Sometime in the future, Nottoway Park will have a new soccer field, according to the plan approved by the Fairfax County Park Authority on Dec. 8. The plan was approved unanimously, with members Harold Strickland (Sully) and George Lovelace (At large) absent.
The revision of the master plan for the park has taken approximately two years, and some residents who are upset about the trees that will be lost to accommodate the field think it should have taken a bit longer. "My issue is really about process," said Rebecca Sewall of Vienna. "There's been no input into what's here now."
The plan calls for adding a new rectangular soccer field at the expense of approximately two acres of trees. The existing rectangular field and the new field will be lighted and have an artificial turf surface.
The plan also calls for a new internal drive, more parking, new paths and trails, and formally recognizes the importance of Hunter House. A proposed maintenance facility has been rejected.
In addition, the plan seeks to keep a 6.75-acre wooded area, acquired in 2001, in its natural state.
Over the course of the planning process, the Fairfax County Park Authority has conducted three public hearings and multiple formal comment periods. "We've received considerable citizen input with this project," said Park Authority representative Joanne Malone (Providence). "We've had many discussions with individuals and groups."
The Park Authority has not, however, conducted any hearings or formal comment periods since the release of this version of the Master Plan about three weeks prior to the Dec. 8 meeting.
However, informal letters expressing opinions about the plan have been accepted and distributed to the Board members, said Judy Pedersen, spokesperson for the Park Authority.
IN ACCORDANCE with normal Park Authority procedures, no public comment was accepted during the business meeting when the plan was adopted.
"Maybe this is the best idea, but it was never voted on [by the public]," said Will Eiseman, whose property abuts the park. "They said you can't talk, and we're approving it."
Much of the citizen concern centers around the loss of trees to accommodate the new field. During the public-hearing phase of the review process, the proposed plan generated extreme citizen opposition to the expansion of an existing maintenance facility.
However, Sewall said, the opposition was not about the facility itself. "We objected to the maintenance facility not because it was a maintenance facility but because they were going to tear down the trees," she said.
Sewall would have liked the opportunity for the public to weigh in on the final plan prior to its adoption. "If we're going to battle it out over a proposed plan, fine," she said.
The process for the plan, Pedersen said, has already taken a long time by Park Authority standards and did not need to take any longer. "There comes a time when you have to make a decision," she said.
Even with the new plan, the trees are likely to remain for the immediate future. "This field would not be developed until the storage area and maintenance shed would be moved off site," Malone said.
This will involve a new Master Plan process for a different park that adds the facility there, Pedersen said. "It really can't move until we find another site," she said.
After the facility is moved, design and construction of the new field will take approximately two years and cost approximately $750,000, said Ted Zavora, branch manager for the Financial Planning Division. Currently, no funding exists for the field.
NOT EVERYONE is upset about the new field. "We're excited to see rectangular fields added wherever they can in the county," said Richard Montano, president of Vienna Youth Soccer.
While Montano isn't happy about the tree loss, his group has other priorities. "Our concern is about providing safe and cost-effective playing fields for the kids," he said.
Since the new field will be made of artificial turf, it will require lower maintenance and can be used even after heavy rainfall. Also, since it is lighted, it can be used into the night, which will also increase its capacity.
Vienna Youth Soccer, Montano said, plans to help to maintain the field, and already spends from $8,000-$10,000 per year on maintenance in Nottoway alone. "We recognize our obligation to help maintain those fields," he said.