Referendum Will “Bridge” Revenue Years for Parks

Referendum Will “Bridge” Revenue Years for Parks

A $20 million bond referendum on the Nov. 5 ballot would serve as a bridge for Fairfax County parks, providing $15 million to buy land while it is still available, park officials say.

The rest, $5 million, would be used to pay for projects such as a new girls’ softball complex at Wakefield Park in Braddock District.

That money will also help complete projects that were deferred so money would be available to develop $1.8 million Clemyjontri Park in McLean, said Ted Zavora, planner for the Capital Facilities Branch of the Fairfax County Park Authority.

The project “scope” for Clemyjontri Park will go before an FCPA board committee for approval on Nov. 6, Zavora said.

“This will be our eighth bond referendum since 1959,” said Judy Pedersen, FCPA public information officer. All of the previous seven referenda have passed, she said.

“[Fairfax County] Voters have approved $288 million [as of] today. Each bond was approved by a greater percentage of voters,” she said.

“I think voters realize Fairfax County has a quality park system and has made a commitment to preserving open space.”

This year’s bond is intended as a “bridge” between a $75 million bond referendum in 1998, and a larger referendum tentatively planned for 2004.

From the $15 million for land acquisition, this year’s bond would provide funds to repay $2.5 million for a short-term note that financed the purchase of 246 acres of parkland on Pleasant Valley Road in Sully District.

Expenditures planned from the $5 million earmarked for development include $1.4 million for two tournament-quality girls’ softball fields at Wakefield Park and $3.6 million for deferred projects, Pedersen said.

“Those are the only two absolutes in the bond program .We envision the $5 million for development to finish some projects that were left over from the ‘98 bond,” she said.

“This is an interim bond. The reason we ask the Board of Supervisors to allow this is because of our concerns about the disappearance of open space,” Pedersen said. “We are afraid if we wait two more years, there won’t be much left to purchase.

Pedersen said FCPA officials can’t be more specific about the land they’d like to buy because such knowledge could affect the market price.

“If we gave specifics on land we hope to purchase, the price would definitely jump,” she said.

Generally, the FCPA looks for land near existing parkland or stream valleys where it fits the zoning in the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

“In less densely developed areas, [FCPA] looks for parcels of 10 or more acres or assemblages,” Pedersen said, “while in denser areas, smaller pieces of land could be used for infill parks in existing neighborhoods.”

FCPA tries to leverage its available funding by seeking easements, proffers, donations, and other means of getting more bang for the buck.

Bonds are paid back over time, and Fairfax County limits its long-term debt to three percent of the total market value of taxable property. Bond sales are capped at $200 million per year.

In McLean, the Friends of McLean Central Park recently raised money to renovate the park and add a bandshell and tot lot. The group will be honored next month with the Elly Doyle Award, Pedersen said. “Friends of McLean Central Park is a great example of how partnerships work between the FCPA and the community,” said Pedersen.

“They have done their own fundraising, involved the community, and worked closely with their supervisor and the FCPA board.

“They have taken advantage of our matching grant program.”

In a ceremony scheduled on Wednesday, Oct. 30, the McLean Citizens Foundation will present a check for $10,000 to the Fairfax County Park Foundation, FCPA’s fundraising arm.

The money will be used to purchase flowering cherry trees in McLean Central Park, Pedersen said.