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Clarks Crossing Park: A 'Lot' of Controversy

Some neighbors don’t want any more parking spaces built at Clarks Crossing Park. But those neighbors are going to be disappointed.

At a public meeting last Thursday Gwen Minton, Hunter Mill representative to the Fairfax County Park Authority Board of Directors, unveiled a proposal to build a 35-space parking lot at Clarks Crossing. The parking lot would serve users of the park, which includes two practice soccer fields regularly used by Vienna Youth Soccer. And because the parking spaces are part of a 1981 master plan, which dictates development of the park, the county does not need any additional approvals to build the lot.

"The county can develop this by-right," Minton said.

EVEN SO, around 90 people showed up at Wolftrap Elementary last week to find out more about the project. One meeting attendee asked why county officials would call a public hearing if they had already decided to build the parking lot.

"It's a double-edged sword," said John Pitts, project manager with the Fairfax County Park Authority. "Do we come out and say what we’re doing, or do we just build it and suffer the fallout?"

And although some residents spoke in favor of the lot, most were against it. People were mainly concerned with safety and crowding issues. Right now Clarks Crossing Road dead ends at the Washington and Old Dominion Trail, just opposite the park. But the parking lot is proposed to be built next to the soccer field, and would require that Clarks Crossing Road be extended over the bike trail.

"We want a safe solution," said Tony LaBarbera, resident of the nearby Full Cry Farm neighborhood.

"We don’t want the bike-path crossing," said Carla Young, another neighborhood resident.

Pitts said the county is still considering a proposal to build the parking lot on the Clarks Crossing Road side of the trail. This would eliminate the need for a road crossing over the bike trail, but it would cost more money. Construction costs would be about the same for either proposal --— between $150,000 and $200,000. But building the parking lot on the Clarks Crossing Road side would cut into the property at two, and possibly three, private residences. This would create some unknown right of way costs, Pitts said.

RESIDENTS AT THE MEETING also wondered how many more people would be enticed to use the multi-purpose trail, if a 35-space parking lot was built. Pitts said 35 spaces are required for a soccer field where both games and practices are scheduled. In the event that the parking lot is built, the two fields at the park would be designated for Vienna Youth Soccer practice on weekday evenings and Saturdays only. No games would be scheduled at the park. So, Pitts said, 35 spaces should be sufficient. But some residents disagreed.

"Thirty-five spaces assumes that the only thing there is the soccer field," said Robert Deal, president of the Full Cry Farm Homeowners Association. "But there will be people using the parking lot to ride their bikes, or ride their horses. You’re going to have 35 cars with bike racks in that parking lot."

Pitts said there is no county formula to adjust for the trail users who may park in the lot. But, he said, there may be room to build more parking spaces at the site. But not all the residents around the park think additional parking spaces are the best solution.

"They are taking a local, little, neighborhood park and developing it," LaBarbera said. "They want to turn it more into the vision of a regional park, like Nottoway."

Currently there is a small gravel parking lot at the end of Clarks Crossing Road. But residents say the lot is constantly full with trail users. Soccer field users must park in the Carriage Hill Neighborhood, on the other side of the bike trail, to get to the park. From Carrhill Road there is a mulch path, with some raised stones across a small creek, leading to the soccer fields.

"Its a good thing to have parking lot so people on Carrhill don’t have parking issues," Minton said at the meeting. "I would love you to view this from a positive perspective rather than a negative perspective."

The county plans to start construction sometime in spring of 2003.

SOME RESIDENTS thought that the county did not sufficiently publicize last week’s hearing. Residents said that since the parking lot was approved so long ago, in 1981, the county should have done more to notify citizens that the parking lot was coming. But Minton said the county has been holding meetings regarding the parking lot for the last two years.

Graham Makenzie, president of the Carriage Hill Civic Association, said he attended one of those meetings with Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill).

"I’m shocked they have made their decision," Makenzie said. "Hudgins stood on one of our homeowner’s decks two years ago and said the county will not make any decision without homeowner input."

Makenzie said the decision to build the parking lot seemed like a political one.

"I don’t know how many members are in Vienna Youth Soccer, but there are many more members than there are people who live around the park," Makenzie said.