What's Next for Parks?

What's Next for Parks?

RA hears input from Reston residents about updating its Recreation Master Plan.

Bubbles over tennis courts and pools, more restrooms at existing parks, a community amphitheater and a croquet course were a few of the many suggestions at a forum Tuesday night about the future of parks and recreation in Reston.

Reston Association is updating its Recreation Master Plan for the first time since 1993 and has started soliciting community input about the public's recreation wants and needs.

“What we’re trying to do here is get a blueprint for the next 10 years,” said Larry Butler, RA’s director of parks and recreation.

Though only five residents showed up for Tuesday’s forum at the Reston Community Center at Lake Anne, RA has held several focus group and interviews with community organizations and leaders over the past week.

RA officials, along with a Texas consulting firm it hired to handle the process, have already heard input from Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill), RCC staff members, various sports team representatives and five Reston real estate agents.

“I think people are generally pleased with what Reston has to offer in the areas of parks and recreation,” Butler said. “That’s what drew a lot of people to Reston in the first place — its diversity of recreation facilities and opportunities.”

THE RESIDENTS WHO spoke at Tuesday’s public forum agreed with Butler, but said several areas exist where RA could expand services.

Michelle Moyer, a frequent swimmer, told the consultants she would like RA to make a bubbled pool facility a top priority.

“I think it’s critical,” she said. “You build a culture; you build an environment that is healthy for these kids.”

Similarly, avid tennis player JoAnn Niemela said she wants RA to build a bubble over a tennis court. During the winter, Reston tennis players are forced to neighboring communities, like Herndon, where indoor tennis options are available, she said.

During the focus groups over the last week, several others have also mentioned their desire for bubbles over swimming pools and tennis courts, Butler said.

“We’re getting a variety of ideas,” he said. “But we’re looking for commonalities between what different people and groups say they want.”

In addition to expanded indoor facilities, several residents said they would like RA to fix up some of its aging recreational infrastructure, such as older tennis courts, pools and park restrooms.

“Either fortunately or unfortunately, Reston is now 40 years old,” said Jennifer Blackwell, an at-large director of the RA Board of Directors who was present at the forum. “We have a lot of aging infrastructure in need of maintenance.”

SALLY CARROLL, a Reston resident who spoke at the forum, said RA’s parks and recreation are too often centered on children or sports. The new Master Plan, she said, should include expanded offerings for less-active residents.

“There are a lot of people living here who can’t play tennis or swim or whatever,” she said. “Some people might like to go to a garden or some such. A park doesn’t have to be active.”

Carroll specifically suggested adding a croquet field at a park and a shady amphitheater somewhere in the community for special events.

Of course, adding new parks and recreation facilities would likely cause an increase in RA’s dues, which currently average around $430 each year.

Mike Corrigan, president of the Reston Citizens Association, who also attended the Tuesday forum, said he knows several former Reston residents who have moved elsewhere in the past few years to enjoy newer and more varied recreational opportunities.

“A number of the communities up the road in Loudoun have newer facilities and people from Reston are moving out in that direction,” he said.

Another consideration regarding the Recreation Master Plan update is that the community is expected to be a different place in 10 years. Substantial increases in residential density are possibilities in the Lake Anne and Town Center areas and could impact RA’s parks and recreation offerings, Butler said.

A second public forum will be held in the coming weeks about the Recreation Master Plan update, though a specific date has not yet been decided. After the next forum, the consultants will develop a report of recommendations, which will then be considered by the RA board.