone and/or contains a Chesapeake Bay RPA, particularly on public parkland, Arlington County has a responsibility to minimize land disturbance, tree removal. These vulnerable areas were designated as public parkland because they were deemed essential to mitigating flood damage and were meant to be kept in a natural, minimally developed state.
Any changes should be designed to restore the capacity of these areas to maximize their effectiveness to reduce runoff volume and speed, absorb stormwater and minimize flood risk to developed areas nearby and downstream.
If pavement must be added, there are ADA-compliant alternatives to asphalt and concrete and permeable paving stones. The ADA law, as I understand it, doesn’t specifically require asphalt or concrete for compliance.

The surface for a walkway must be firm, stable and skid resistant to be ADA compliant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4oxH791Qm8

And open-cell unit pavers (also referred to as grass or gravel pavers, plastic grid pavers or reinforced turf) provide a porous, stable surface that is flexible and less prone to clogging with sediment.

Invisible Structures has a long track record, and all of its surfaces are ADA compliant:

Is Grasspave2 ADA Compliant? Absolutely. All of our products are ADA Compliant. Even Terratame2 has a patented slip resistant grip to make traction easier in wet conditions. https://invisiblestructures.com/frequently-asked-questions/

Invisible Structures’ Gravelpave2 system has been approved as wheelchair accessible/ADA compliant for the Pentagon Memorial here in Arlington: https://invisiblestructures.com/gravelpave2/



Here is a description of the Jekell Island trail system (see photo below) which winds around marshlands and has withstood storm tides and heavy rain events since 1994: https://invisiblestructures.com/product/gravelpave2/jekyll-island-trail-jekyll-island-georgia/
“The path has provided quiet, cool respite for island visitors, since 1994, has withstood storm tides and tropical depressions, and provides magnificent vistas over the green and gold marshlands which cossett much of the trail. It is the first porous paving medium that the Georgia Department of Transportation has approved for such environmentally sensitive coastal areas. This was funded by an ISTEA Grant under the Federal Highway Dept, administered by the state DOT. Cyclists and runners alike love it. ADA accessibility makes this trail that much more special. People with disabilities and families with strollers enjoy frequenting the path as well.”
Jekyll Island Gravelpave2 trail-1

Jekyll Island Gravelpave2 trail-1

The plastic grid reinforced gravel-grasspave2 system is very competitive cost wise with both conventional and porous pavement alternatives.
Below is a cost comparison for porous vs. nonporous pavement alternatives (dated 2010). This example is for a driveway (there is also a slide with parking lot costs): https://www.oregonmetro.gov/sites/default/files/2014/05/20/porousapril2010web.pdf
Driveway porous vs nonporous pavement cost alternatives 2010

Driveway porous vs nonporous pavement cost alternatives 2010

Here’s the Grasspave/Gravelpave YouTube video (a good overview that discusses low maintenance costs, among other things):https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IkpmcrXSIE

The existing runoff problem at Banneker from “lawn” surfaces should not be an impediment to using a more porous trail or parking alternative surface. If conditions in portions of the park are unsuitable for porous pavement, then staff should adjust its plans. When best management practices cannot resolve development issues in floodplains, floodways and RPAs, then it is inappropriate for the land to be further disturbed or developed.

Below are some other examples of Grass/Gravelpave2 surfaces installed in the U.S. and abroad


Grasspave 2 for the NRG Stadium (formerly called the Houston Astrodome) parking lot in Houston, TX, the largest grass porous system:https://invisiblestructures.com/product/grasspave2/nrg-stadium-houston-texas/
Old Houston Astrodome w:less than 1 acre of green space

Old Houston Astrodome w:less than 1 acre of green space

Houston stadium today-1

Houston stadium today-1

Soccer Stadium Parking Lot Mexico - Grasspave and Gravelpave combo

Soccer Stadium Parking Lot Mexico – Grasspave and Gravelpave combo

Other grass/gravel grid pavement systems:

Here’s the GeoPave system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBUWCCcmZqk (can be cleared with a snowplow or snowblower)

And here’s the DuPont Plantex GroundGrid: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBVD3KStQAw
EasyPave Gravel/Grass Paving System: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLU02oQf_ac