Looking Back at 2004

Looking Back at 2004

The year 2004 will locally be remembered for many things. Some of our residents made national and international headlines. Other events were more contained but raised heated battles within the community. Of all the events and stories that came out of the past year, perhaps nothing speaks as loudly to the community's spirit as the David and Goliath fight waged by a handful of girls from McLean who, against all odds, rose through the ranks and found themselves in the national spotlight at the Little League Softball World Series. That one event brought people from across the community together to cheer for what's important Ñ the future and fighting for what you believe in.

THIS SUMMER a handful of pre-teen girls from McLean, coached by Jamie Loving, beat out teams from the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Europe and Puerto Rico to represent the South in the Little League Softball World Series. They faced the Midway team from Waco, Texas, which has won a stupefying 10 of the last 12 titles.

Loving, who has now retired from coaching to spend more time with his family, has nothing but praise for his young team. "I'm really proud of them. They were up against a hard team. We made some mistakes, but they each played with their all," said Loving.

THE 2004 PARK BOND also saw residents come out to fight for how they want to see taxpayers dollars disbursed in the coming year for sports and recreational facilities. Dozens of citizens groups vied for a piece of the park-bond pie to help complete or initiate projects. The caliber of projects and the competition for the funds were so intense that the amount of the bond was raised from $50 million to $75 million.

Myriad projects will see disbursements from that bond, including Lewinsville Park, which receives money to light a baseball diamond; Nike Fields in Great Falls for renovation and irrigation; Colvin Run Mill for restoration; the Springhill Rec Center; Turner Farm; Observatory Park; Riverbend Park and Pimmit Run Stream Valley, among others.

Dranesville District Park Authority member Kevin Fay is viewed by many as instrumental in getting the increased funds. Fay said the number of worthy projects proposed made it difficult to attempt to decide which group would get funding. He turned to a recent needs-assessment report to prove the need to acquire more land in the future, as well as to restore existing facilities.

"Kevin Fay has been incredible in terms of getting the money we needed in the bond. He's really fought for people," said Dranesville District supervisor Joan DuBois.

New construction will account for 43 percent of the bond money, renovation takes 37 percent, and land acquisition the remaining 20 percent.

THE GREAT FALLS FREEDOM MEMORIAL was built last year through a public/private partnership. The memorial, which was recently dedicated after the community raised the money to pay for the structure through citizen donations, caused significant debate within Great Falls. A few vocal opponents spoke out against the memorial because of concern over whom the memorial was or wasn't honoring.

It was initially conceived to honor the six Great Falls residents who were killed in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. That later changed to engulf all residents of Dranesville who have given themselves in service and defense of freedom.

"There are a few people who don't like it. But I hear from people every day who like it. It's not being done with taxpayers' dollars. We raised the money ourselves," said Pete Hilgartner, who initially proposed the idea and brought it to Mike Kearney and Brogue Charities for support. Fliers were then sent out to residents asking for donations to help build the Freedom Memorial.

"Other small communities all across America have something like this. It is going to be a place where people go on Veterans Day to honor people. It's a place where people can get together for something like that," said Kearney.

A "PARTNERSHIP" that did not work out well this year was the relationship between McLean Youth Soccer and Marymount University at Lewinsville Park in McLean. A private agreement between the two parties had been struck to share the use of an artificial-turf field. In exchange for use of the field, Marymount paid MYS half the cost of the $800,000 field.

The artificial-turf field increased the playing time available on that field to over 5,000 hours from just under 3,000. When a nearby homeowners association and other parties raised a ruckus, the agreement came under scrutiny because some felt it violated the county zoning ordinance's definition of "exclusive public use." Because it is a public park, the public must be able to utilize the facilities.

The issue was then in and out of court as the Board of Zoning Appeals sided against MYS. The Board of Supervisors then challenged that decision. In June a judge ruled that Marymount's use of the field was consistent with the county zoning ordinance definition, and Marymount has been able to use the field.

THE NEW DRANESVILLE DISTRICT SUPERVISOR Joan DuBois has made many of the decisions affecting residents. DuBois was elected after Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn ended his term early to pursue other interests. She has taken an active role in listening to and meeting with local civic groups and homeowners organizations. DuBois said she was surprised at the number of meetings she needed to attend in her first year, and her hardest struggle has been to organize effectively in order to spend the time with her constituents that is necessary.

