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The Fairfax County Park Authority’s (FCPA) revised concept for redeveloping McLean Central Park got a boost July 16 from the McLean Community Center’s Governing Board, which issued a letter supporting three elements of the plan.
“We envision the area as a vibrant center for spontaneous public gatherings that promotes a sense of community, supports local businesses, and nurtures the arts while maintaining the natural environment,” wrote Governing Board chairman Barbara Zamora-Appel in the letter, which was addressed to FCPA’s acting executive director, Sara Baldwin, and sent to other prominent county officials as well.
The 11-member Governing Board’s letter favored development at the park of a sustainable amphitheater with technical equipment, public seating and accessible restroom facilities. The letter also supported providing an accessible drop-off point at the park, and public-art displays in various locations.
“We support the plan with the understanding that the FCPA will develop the facility in a way that respects the natural habitat, maximizes green space, and addresses neighborhood traffic flow,” Zamora-Appel wrote.
The Governing Board agrees with the Park Authority’s master-plan assessment that the proposed amphitheater location would take advantage of sloping terrain to minimize impacts on neighbors, and that grass surfaces on its tiers would be easy to maintain and not add to the park’s impervious surfaces.
If the amphitheater had lighting, it would allow for later programming during seasons when it gets darker earlier in the evening, Zamora-Appel told the Sun Gazette.
The Governing Board’s letter comes after the McLean Citizens Association (MCA) on July 7 passed a resolution opposing the installation of an amphitheater at the site unless the Park Authority could demonstrate a specified need.
MCA members questioned whether the amphitheater would be necessary, given the proximity of the park’s gazebo, McLean Community Center’s Alden Theatre and Capital One Hall, which is due to open soon.
Governing Board members said the park’s current gazebo has no access to electricity or technology, making it harder for community groups to use the facility, and costs the community center $2,000 in labor expenses per event. The community center uses a modular sound system at the site, which costs about $87,000 to replace every five to seven years, the letter read.
According to the Governing Board’s letter, the community center’s Summer Concert Series typically draws 150 to 275 people per event; as many as 450 have been accommodated without difficulties.
MCA’s resolution also expressed concern about noise and other impacts on surrounding neighborhoods and opposed the potential loss of trees from installation of the drop-off area. They also wanted the Park Authority to maintain the park’s existing facilities better.
Both MCA and the Governing Board favored construction of a pedestrian bridge over Dolley Madison Boulevard to provide a safe link between the park and McLean’s Community Business Center (CBC).
The Board of Supervisors on June 22 approved a revised CBC comprehensive-plan amendment intended to encourage redevelopment of McLean’s downtown. The highest-intensity development would occur near Elm Street and Beverly Road, located just a few blocks from McLean Central Park.
“The synergies of multiple plans coming together is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to build a legacy, one in which green spaces, arts, and culture work in harmony for our future generations,” Zamora-Appel wrote.
Fairfax officials have extended through July 30 the public-comment period concerning the proposed revisions to McLean Central Park’s 2013 master plan. For more information and to comment about the proposals, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/planning-development/development/mcleancentralpark.