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Waiting for County's Answer

MCC Governing Board wants a response to McLean Day report.

The Governing Board of the McLean Community Center has completed its portion of the work in trying to determine the best location for McLean Day. Now, the board decided Wednesday night, it’s up to the Fairfax County Park Authority to respond.

Caroline Pickens, chair of the Governing Board, said the subcommittee, made up of members of the board and representatives of the community, Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois’ office and the Park Authority, completed its report to explore alternative locations for the McLean Day community celebration, currently held at Lewinsville Park.

“The committee recommended that McLean Day stay in Lewinsville Park,” she said. “Kevin [Fay, the Dranesville representative to the Park Authority] said he’d take our report to the Park Authority and get back to us. He said he had some questions regarding using the downtown area as a possibility and suggested that maybe we didn’t talk to the merchants there enough.”

Pickens said she sent two e-mails to Fay in the month since he received the report but had not heard any response from him or the Park Authority.

“He did e-mail me to let me know he appreciated the heads-up that we were going to the local newspapers with this last week,” she said, but there has been no further word from the Park Authority.

“He owes it to our chair to at least comment about what’s going on,” said Evelyn Fox, treasurer for the governing board.

Pickens asked the board if a letter should be sent to the Park Authority or DuBois to discuss what more could be done to convince them of Lewinsville Park’s attributes for McLean Day.

“Our work here is done. We need to wait for them to respond,” said Holly Harmuth Clement, secretary for the board. “We did what we were required to do and informed them of the entire process. It was very thorough, and I don’t think the ball is in our court anymore.”

BOARD MEMBER Margaret Van Winkle said an e-mail sent by Fay sounded “dismissive” of the report. “It sounded as though he didn’t think we did a thorough job,” she said. “I’m concerned he didn’t like the report because of the outcome,” she said.

“The fact is, they don’t want to have McLean Day at Lewinsville Park,” said board member Dorothy Hassan. “They need to remember that they’re public servants like we are,” she said, adding that during a meeting to discuss this situation last November, residents near the park made it clear they wanted the festival to stay in their neighborhood.

“I think we need to make a strong statement,” said board member Edward Eitchens. “We need to say that, based on the report we did, we presume that McLean Day will stay in Lewinsville Park in 2006,” he said.

The Park Authority has given the Community Center a permit to hold the annual event in Lewinsville Park this year under the auspices that it would perform a study on alternate sites for McLean Day for future years.

“I don’t think we’ll do well by presenting them with an ultimatum,” Pickens said.

“Regardless of who you send the letter to, they won’t respond well to an attack, and that’s how it’s going to come off,” said student representative Emily Newman.

The board debated about sending a letter to DuBois and Fay, deciding that it would be best to send the letter to both of them at the same time.

“Joan is the supervisor, and she can defer the decision to the Park Authority,” said Bill Bersie, executive director of the Community Center. “She’s going to have to make the final decision, however.”

The letter will state that the governing board feels it has done all the work requested of it in terms of studying alternative sites for McLean Day and offering to rectify any concerns the Park Authority has about holding the event at Lewinsville Park.

THE BOARD ALSO discussed the results of a series of focus groups organized to explore the possible expansion of the Community Center.

“Over 90 percent of people we talked to in the focus groups had suggestions,” Bersie said. “We were concerned about people really getting involved in the process, but they jumped right in right away.”

The four groups, consisting of senior citizens, teenagers, users of the Community Center and parents of small children, each provided various ideas for better use of the Community Center, with most groups opposing the construction of a gymnasium at the Community Center.

The groups also repeatedly asked what the mission statement of the Community Center was, Bersie said, as it was not visible in the room where the focus groups were being held.

“We have a lot of work to do before we can make a decision about expanding the Community Center,” Pickens said. “There’s a lot of information in these reports. There’s a lot of good ideas in here.”

“This discussion has been going on for eight years now,” Fox said. “It hasn’t really moved.”