Talking About Fields

Talking About Fields

MYS officials visit MCA to open dialogue about soccer fields

Last week, McLean Youth Soccer chairman Ted Kinghorn and McLean Youth, Inc., chairman Forrest Horton attended a meeting of the McLean Citizens Association to present their vision for more playing fields in McLean.

Under their vision, citizens would help locate available space, with MYS and MYI “adopting” the fields from the Fairfax County Park Authority and maintaining them from their budget which “approaches $700,000,” Kinghorn said. Some 40 percent of that is spent on field maintenance, he said.

“Our charter is to serve the needs of all children” regardless of age, sex, national origin, religious affiliation and economic status, Kinghorn said.

He said membership in MYS is growing; enrollment this fall is at about 3,400 players.

He estimated they from 2,500 families and form 260 teams. Horton estimated some 10,000 families participate in MYI.

Kinghorn said MYS enrollment is growing faster than Vienna’s, and “I have an intuitive sense to serve them well.”

He said about 600 new members have signed up to play in grades K-6 and 7-8 “You as parents, and grandparents, perhaps,” will appreciate that, he said.

SEVERAL MCA MEMBERS commented they were happy to see the soccer league representative open a dialogue.

“Since 1963 [when MYI organized], this is the first time I’ve seen you people here to open a dialogue,” said John Fredericks, member of the MCA. “I appreciate that.”

Several times in recent months, tension has run high between MYS and the citizens that organized the efforts to acquire public land for use as soccer fields.

First was a field at Lewinsville and Spring Hills Roads that Fairfax County acquired as a proffered development condition from the Holladay Corporation. Later it was leased to MYS by the Board of Supervisors, the owner.

The Lewinsville Coalition, which negotiated the proffer, and MYS resolved community differences concerning exclusive use, lighting, and fencing .

Later, though, MYS was planning to add two fields at Spring Hill Recreation Center, by adding dirt and grading sloping lands that border Bull Neck Run. That plan is now on hold, but MYS still wants, and needs, the added fields, said Kinghorn and Horton.

“I think some of our goals are quite a bit different than what you cited here,” said MCA board member Stephen Palmer of Woodside Estates.

“I also sit in this room and listen to people whose homes are being threatened” [by field development].

“There has not been historically the dialogue between the MCA and youth sports,” he said, asking for understanding of “the sensitivities of the people in the county.”

“We all know there can be two distinct views on each side of the issue. Truth and balance resides somewhere in the middle. I would think the MCA would want to keep that in balance with other HOA groups,” said Kinghorn.

“At least on Holladay [field] there was a little bit of a feeling of ‘cram it down your throat’ that was deeply resented by those who spent a couple of years creating that opportunity,” said Palmer.

FRANK CRANDALL of the Fairfax County Environmental Quality Advisory Council said he is “skeptical” at the possibility of adding new fields at Spring Hill Rec Center because of their impact on Bull Neck Run.

He recommended that anyone interested in the proposal first read a report from the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District about the impact of such use on the stream bed.

Bill Byrnes asked if MYS would “balance the interests of youth against the interests of conservation.”

Most recently, an MYS proposal to lease a field at Lewinsville Park to Marymount University has become controversial.

Citizens from the West Lewinsville Heights Citizens Association say they want input into decisions regarding the use of the fields.

At the meeting last week, WLHCA vice president Jack Hannon asked Kinghorn if MYS would inform citizens before taking its proposal to public boards.

“Is the MYS leadership, not the coaches, prepared to meet with the homeowner associations and MCA before going to the Board of Supervisors [for approval]?” Hannon asked.

Kinghorn said the Fairfax County Park Authority has already approved lights for the field at a meeting on July 31.

“There will be a process,” he said, pointing out that a scheduled master plan review of the Spring Hill Recreation Center is due for a review and would provide an opportunity to address any issues then.

“The CPA has approved the lights [at Lewinsville ] Park,” he said.

“I was asking whether MYS will attempt to inform the homeowners before they spring public hearings on people,” Hannon said.

“It is not fair for MYS to have to initiate the dialogue,” said Kinghorn. “The HOA has a responsibility to contact us.”

MYS will let the decision-making process take its course, he said.

He said MYS has recently formed a new position on its board for a member who will do community relations.

“If the homeowners and civic associations were brought into the process when these things are initially proposed, rather than when they are effectively approved, the process would work better and it would avoid conflict and controversy,” MCA President John Foust said later. “We kind of facilitate that process through the MCA on land use issues.”

“IF YOU ASK [CITIZENS] if they want a field that abuts their property, they would say ‘no,’ said Chuck Pedano, a resident of the neighborhood bordering public land at Spring Hill Recreation Center.

“At what point do we have to absorb an intrusion on our property rights?” he said.

“Why is the only field being proffered the one the [Lewinsville Association] citizens got?” Pedano asked.

“We’ve got nine fields already in the Spring Hill area. You want fields anywhere you can get them, regardless of the impact,” he told Kinghorn.

MYS has re-configured its house league schedule by staggering games to reduce the pressure on parking areas at Spring Hill, said Kinghorn.

“All I am here for — as a volunteer — the topic happens to be sports — is to solve problems,” he said.

“I MET WITH THE CITIZENS back in August,” said Dranesville District Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn. “I know the [Fairfax County] Park Authority and MYS are talking, but I don’t think they’ve reached an agreement.”

“They are looking at whether they can move the artificial turf [at Lewinsville Park] to another field,” he said. “Before they find out if it’s feasible, they can’t come to any kind of agreement. I don’t know if [MYS has] even met with the park authority. I think MYS has to work something out with the Park Authority before they can even do something with Marymount. "