No park in Arlington fits the county’s size, Peter Harnik said Saturday. There’s nothing suited to the county’s population, and over the last 50 years, as the county grew, the park system lagged behind.
“We still have a suburban park system. It’s mostly ballfields and stream valley,” said Harnik, a North Arlington resident who has written a book on urban parks. To correct the situation, at the June 12 County Board meeting Harnik proposed not a new park, but a complete revision of Quincy Park, next to the Arlington Central Library and catercorner to Washington-Lee High School.
In a picture Harnik carried with him, the park now filled with a baseball diamond, tennis courts and soccer fields is transformed, with a lake, pedestrian trails and a great lawn modeled on New York’s Central Park.
Coming as a representative of the Committee to Design Quincy Central Park, Harnik said he and his colleagues would be “actively seeking the assistance of the community.”
Official reaction to the proposal was reserved. “This is the first time I remember seeing a lake in Quincy Park,” said Board Chair Barbara Favola. Plans to turn Quincy sports fields into lakes and meadows “are not on our radar screen now,” she said. “But it will come under consideration in the next few years.”
<b>THE IDEA, HARNIK</b> said later, grew out of discussions for reconstructing Washington-Lee High School. One proposal for that project, last summer, was to build the school on the current site of Quincy Park.
“The tremendous, overwhelming outpouring of community opposition [to the proposal] gave us the idea that Quincy Park had resonance with the community and the county as a whole,” said Harnik.
As a prospective central Arlington park, Quincy has a lot in its favor, he said: the proximity of the Central Library, the Ballston Metro station as well as apartment blocks already built and under construction.
“It’s situated next to the county’s emerging new downtown … and it’s surrounded by thousands of apartments,” said Harnik. “These are people who don’t have yards, but want a front yard.”
The Committee to Design Quincy Central Park “isn’t an official government agency,” he added. “Right now it’s a small group. This unveiling on Saturday is announcing the beginning of this campaign.”
<b>BUT ANY CAMPAIGN</b> to make Quincy the central park of Arlington is misguided, said Brian Hannigan. A member of the county’s sports commission, Hannigan also sat on committees planning for the renovation of Washington-Lee and for construction of a large park on land known as the North Tract, in South Arlington.
He first heard proposals to make Quincy a central county park during the Washington-Lee planning process, and his reaction then is the same today, Hannigan said. “Arlington has a fabulous central park: the Four Mile Run continuum goes from Falls Church to where it empties into the Potomac.”
Divided into smaller parks, the fields and valleys that surround Four Mile Run are already central to the county, Hannigan said, but they’re overlooked. “Banneker Park, Bon Air, Bluemont, Carlin Springs — that’s our Central Park. A lot more attention should be given to it.”
<b>ON SATURDAY,</b> County Manager Ron Carlee also pointed to the North Tract. Plans for that park, including a sports complex, a connection to Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary and a swimming pool complex, are included in the Capital Improvement Plan that County Board members are set to pass at their June 26 meeting. Construction for the complex could begin next year.
“We’ve been concentrating on the North Tract,” Carlee said.
That park will add sports fields to the county, and two new soccer fields would open with the reconstruction of Washington-Lee. Those should allow some sports to shift away from Quincy, freeing up space for non-sports, Harnik said.
“Now that North Tract is moving forward, and Washington-Lee’s plan, that’s freeing up Quincy Park to be a more universally available space.” But plans are not set in stone, he said; in fact, the discussion is just beginning.
Hannigan was willing to talk about changes at Quincy. “Quincy has changed over time. Parks need to change over time, to reflect different needs,” he said. But while Washington-Lee and Ballston are changing, there are no new baseball diamonds being built near Washignton-Lee, and the school’s softball and baseball teams use the park as their home field.
“Because of it’s proximity to Washington-Lee, [Quincy] has been designated as needed game space,” said Hannigan, and that needs to stay a constant in any discussion.