In reflecting on her first year in office, DuBois indicated that she has run against a great deal of resistance on nearly every issue before her. Whether the issue is parks, soccer fields, land use or development, the Supervisor's Office, according to DuBois, must listen to everyone and his or her opinion. In order to reach more people, DuBois started an e-mail newsletter that updates residents on the issues.

One of DuBois' biggest challenges came with the announcement that the DuVal family was willing to sell 44 acres surrounding the historic Salona Property at millions under its assessed value, if Fairfax County would be willing to make the land into a park. County and state budgets this year were notoriously tight, and local officials said it would be a struggle to come up with the money despite their wish to get the land.

McLean residents, still smarting from the sale of Evans Farm Inn to developers several years ago, place acquiring Salona at the top of their wish list. Fay recently acknowledged the county's desire to purchase the land to the board of directors of the McLean Citizens Association and confirmed all parties were meeting to come to terms. The DuVal family has even offered some creative financing to enable the county to purchase the property. DuBois said in mid-December that she is working to make the deal a reality and hopes to announce something soon.

Salona is a large part of McLean's, and Fairfax County's, history. President James Madison and his wife, Dolley, spent time there when they fled Washington, D.C., after the British burned the White House. The street in front of Salona was named Dolley Madison to honor that event.

Salona is also home to one of the few known slave graveyards in the area.

The historic Salona home is still occupied by a member of the DuVal family and recently underwent an intensive restoration. The house is not being offered as part of the sale. The family will also keep several acres of buffer land in the event Salona is sold to the county.

ANOTHER MCLEAN HOUSE made national news when its owners put it up for sale. Hickory Hill is an 18-room, brick Georgian mansion, which was purchased by Bobby Kennedy in 1957. President John Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, lived in the home briefly before that time and before he was president.

Ethel Kennedy has declined interviews on the home or her family memories of the house, which she still owns. The family lived at Hickory Hill at the time of Bobby Kennedy's assassination and stayed on there.

Hickory Hill contains a great deal of political history because of its famous occupants. That piece of Americana is being offered at the price of $20 million. In addition to the lore, the purchasers will also get six acres of prime McLean real estate, two pools, tennis courts and stables.

IN GREAT FALLS scores of residents turned out to witness the auction of Thelma's. The general store and ice cream parlor appears to have remained untouched by time. The exterior clapboard structure still sports old-time tin soda advertisements and gas pumps that haven't been operational in years. Thelma's was famous because of the homemade ice cream and its owner, Thelma Feighery, who owned the store for decades.

After Thelma died, the home next to the store and the land around it went to her family. Investors later bought the property and decided to sell it at auction this year.

As the crowd watched the auction in resignation, two developers bid on the valuable land. More than $2 million was bid on the property, not for the memorable butter pecan ice cream or the Americana decor, but because the land is zoned for mixed use, meaning a developer could build both residential and commercial buildings on the 3.56-acre site.

McLean builder Alan Shams was awarded the winning bid, but the deal later fell through when the investors set a higher price, closer to $3 million, as was their right under the terms of the auction. Thelma's remains open for business today but is also still for sale Ñ for the right price.

THE ISSUE OF whether to extend the water-main line in Great Falls to the homeowners of Riverside Manor has been contentious. Fairfax Water owns and operates the well that serves that community of homes. The well, the last one owned by the county, has traces of radon in it and needs to be replaced. The well is also subject to drought conditions, according to Fairfax Water's Jeanne Bailey.

The Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA), helmed by David Olin, is staunchly in opposition to expanding the waterline from its current end point at Great Falls Elementary School on Walker Road down Arnon Chapel to Riverside Manor. The need for a new source of water is not so much in contention as is Great Falls' fierce stance that expanding the waterline could lead to an increase in housing density.

Members of the GFCA are working in tandem with the District Supervisors Office on alternatives. DuBois said, "I don't think we can deny anyone water. I understand the fears expressed, but this isn't about that."

If the waterline were extended, it would be possible for homeowners along that route (not members of the Riverside Manor Development) to buy into the line, Bailey said.

THERE IS ONE STORY this year that made headlines as far away as Australia and slipped McLean's name into infamy. In May, Robert Chamberlain of McLean, 45, was dubbed "Vaseline Man" by the police officers who arrested him in upstate New York, after he slathered himself in 14 jars of petroleum jelly and then rolled around and touched every surface in his Motel 6 hotel room. Chamberlain left the hotel without reporting the damage and checked into another hotel in the same town, where he was later arrested. He was recently ordered to pay several thousand dollars in damages to the hotel, which was forced to replace everything, from the carpet to the curtains in the room, due to the damage caused by the Vaseline.