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Residents Question Marymount's Use of Fairfax County Park

To Get Involved:

Public Hearing

Fairfax County Park Authority

Subject: Lights for two fields at Lewinsville Park on Chain Bridge Road in McLean.

Time: Thursday, June 27 at 7 p.m.

Place: Spring Hill Elementary School8201 Lewinsville Road, McLean

To view the Master Plan for Lewinsville Park, see: www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/MasterPlans/lewinsville/gif

McLean residents who could be affected by a proposal to add lights to two athletic fields at Lewinsville Park voiced their concerns at a meeting of the McLean Citizens Association’s committee on the environment, parks and recreation last week.

Committee Chairman Frank Crandall said adding lights and a proposed synthetic field surface could indirectly affect the surrounding area with "glare from the lights, noise from public address systems and problems with parking and traffic."

But the issue that got the most comment was the potential use of a Fairfax County park by Marymount University in Arlington, a private institution in a neighboring county.

In return for use of the field for home games, Marymount will pay for a synthetic turf surface at a cost of $500,000 or more.

Crandall said that Marymount's use of the field would be during the day, but resident Leonard Burman said there are night games on Marymount's schedule. "I am opposed to Marymount using the field," Burman said. "I don't want to create a college campus in my backyard."

Bob Jordan, another McLean resident, said that he is concerned about Marymount's use of the field. Spectators "will probably be doing other things than just watching the games," he said.

Several residents voiced the view that Arlington County should "take care of its own."

Marymount, though, was chosen by McLean Youth Soccer (MYS) because of the University's upstanding reputation. Marymount supervises sports activities and maintains a "no alcohol" policy, said MYS. About 75 spectators attend the average home soccer game, MYS said.

“The University enjoys a reputation as a good local citizen,” said an MYS handout. “About 30 percent of Marymount’s students are from Fairfax County, and its economic impact on Northern Virginia, Fairfax County, and the McLean area is considerable.”

The University’s use of the field won’t interfere with MYS games and practices, and installing synthetic turf will more than double the available use of the playing field, said MYS.

However, several residents who attended the meeting supported the sentiment of a speaker who said that "if the McLean Youth Soccer program is strong enough to raise money for the lights, then they can do it for the Astroturf."

Residents were told that the projected lights are level 8 technology lights, built with reflectors to shield the neighbors from glare and light trespass.

Burman said he is "worried that the lights will stay on like they do on the lighted field." According to Burman, one soccer field at the park that already has lights stays lit well past playing hours.

Crandall said making sure the lights are turned off at a reasonable time is the responsibility of the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA), which owns and administers the park. "It will go unenforced until someone 'blows the whistle' and makes it an issue," Crandall said.

Linda Lammersen, legislative assistant for parks for Stu Mendelsohn said that the ultimate decision is up to the Park Authority Board. She said that, while Mendelsohn supports the deal, there is no signed agreement. "The main concern is the overarching number of youth coming into the recreation field to play soccer. It is the number one sport," said Lammersen. "There has been a 15 percent increase in enrollment. When balancing resources, the county has to maximize land use with the most logical plan of use."

The Fairfax County Parks Authority will hold a public hearing about the lights on Thursday, June 27 at 7 p.m. at Spring Hill Elementary School.

"I have every intention of participating," said Crandall. "There are a number of issues that need to be addressed: noise, traffic and parking."