o many residents turned out to quiz Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois at the Great Falls Citizens Association’s recent meeting that members of the executive board joked they should have her come every month to get people to attend the meetings. Several residents banded together in groups to state their opposition to a smattering of projects being developed in Great Falls, creating a lively discussion not normally witnessed during the GFCA meetings.
The issues of Observatory Park at Turner Farm and the proposed foot trail along Georgetown Pike were the most contested among the citizens. The decision to move forward with both projects was made years ago, which underscores the problem facing the GFCA.
“People don’t turn out for these meetings, that’s the problem,” said GFCA president David Olin. “Everyone is invited to come. In fact, we’re looking for nominations for the board [of GFCA]. We have a problem getting people to run.”
DuBois was peppered with questions about how Observatory Park evolved into its present scale. Numerous attendees contended they had not been told about the projects scope until recently. “There was extensive community input at that time. This was approved four years ago. A vote was taken, democracy rules,” said DuBois.
At the time these issues were being discussed by residents and by the county, Stuart Mendelsohn was the District Supervisor. DuBois took over that role this year.
GFCA member John Ulfelder said, “Where were they then?” However, when the meeting ran late and Olin and Ulfelder had to make a decision on whether to cut DuBois short and go on to GFCA business, Ulfelder said, “No, let’s go on a little longer. This is more fun.”
THE ISSUE OF the trail beside Georgetown Pike was also heatedly debated between those for the project and the homeowners who oppose it. Again, DuBois stated that this had been discussed years prior but told those against the trails it was not a fait accompli.
“The county is following a process. This is just a stage in the process,” she assured the crowd. A group of homeowners presented DuBois with a lengthy letter detailing their opposition to the trails on the basis that Georgetown Pike is already a hazardous road and adding pedestrians, dogs and even horses to the mix was ill advised.
DuBois, while not able to quash fears over those two projects, was able to offer citizens some good news regarding what’s expected out of the budget. She said $1.5 million dollars for trails in the area has been allotted and that the parks in Great Falls appear to be protected in the budget. The money for the trails, DuBois said, “will make some people here happy.” She added, “There’s also money for streetlights but they aren’t wanted here so maybe we can put more money into trails.”
DuBois said after the meeting, “This is healthy. It represents so many different aspects of the community. It’s like a New England town meeting.”
After DuBois ended her talk several of the less than 30 people attending the meeting left. Which prompted Olin to remark that if people want to be more involved in the decisions being made at GFCA they were “going to have to learn to stay 'till the end of the meeting.”