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Park Officials Hint at More Money

The park bond referendum could jump from $50 million to $75 million if citizens press.

There may be more money available to fund the park and recreational needs of residents if citizens speak out and encourage their district supervisor to press for more money. Kevin Fay, Dranesville District Park representative, is contending there could be as much as $25 million more available to the county in the bond referendum that is scheduled to be voted on in November.

The bond referendum is currently set at $50 million. The bond's purpose is to finance the Capital Improvement Program, which includes land acquisition, development and renovation to existing facilities in Fairfax County. The bond would provide at least $50 million, over the next four years, for these projects.

During a meeting held by the Fairfax County Park Authority at the McLean Community Center to get citizen input into the types of projects that residents want, Fay alerted residents to the possibility that as much as a third more could be made available in the bond. “Seventy-five million ought to be do-able,” said Fay. “We’re grateful, but it’s not enough,” he said of the $50 million. “We need to send that message loud and clear,” said Fay.

“Based on our needs assessment survey, we are going to be wanting in the extreme,” Fay told the crowd. “It’s going to be difficult for us to be good shepherds of the land we have and to do [land acquisition],” Fay said.

Dranesville district supervisor Joan DuBois is receptive to the idea of pushing for more money but remains cautiously optimistic about the chances of that happening. “The issue has been raised with the County Executive about raising it. So far, he’s said no,” said DuBois. “There is certainly a lobbying effort going on right now to raise it,” DuBois said. She added that a final determination is not likely to happen until later this summer.

RESIDENTS FROM GREAT FALLS AND MCLEAN were out in force to promote their projects and to ensure that what they were promoting appears on the Fairfax County Park Authority’s radar screen before the bond money is allocated.

In Great Falls, projects such as the renovation of Colvin Mill, Observatory Park at Turner Farm and trails in and around River Bend were represented. The dollar amount needed for the projects fluctuates greatly. While some need large sums to get their projects off the ground, others need money that will be used to upgrade existing facilities.

For example, Serena Wilson with the Friends of River Bend Park presented a scaled-down project to Park Authority officials because she recognized that less money would be available and prioritizing was critical. Wilson is asking for funds to help renovate the visitors center at River Bend Park and to build a footbridge over Clarks Run because the culvert crossings wash out during heavy rains.

McLean residents presented a variety of projects, as well. These included Clemyjontri Park, which will be the first and only completely handicapped-accessible park for children in the county, and pleas to purchase the land at Salona being offered by the DuVal brothers under the caveat that the property be turned into parkland.

THE BOND THAT WILL BE FLOATED is a AAA bond with a rate of 3.54 percent. That’s the highest rating possible being offered at the lowest rate in 25 years, according to Park Authority officials. Since 1959, Fairfax County has used $308 million in bonds for land acquisition, renovation and park development. Nearly 9 percent of the total land area in Fairfax County, or 22,908 acres, has been acquired by the Park Authority for public use.

Much of this land is for trails, since hiking and walking have the highest participation rates of any county activity. Eighty percent of households in Fairfax County reported visiting at least one park last year. Fay said that “citizen priorities start [Park Authority] direction.”