By next summer, Fairfax-area residents may be able to play their softball games into the night at Towers Park. Within two to four weeks, construction may begin to install athletic-field lighting with glare control on the existing 200-foot ball field.
Following installation of the lighting, the Fairfax County Park Authority will commence Phases 2 and 3 for the park, which is located to the east of Fairfax City near the intersection of Route 50 and Pickett Road. Phase 2 includes the regrading on existing fields and the installation of irrigation equipment, retaining walls, trails and sod. Phase 3 includes the renovation and expansion of the parking lot.
Currently, the park has a 65-foot diamond field, a bike and hiking trail managed by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, picnic areas, a tot lot and playground, and a parking lot with 28 spaces.
The $88,830 project, funded through a 1998 bond, will be completed by February 2004. Both latter phases don't have a time frame but are in design mode, said Fairfax County Park Authority public information officer Judy Pedersen.
Adding lights and improving irrigation to the site will enable the diamond field to achieve Level 1 field status, according to the park's master plan. A rectangular overlay field on the site has been used for youth soccer. The lights will also allow for increased usage of the park's ball field.
Fairfax resident Ewa Dornisch said people play in the park mostly during the summertime. She lives in an apartment in the neighboring Circle Towers development. She hadn't heard anything about improvements on the field until approached.
"We don't get a lot of noise, but [we get] some noise from the field," Dornisch said, adding that her two main concerns would be late-night noise level and bright lighting at night.
Pedersen said lighted fields are typically allowed to be lighted until 11 p.m. unless neighboring communities make requests otherwise. In the case of Towers Park, planning for the improvements included an illumination plan, which called for state-of-the-art lights that would be direct and minimize spillage.
Managers with Circle Towers Apartments and representatives with the Stonehurst Homeowners' Association didn't return phone calls about park improvements, and staff with Providence District supervisor Gerry Connolly said no citizens had contacted them about the park construction.
For local youth sports groups, the lighting will benefit a county already tight on space for softball and soccer fields. According to the county's Department of Community and Recreation Services, the Fairfax Police Youth Club is a frequent user of the space for its softball program.
"We constantly have a field shortage," Pedersen said. "Traditionally, we find a lot more players than fields."
The designated improvements will be for Towers Park north of Arlington Boulevard. The actual park is 27.6 acres, with land on both the north and south sides of Route 50. Fairfax County acquired the southern 11.72-acre parcel in 2000, and that site contains remains from the 19th-century Fairfax Circle Mill, as well as artifacts and evidence suggesting Native American occupation.