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The Fairfax County Park Authority’s recently proposed master-plan revisions for McLean Central Park lacked sufficient notice for proper public scrutiny and contained elements that could affect surrounding neighborhoods negatively, McLean Citizens Association (MCA) board members said June 2.
The board unanimously approved a letter that president Robert Jackson will send to county officials, highlighting the association’s reservations about the park’s revised master plan.
Before the Park Authority finalizes the master plan, MCA wants the agency to extend the comment period regarding the park’s developmental concept; conduct traffic, parking and noise studies; and analyze how the park improvements could be integrated effectively with proposed comprehensive-plan changes to McLean’s Community Business District (CBC).
MCA members did not have adequate time to prepare for the Park Authority’s May 24 “virtual” meeting ,and some members thought agency officials did not give satisfactory answers, said Barbara Ryan, chairman of MCA’s Environment, Parks and Recreation Committee.
Much has changed since the Park Authority approved McLean Central Park’s original master plan in 2013, Ryan said. Major redevelopment in Tysons has led to increased traffic congestion in areas between McLean and Tysons, she said.
In addition, significant proposed comprehensive-plan changes for the McLean CBC – which county officials now are considering, amidst copious negative feedback from the public – would result in a far more urban downtown McLean, with considerable increases in population density, Ryan said.
The 28-acre park is located at 1468 Dolley Madison Blvd., adjacent to Dolley Madison Library and the McLean Community Center.
Most of the land within the park is located in designated resource-protection areas, and the public has shown greater sensitivity about McLean’s natural areas, Ryan said.
Since 2013, there also have been major initiatives at other local parks, including Clemyjontri, Langley Fork and National Park Service areas, and eventually the Park Authority will develop part of the Salona site, Ryan said.
MCA’s letter expressed concern about diluting existing green spaces at the park. There has not been enough public input regarding desired new features and some – including the amphitheater, bocce courts and game tables – lack documented demand, it says.
McLean residents want the Park Authority to improve the park’s tennis courts, outdated playgrounds and skateboard facilities. The proposed plan potentially could reduce the number of tennis courts in favor of a dog park, Ryan said.
While MCA conditionally supported an amphitheater at the park in 2013, the current proposal is more urban and does not seem appropriate for the location, she said.
The McLean Community Center already has the Alden Theatre, McLean Central Park has a gazebo, and Capital One Hall in Tysons soon will begin offering performances, Ryan said.
The proposed amphitheater would be located in a quiet neighborhood and likely offer night events, Ryan said. This would create significant noise, parking and traffic issues, she said.
The MCA board also is concerned that the Park Authority might raze a highly wooded area to install in a turn-around to accommodate traffic for the amphitheater, Ryan said.
The revised park master plan also does not address the need for safe pedestrian access from across Old Dominion Drive, she added.
“This is a planning issue that the Park Authority really needs to work inter-divisionally with [the county’s Department of Transportation] and the broader county,” Ryan said. “They seem not really interested in doing that.
They’re looking at it in a vacuum. It’s hard to say what our recourse is here, if the county is not willing to look at this holistically.”
MCA board member Paul Kohlenberger said Park Authority officials likely are pursuing an amphitheater at the site in order to meet required service levels. No such public amphitheater exists in northeast Fairfax County, he said.
McLean Community Center officials in 2013 expressed reservations about the proposed amphitheater, citing programming and maintenance concerns, he said.
Raj Mehra, who serves on the community center’s Governing Board, said that body has concerns about the amphitheater’s proposed location, but generally supports it now. The amphitheater likely would supplement the Alden Theatre and not compete with Capital One Hall, which will provide different kinds of programming, he said.
“Overall, we’re not opposed to the amphitheater,” Mehra said. “We just think it needs to be thought through better.”