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Committee: Lewinsville Park Best for McLean Day

Nine-member committee ranked nine sites in McLean for festival.

A committee appointed by the governing board of the McLean Community Center has completed their initial report on alternative sites for McLean Day, after damage to a baseball field in 2003 raised concerns over where would be the best location to hold the annual event.

The committee, made up of representatives from the Fairfax County Park Authority, Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois’ office, the McLean Community Center’s Governing Board and members of the community, was formed following a meeting in November and charged with finding a site that would better suit the community’s needs than Lewinsville Park, where the event has been held for several years.

AFTER MONTHS of investigation and ranking nine parks, schools and recreational sites throughout McLean, the committee decided that there is no better alternative to Lewinsville Park, and recommended that McLean Day remain in its current location.

The nine-member committee looked into nine alternate sites: Franklin Sherman Elementary School, Longfellow Middle School, Langley High School, McLean High School, Springhill Recreation Center and School, Cooper Middle School, the McLean Community Center and the Salona property, in addition to assessing the attributes of Lewinsville Park, said Carolyn Pickens, chair of the McLean Community Center Governing Board.

“We divided the committee into three groups of three, and each group looked at three sites,” she said. “We tried to not to use characteristics like what neighbors think of each site and tried to be as objective as possible, things that could go and be observed.”

The locations were ranked on the topography of the site, its openness and proximity to major roads; the site’s availability for setting up the event and taking it down the next day; parking and transportation accessibility; proximity to downtown McLean; and the layout for the site and how conducive it would be to vendors, she said.

“We immediately realized most of the schools had problems, they were constrictive and we weren’t sure if the schools would let us in on Friday to set up and back on Sunday to tear down everything,” she said.

By the end of the first meeting, the list was down to five locations. “Every person on a committee recommitted themselves to reviewing each site individually,” Pickens said. The remaining locations were ranked on safety, parking and transportation availability, the ability to incorporate the business community and “whether the location worked for McLean Day,” she said.

In each category but one, Lewinsville Park remained the top choice for committee members, she said.

On a scale of 40 points, Lewinsville Park had 36 points for safety; parking availability, 38 points; and in the ‘does this work’ category the park had 36 points. The only time Lewinsville Park did not hold top rank was connectedness to the central business district, in which Franklin Sherman Elementary School had 40 points. Lewinsville Park had 26 points.

Overall, Lewinsville Park received 136 points, followed by Franklin Sherman (121), Spring Hill (81), Salona (80) and McLean Community Center (62).

During the last week of March, the committee met with Supervisor DuBois, Kevin Fay, the Dranesville representative to the Fairfax County Park Authority, and Brian Daly, director of operations for the Park Authority to discuss their findings.

“WE TOLD them that no site was better than Lewinsville Park for McLean Day,” Pickens said. “All the other sites had at least one large negative attribute.”

As of last Wednesday, the committee and the Community Center Governing Board had not heard a response from Kevin Fay or the Park Authority.

“I think Kevin has turned this [information] over to the Park Authority people,” Bersie said.

There had been no comment from Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois’ office either.

“I think she feels this is the Park Authority’s decision to make,” Pickens said.

The future location of McLean Day is still uncertain, and the possibility exists that if the event is moved from Lewinsville Park, the nature of the day might change.

“McLean Day has evolved to what it is today because of a careful effort by its organizers and where it’s located,” said Evelyn Fox, a Governing Board member who served on the committee.

“This year we are planning to move some of the inflatable rides and maybe some of the larger rides, maybe onto the basketball courts,” Bersie said. “We know we’ll be in Lewinsville this year. We’ll wait for their decision and we’ll discuss it with them.”

The hope is that the methods used to rank and investigate alternative sites will satisfy the Park Authority, Pickens said. “We agreed to look at more using more hard surfaces in Lewinsville. We hope this report and the methods we used will convince and satisfy them.”

Residents near Lewinsville Park were vocal in their opposition of moving McLean Day in the future at the November meeting with Fay and Daly, she said.

“We had an obligation to make a good faith effort and to the community to do a good job on this, Pickens said.

“This is a draft report and we are aware of it,” said Judy Pedersen, public information officer for the Park Authority.

“We’re not prepared to comment on it yet,” she said, adding that the Park Authority was looking into the report before making a decision.

“We understand it contains alternative sites and we will take a look at those sites and evaluate the sites in terms of space availability and parking,” she said. “Once the report is ratified, we’ll have the ability to better look at it and make a decision.”

She said the Park Authority was “waiting for the final report” to make further comment.

Fay said the committee should be commended for their work on the report, but the issue is still “an open discussion.”

“We’ve asked the park staff to examine their report. It’s a good start,” Fay said.

THE COMMITTEE “seemed to identify that yes, there are some potential alternative sites” for McLean Day, he said, but ultimately “I can’t make them move to any of those sites if they choose not to. Parking and traffic is a problem at all of the sites, but we’re going to look at it in the context of subsequent years.”

Fay said he was asked why the discussion on moving McLean Day out of Lewinsville Park began by a member of the committee, and he said it was because organizers of the event were interested in expanding it.

“At that meeting in November, they said they had no interest in making it bigger, they’ve subsequently come back and said they’d like to see it grow if it could,” he said.

The Park Authority staff is examining the report and should have a response by sometime in May, Fay said.

Supervisor DuBois was unable to be reached for a comment directly, but a spokesperson from her office said she has the committee’s report and is looking forward to reading the report from the Park Authority staff.