Oakton might have a new park as early as the fall of 2005, but much of the plan hinges on moving the Oakton Schoolhouse to the site.
The Fairfax County Park Authority purchased the Corbalis property on Hunter Mill Road in 2001, said Judy Pedersen, spokesperson for the authority. The planning process began in November 2003 and is now finishing up, she said.
The plan, which recommends naming the property the “Oakton Community Park,” calls for a rectangular (soccer or lacrosse) field, approximately 50 parking spaces and a system of trails through the wooded area.
The recommendations will go next to the Park Authority for study and a public hearing, which Pedersen says could happen as early as February, and a formal Master Plan could be finished by the summer.
“The task force did a great job of getting recommendations from a wide group,” said Michael Aho, an aide to Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence). “The big question will be the schoolhouse.”
The plan calls for placing the Oakton Schoolhouse on the property. The historic structure was built in the 1890s, said Bob Adams, president of Friends of the Oakton Schoolhouse, and a member of the task force. The building currently sits on the corner of Hunter Mill and Chain Bridge roads, where Appalachian Outfitters was built around it.
Adams envisions the school being used as a sort of museum where children could visit to learn about life at that time. “My view of this is that this is such a good teaching tool,” he said. It might also be available for rental to community groups, Adams said, but the Park Authority would make the final decision about its use.
The Friends group, Adams said, has raised over $300,000 in goods and services to move the schoolhouse to the new park and to fund construction of the park itself. Moving the school, however, will depend largely on structure.
A survey about the soundness of the building is due back to the Friends group on Dec. 22, Adams said. “Preliminary reports indicate that parts of the school have some real problems,” Adams said.
The older part of the building is still in fairly good condition, Adams said, but an addition built in the 1920s is not as sound.
The land has been purchased by Chevy Chase Bank, which Adams said has pledged a substantial amount to help move the school. “The bank doesn’t want any of the building on-site,” he said.
MOVING THE building, however, poses problems for the Hunter Mill Corridor, said the Hunter Mill Defense League. The League is working to get the Hunter Mill Corridor (the road and the land on either side of it) listed on the National Register of Historic Places, explained Jodi Bennett, a member of the league.
The group has documented dozens of historic sites along the corridor, and the school is one of them. The school, besides being historic unto itself, provides an anchor at the southern end of the corridor, Bennett explained. “When you start losing your contributing structures, the integrity of the corridor is challenged,” Bennett said.
The school loses significance if it is moved. “Once that school is moved, it is no longer historic,” she said. “The nature of historic preservation needs it to stay where it is.”
While leaving the building in its current location is the group’s first choice, members are not completely opposed to moving it to the park site. “If it was going to go to the Dumpster, we would be willing to see it moved,” Bennett said.
The problem, Bennett said, is that thus far, there discussion has taken place on how the school might be integrated into the new bank. It could, for example, be moved slightly to make way for the proposed bank and still be considered historic, since it would be on the same site, Bennett said. “The only alternative that has been looked at is moving it,” she said.
The League supports the park, Bennett said. “I think the park is a wonderful idea,” she said. She expressed some concern about the possibility of lights being added to the proposed field. Also, she would like to see, if the schoolhouse should be moved to the park, it be placed in front of the parking lot, in a more prominent location on Hunter Mill Road. “If it was to go, it’s a wonderful place for it to go,” she said.
The age of the schoolhouse is working against it, and the longer it sits, the less likely it will be that it can be moved, Adams said. “Delay is death here. If we don’t move the structure, it’s going down,” he said.
Besides the building itself, not moving the school would impact the construction of the park facilities, Adams said. The money that has been raised would be used to build the field — set to go on an already flat and cleared area on-site — and other park facilities. After construction, the group would donate the facilities to the Park Authority, Adams said.
If everything goes well, and the group has some luck, the park could be completed by the fall of 2005, Adams said. “It would take luck to get there next fall,” Adams said. More likely is that it would be operational by 2006.
However, the funding would be in jeopardy if the school is not moved. “All of the money that has been raised has been raised with this sort of dual function,” Adams said. If the donors pull out of the project, the next most likely scenario would be to wait for the next bond issue for parks, which would not likely be until 2007, Adams said.