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Construction to Begin at Clemyjontri Park

Board of Supervisors approved the contractual agreement at meeting Monday.

Work will now start near the intersection of Old Georgetown Pike and Route 123, since final approval was given to begin construction on Clemyjontri Park at the Board of Supervisors meeting Monday morning.

“There’s a letter that’s being sent to residents in the area that starts with ‘Pardon Our Dust,’” said Bob Brennan, executive director of the Fairfax County Park Foundation. “We’re all pretty happy about this.”

The Board of Supervisors voted to approve the Comprehensive Agreement for Park Development, which was the final step needed for the park before any groundbreaking could take place.

“The Board of Supervisors approved the contract, they approved the project to go forward,” said Dan Clemente, a member of Friends of Clemyjontri, the park’s nonprofit fund-raising group.

“This also means that tomorrow, we’re going to go to Mrs. [Adele] Lebowitz’s house with the contractors and the construction people to let her know that we’re moving forward,” Clemente said. Lebowitz donated the land to be used as a park, and the park is actually named after her four children, Carolyn, Emily, John and Patrina. The park has been designed to be an enjoyable environment for special needs children and their families, to give them a place to play.

“We want the workers to remember that Mrs. Lebowitz lives on the property, and we need to treat her with respect, not block her driveway, and let her know what’s going on with the park.”

Weather permitting, Clemente said the groundbreaking is scheduled for March 7.

“We’re excited about it, it’s been a long road. The park should be finished in eight months, which puts us at about the end of the year,” he said.

When the land was donated to the county in 2000, there was a clause that stated the land had to be in use within five years.

“The county did not expect the donation,” he said. “First we had to go through the rezoning process, then the plan-approval process and the architect design, and all that just ate up the clock.”

THERE WERE also funding shortfalls, totaling $500,000, for the construction of the park.

“The Board came to us in June of 2003 and said they needed us to raise $500,000, and we ended up raising a little over $700,000,” Clemente said. “They also told us it would cost $6.4 million to build the park.”

With the help of David Orr, a construction manager who took the project to three companies for bids, the cost of the park was reduced by $2.4 million, to its current cost of about $4 million.

“It’s relief for today and anxiety for tomorrow because we’ve got to get this built,” Clemente said.

The Friends of Clemyjontri are also hoping to set up a foundation to keep the park maintained independent of the county budget.

The next project for Clemente and the park’s board is national recognition.

“We’d like this park to be a template for other parks to be built in the county, if not nationwide,” he said. “There’s no other park like this in Virginia. There’s a park similar in Montgomery County, but it’s much smaller. If we can show other counties that parks like this can be created by working with the community, it would help benefit so many children.”

“This is just a great example of a public/private partnership because everything worked out perfectly,” said Judy Pedersen, a representative from the Park Authority.

The majority of the work this week will consist of “getting papers signed and permits in place” to break ground next Monday, said Lynn Tadlock, director of planning and development with the Park Authority.

“By the end of the week, we’ll be ready to get to work,” she said. “I don’t foresee any more roadblocks. Weather’s always a delay in the construction business, but other than that, we’re ready to go.”

Most of the work for the next several months will be earth moving, the installation of silt walls and surveying, Tadlock said. “Hopefully by the summer it’ll start to look like a playground.”