After years of turmoil, doubt and countless meetings the design of the future Jones Point Park has been settled by the National Park Service. They have selected Alternative 4A -- the plan unveiled June 27, 2007 at the Lee Center public meeting.
The only major change as outlined at that time is that parking within the Park area has been reduced from the original 110 spaces to 95. Those spaces will be located near the river at the end of the access road.
In making their decision known, the park service stated on their website, "Through environmental analysis and interagency review, the NPS has determined the selected alternative will not significantly affect the environment and has issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)."
Alternative 4A calls for one large multi-use athletic field, 110 yards by 60 yards, oriented northwest/southeast, south of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and a second smaller field, 80 yards by 40 yards, oriented east/west, north of the bridge, adjacent to the wetlands. However, the smaller field will be for "small unorganized activity," according to David Vela, superintendent, George Washington Memorial Parkway,National Park Service.
"Our primary purpose all along was to have the least amount of impact on the nearby neighborhoods. We looked at a variety of issues raised at the various public meetings such as noise, traffic, and particularly parking," he said.
"On parking we wrestled with reducing the number of spaces from 110 to 95 fearing that it might become a burden on the nearby community. But, we still feel comfortable that the reduction will not trigger parking in nearby neighborhoods. It was very important to us not to impact the nearby neighborhoods," Vela emphasized.
NPS received considerable public comment indicating a desire for more parking in Jones Point Park. "Based on the analysis of needs for athletic uses of fields and other anticipated park activities, the NPS feels that 95 parking spaces should be adequate to meet those needs," according to Dana Dierkes, public affairs specialist, National Park Service.
"Many people also think that these athletic field are going to be in use 365 days a year. That is not so. We will be maintaining the field that takes them out of use for approximately three months a year to do the proper maintenance," Vela explained.
"We will be installing new turf to bring the fields slightly above grade for drainage purposes and to make them safer for play. However, they will be of natural turf. There will be no artificial turf and there will be no lighting. All NPS facilities close at dark and that will be the case for Jones Point Park, except for special events," Vela said.
One of the other points raised during the public meetings was the possibility of archeological digs taking place in the southern part of the completed park. This will not happen, according to Vela.
"The Park service really frowns on digging for exploration within its parks. There has to be an actual reason for a dig. Also the process of archeological preservation has changed. Artifacts can be located by GPS and left in the ground," he said.
"This is Park Service property. There has to be a specific, special interest on a given location that meets the objectives of the Park Service before any digging is permitted," Vela clarified.
Other elements of the now official Alternative 4A include the following:
An access road will connect to a new cul-de-sac at the south end of Royal Street and extend eastward to the 95 space parking area near the river.
A vehicular turnaround will be located just west of the Potomac River. The cul-de-sac perimeter barrier system and landscape plantings will be located just south of the turnaround.
A tot-lot will be located north of the parking area near the small multi-use athletic field which will be oriented east/west.
.A perimeter barrier system, guardhouse/gate, and landscape plantings will be located just south of the turnaround.
The Lee Street community gardens will left in place.
Connections to the Mount Vernon Trail will remain.
The next step in the process will consist of the design and construction of park features, beginning with access and parking. "There will be active civic engagement during this process," Vela assured.
He also emphasized, "If a tree is taken down it will be replaced as will all natural screening. We are committed to protecting and enhancing the natural environment. We want to protect all the natural resources."
NPS will be maintaining the park. They are exploring the details of that with the City, according to Vela.
REACTIONS to the NPS announcement were as varied as they have been throughout the long process. "We're obviously not pleased with the report. I don't believe it sits well with the community as a whole," said Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille.
"However, we are pleased there will be two fields. We are also not pleased with the reduction in parking. But, they (NPS) will be providing overall maintenance for the park which is a plus for the City," Euille said.
"It's not a perfect plan. But, because it will have the least impact on the neighborhoods I believe it will work for everyone. It's the least impact we could hope for," said Alexandria Vice Mayor Redella "Del" Pepper.
"But, we must be made whole somehow in the mitigation process. That must be an absolute requirement that is not negotiable," she added.
"We are disappointed that it is not what the City has wanted since the beginning. I still feel that the City's plan was the best solution," said Kirk Kincannon, director, Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities Department.
"The outstanding travesty of this plan is that those entering the park are going to see this large parking lot and long road leading to it. It's a visual travesty. The parking should have been spread out, not all clustered in one big lot," said Judy Guse-Noritake, chair, Park and Recreation Commission.
"How far do you go to serve the handicapped. All the other areas of the park are accessible without long roads. It's not a requirement to make everything handicapped accessible by car. You can have paths that accommodate wheelchair accessibility," she said.
"We also would have preferred a big multi-purpose athletic field north of the bridge," Noritake noted.
"There is a lot to like in this plan. We've been working on this for six years. With no synthetic turf and no lighting we'll keep the park in its natural state," said Teresa Miller, Yates Gardens Civic Association.
"When you think we started with two fields the size of Redskins
stadium north of the bridge, this plan is very good. I also don't
think the parking has been fine tuned yet," she said. "I'm very grateful we will be keeping the Lee and Royal street community gardens," Miller said.
The schedule now calls for the final design of the remaining mitigation plans to be completed by Spring 2008 with award of a construction contract by the Summer/Fall of 2008. Prior to that will the public meetings to gain input for development details, according to Vela.