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Fourth Plans Fizzle

County, Ft. Myer cancellations may drive more crowds to Parkway.

Independence Day may be the day for last minute decisions this year, as two sites popular for fireworks watchers close down without offering alternatives. Both the county-run fireworks display at Barcroft Park and spots on the lawn of Fort Myer are closed to the general public this year, with the county display closed altogether.

“There are some changes this year in July 4th activities,” County Manager Ron Carlee said on Saturday. Construction on fields and facilities at Barcroft Park meant that site was unavailable for the annual county fireworks display, he told County Board members at their June 26 meeting.

In the end, that also meant the county had to call off its display for this year. “We could not find a suitable alternate site,” he said. Instead, he encouraged Arlingtonians to plan on heading to the George Washington Parkway, the Marine Corps War Memorial and the Netherlands Carillon to watch the fireworks set off on the National Mall in DC.

At the same time the county called off its fireworks display, commanders at Fort Myer decided that they would not open the post’s Whipple Field to the general public this year. In the past, the field with a view across the Potomac has been open to fireworks watchers, with some security at the fort’s gate, but this Independence Day, the base will only be open to residents.

“It was a combination of things,” said Ned Christensen, public affairs officer for Fort Myer. “Security considerations, and we’ve also been running at a high operational tempo this year.”

Gate security can be demanding when the base is open to the public, he said, and the soldiers who would spend Independence Day doing that could be working elsewhere, or relaxing.

“Hopefully, we can change back in the future,” said Christensen.

BOTH IWO JIMA memorial and the Netherlands Carillon are being prepared for an onslaught of July 4th visitors by National Park Service staff already, with fences around viewing areas going up last week.

Those sites are within walking distance of the Rosslyn Metro station, Carlee said Saturday, and county parking garages near the Courthouse and Clarendon Metro stations will be open for free on the evening of July 4th.

Crowds start showing up along the Parkway early on the 4th, but Ranger Jeff Pinkard said that space at the Carillon and Iwo Jima memorial may be available later in the day. “It traditionally fills up later in the day,” he said. “But if [the county is] not doing fireworks, will it fill up earlier?”

There’s no precedent, and even years without these closures don’t offer an answer, Pinkard said. “There is no average year. Two years ago, it was unbelievably hot. Last year, it was raining right up to the time.”

The best advice, he said, was “get there as early as they’re comfortable. By 2 [p.m.], we’re starting to get a fairly heavy crowd. If the weather’s good, and we don’t have rain, get there early.”

A county press release also suggested that residents could watch the fireworks display put on by Washington Golf and Country Club in North Arlington. A country club employee disputed that, saying that the private club was only open to members on July 4th.

The display is visible, however, from surrounding neighborhoods, and from Marymount University, although Marymount staff discourage the public from watching the display there.