Comments on Arlington’s Draft Public Spaces Master Plan (POPS)

August 31, 2017

I have attached my comments on the Draft Public Spaces Master Plan in Word format and also have pasted them into this e-mail.

Dear Ms. Lazic:

Because I can’t get the online system to send me a new password for access to the unwieldy online comment mechanism, I am sending you my comments on the Draft Public Spaces Master Plan in this form.

I endorse the comments provided by:

·         Peter Rousselot in ArlNOW: https://www.arlnow.com/2017/08/17/peters-take-will-there-be-room-for-all-in-arlingtons-new-parks-plan/ , particularly with respect to the acquisition of new green space 

·         The Arlington Tree Action Group

·         Suzanne Smith Sundburg

My additional comments follow:

Section 1.1 (p. iv and p. 70), Add at least 30 acres of new public space over the next 10 years: Consistent with comments you already received, include acquisition of green space for passive use and preservation of natural resources as a priority.  A paved public square set aside by a developer (or a rooftop “park” that most people are unaware of) do not provide the same quality of environmental benefit that green space does.  Adding to green space is important because the County continues to implement plans that take away passive green space (e.g., adding a second set of playground equipment to GlenCarlyn Park instead of replacing the old one).

 

Section 1.2 (p. 74), Make better use of existing public spaces through system-wide planning and investment in facilities:  I note that none of the priority actions from this section specifically cites preservation of existing green space or preservation of existing tree canopy.  The plan is biased in favor of recreational “FACILITIES.”  I live near Glen Carlyn Park, an invaluable natural resource that the County has allowed to degrade in several ways:  by taking away passive green space, allowing major damage to natural resources from the Glen Carlyn Dog Park (particularly loss of vegetation and erosion), and complete failure to maintain Sparrow Pond, a natural wetland and beaver pond that used to host nesting wood ducks and now hosts released goldfish.  Planning should include recognition of the need to maintain park resources (particularly natural resources).

 

Section 1.6 (p. v and p. 97), Ensure high-quality visual and physical access to the Potomac River, Four Mile Run, and their tributaries:  I am concerned about the meaning of providing “waterway access” to Lubber Run, Spout Run and Long Branch.  All of those tributaries are predominantly forested stream valleys.  They are ecologically important natural resources and, at least Long Branch is supposed to be protected by the Chesapeake Bay Plan.  Page 97 includes the following note:” “64% of people indicated they would support maintaining and preserving existing trees and natural areas–the highest rated improvement to the parks and recreation system,” yet the goal of adding “Waterway Access” on sensitive Four-Mile Run tributaries (boat docks? more paved trails?) appears to contradict that goal. 

 

I suggest that improved visual access to Four Mile Run would include restoring and maintaining Sparrow Pond as a beaver pond wetland that supports wildlife.  The water level gates have been damaged for years and not replaced.  Leaving the damage as is reportedly makes it easier for the County to maintain the adjacent bike path.  Higher water levels in the pond (i.e., the levels that were maintained historically and allowed for a wider variety of wildlife) reportedly create some bike path erosion problems.  Surely there is a way to address both goals — that is, don’t achieve the bike path goal by sacrificing the natural resource goal.  The County’s activities in recent years have been restricted to replacing the viewing stand (for a better look at the diminishing resource) and relocating the industrious beaver that actually restored the historic water levels.  The lack of care for truly natural resources is very discouraging.

 

Chapter 3 (p.v and p 120), Natural Resource Actions:  I wholeheartedly endorse updating the natural resource management plan (3.1) and the urban forest master plan (3.2) and protecting, restoring and expanding natural resources, particularly in riparian corridors along county waterways (3.3).  As I have noted above, I do not see that the County currently acts to protect, restore and expand . . ., so it is not surprising that item 3.3 is not a “Priority Item.”  If 64% of the people support that goal, why is it not a priority?  On some sub-topics:

·         I note also that subsections 3.3.6 and 3.3.7, involving coordination with Arlington Public Schools (APS), appear to accede to the disturbing trend by which the County has been allowing APS to take parkland for its schools: (a) allow APS to take the parkland, then (b) coordinate with them to cajole them into preserving some of the “taken” natural resources.  Stop giving away parkland.

·         Section 3.3.9 should not focus solely on evaluating whether potential natural resources will be added but to make it a priority to add natural resources.

 

Finally, as a footnote to my comments and those I have endorsed, it seems to me vitally important that the County actively seek to expand and protect green space in the County, particularly when development in private spaces continues to erode green space and the tree canopy.  Although the Hurricane Harvey rainfall was extreme, and the terrain in Texas is different from that in Arlington, there are lessons to be learned from looking at the results of unchecked paving in Houston.  Extraordinary rain events are not out of the question for this area, and our drainage system is dependent on the tidally-influenced Potomac River.  As you know runoff during high tides or in the face of a storm surge is compromised.  Arlington County, as part of planning for survival in a time of increasingly severe weather events should make green space (and that doesn’t mean artificial turf) a priority.

 

Thank you for this opportunity to submit my comments.

 

Sincerely,

 

Connie Ericson

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