Park Plans Finalized

Park Plans Finalized

Windmill Hill Park public hearing, Council action set for March.

Finally, a plan for Windmill Hill Park will get its day before City Council.

The Windmill Hill Park steering committee approved a plan but did not re-vote on all of the components.

"The committee has agreed to bring this plan forward to Council,” said Sandra Whitmore, the director of the department of Parks Recreation and Cultural Activities.

The plan includes a boardwalk that connects the park to Ford’s Landing. There will also be a kayak launch in the park. All of the old pilings will be removed.

“There was some thought to leaving some of the pilings but they need to be removed in order for us to complete the work that we have to do,” Whitmore said. “We will put markers for the kayaks after we have completed the work to direct them into the channel.”

The seawall will be constructed with a combination of hard and soft edges. Appropriate plants will be planted along the soft edges.

“We will widen the sidewalks and construct additional sidewalks to ensure that we have them all around the park,” Whitmore said. “Also, we will have additional pedestrian walkways so that people can more easily get from one side of the park to the other.”

The tot lot will remain where it is, as will the volleyball and basketball courts. The pedestrian trail from the Wilkes Street tunnel will be straightened.

There will be a seating area near the kayak launch and picnic tables near the tot lot. The educational component will consist of interpretive markers that describe the flora and fauna and a station where school children can take water samples from the Potomac. There will not be any type of structure such as a building or a pavilion.

The most controversial component of the plan is the off-leash dog park. That area will remain on the river with a tunnel to provide access to the river for the dogs. The vote on this component was five to three with one abstention. Some members of the committee have expressed concern about the wisdom, environmentally, of having an off-leash dog park on the river and allowing dogs to swim in the strong currents that are often not safe for kayakers and canoers.

“I will be looking to see whether environmental impacts were researched and accounted for in the recommendations,” said Councilwoman Claire Eberwein. “And, of course, the Council will be interested in seeing whether the parameters set by Council, after input from a broad range of citizens last spring, have been adequately considered. I think the task force did a good job under sometimes difficult circumstances, but it’s up to the Council to do the final analysis.”

Mayor Kerry J. Donley agreed. “I have said all along that I want to make sure that all of the components that we laid out in our direction to the task force are included,” he said. “Also, I want to make sure that this park is accessible to all members of the city. I want to ensure that the community has access to the Potomac River for educational pursuits; recreational pursuits and that we are protecting it as a resource.”

The plan will come to Council in March, at which time there will be a work session and a public hearing prior to the final vote.