Burke is a suburban destination for many commuters, but in 2004 it faced some harsh realities, as gang violence made its way into the neighborhoods. The boundaries were drawn for a new high school in Lorton, an area that underwent a major rebirth in the hands of a specialized task force. These and other stories are the biggest of 2004:
Gang Activity Sparks Dialogue
In response to increased gang activity, Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) kicked off a five-part Community Dialogue on Gang Activity in February. The series met at Braddock Elementary School in Annandale through June with the goal of preventing the increase of gang-related activities in the Braddock District, especially in the Annandale area.
Bulova's office produced an informational newsletter, titled "Family and Community United," in response to the dialogues. That same month, however, the gang problem hit home, as Fairfax County police arrested 22-year-old Quincy L. Alexander for attempting to recruit a 14-year-old girl he met outside Lake Braddock Secondary School. Alexander was sentenced to three years in prison for attempting to start a Northern Virginia gang cell. The incident had far-reaching impact. In August, the Fairfax County Police Department hosted a week-long "Road Dawg" camp to introduce nearly 35 middle- and high-school students to the work of police officers and encourage them to avoid gangs, in an effort to prevent gang activity through increased awareness by teenagers.
Bond Passage Means Library, Garage
Fairfax County voters approved a $52.5 million bond referendum in November. Included in this bond was money for libraries, of which a portion would be used to build the new Burke Centre Library, located on Freds Oak Road and the Fairfax County Parkway in Burke. The 17,000-square-foot building would be a regional library and would serve patrons of both the Pohick and Kings Park libraries, which are among the busiest in the county. Construction will begin in late 2005, and the library will be completed by 2008.
Burke Centre Budget Shortfall
The Burke Centre budget had a roller-coaster year. In February, budget documents revealed a $700,000 deficit for the year 2003, which Tom Wade, then the executive director of the Conservancy staff, attributed in large part to that year's nasty weather. In March, the Conservancy Board of Trustees voted to pass a $25 quarterly special assessment for the remainder of 2004 to pass the budget. With costs of services rising, the Board of Trustees voted in November to set the general assessment for 2005 at $113 per quarter.
School Board Sells Land
The Fairfax County School Board voted to approve the sale of 35.5 acres of school land at Huntsman Boulevard and the Fairfax County Parkway in the Springfield district in November. The transaction was part of the "Classrooms for Kids" initiative designed to raise money for the school system's Capital Improvement Program. Several public hearings, both before the Fairfax County School Board and the Board of Supervisors, took place. Ultimately, the School Board voted to approve the sale, due in large part to a reverter clause on the land deed, which specified that the land will revert back to the developer if not used for a secondary school.
Boundaries Drawn for New Lorton High School
Fairfax County Public Schools staff drew up the boundaries for the new high school to be located on the grounds of the former correctional facility in Lorton.
Three public hearings took place in October and November to elicit feedback for the new boundaries for the new school, which will be named this spring and will open in September. The meetings convened at Hayfield Secondary School and resulted in a proposed boundary plan that was presented to the Fairfax County School Board in December. In the plan, Halley, Silverbrook and Newington Forest elementary schools, along with portions of Lorton Station Elementary, would feed the new high school. The Fairfax County School Board will vote on the proposed boundaries later this month.
Laurel Hill Reuse Moves Along
Established by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the Laurel Hill Adaptive Reuse Citizens Task Force began meeting in November 2002 to develop recommendations regarding the use of land on the former D.C. Correctional Facility site in Lorton. On Dec. 19, the task force completed its two-year research and recommendation process, presenting its findings to the Board of Supervisors. These findings included converting the reformatory and penitentiary sites into retail and residential space.
In July, the Board of Supervisors made another move on the Laurel Hill property, voting to put the Laurel Hill Arts Center on 56 acres of the former prison property. The Arts Center would include a theater, music barn and 40 units of housing for residents and visiting artists. Also in July, the Park Authority approved a plan for a 1,200-acre Laurel Hill Park, also to be located on the grounds of the Lorton prison.
Lake Accotink Dredged
Due to major silt buildup, Lake Accotink, located in Accotink Park in Springfield, was identified as a candidate for dredging by the Fairfax County Park Authority. Initially scheduled for the winter of 2003, the dredging process has yet to take place due to conflicts over the size of an initial bid by Mobile Dredging, the company that bid on the project.
The time line for the project — which calls for removing more than 150,000 cubic yards of sedimentation from the lake — has been moved back, and the Park Authority is currently accepting new bids for the project, which will go before the Board of Supervisors early this year.
Conservancy Personnel Changes
The leadership of the Burke Centre Conservancy underwent some shakeups, as both executive director Tom Wade and Board of Trustees president Luanne Smith were on their way out. Over the summer, the Board chose not to renew Wade's contract when it expired in September, and Smith stepped down, after winning the spot as president in March. Greg Smith was named new Board president, and in December, the Board of Trustees voted to hire Patrick Gloyd, a Maryland native, as the new executive director of the Conservancy staff.
Major Interchange Hurdle Crossed
On May 19, a 120-foot-high bridge from I-495 West to I-95 South opened, as part of Phase V of the Virginia Department of Transportation's Interchange Project. The $31 million bridge, which was christened the "Robert J. 'Bob' Heittman Memorial Bridge," at a banquet in late December to honor the former Lee District Land Use and Transportation committee chief, carries about 25,000 vehicles per day and was a major milestone in the eight-year, $700 million VDOT project, designed to alleviate congestion in the area known as the "Mixing Bowl," where I-495, I-95, I-395 merge with local traffic on Route 644. Two days later, a second ramp lane opened for traffic traveling from the outer loop to I-95 south.
A section of Burke Lake Road was closed from June 16 to Sept. 1, to allow construction there to proceed at a faster rate. The westbound lanes of Burke Lake Road from Lee Chapel Road to the Fairfax County Parkway were closed all summer while workers widened the road to four lanes. In addition, a stretch of Zion Drive was repaved.
Other road projects affected the area. In addition, a section of Silverbrook Road was closed in April to speed up construction at the intersection with Ox Road.
Pipeline Proposed under Occoquan Reservoir
Washington Gas Light Co.'s proposal to run 6.1 miles of gas pipeline under the Occoquan Reservoir met with concern by citizens in August. Supervisor Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield) hosted an informational meeting in August, to explain the rationale behind the decision. In November, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority voted to begin negotiations with Washington Gas to result in an easement that would allow the company to begin drilling and meet the energy needs of new houses in Prince William County, across the reservoir.
Skate Park Opens at Wakefield Park
Following the initiative of college student Alex Bauer, skaters in the Braddock District had a place to call home when a skate park opened at Wakefield Park on Braddock Road in Annandale in April. The 21,000-square-foot facility is located north of the Audrey Moore Rec Center in Wakefield Park and was approved on a 2000 Park Authority Bond referendum at a cost of just under $1 million.