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Parks and Rec Dominates Council Meeting

Raised boardwalk and new playground equipment are discussed.

Vienna's Parks and Recreation Department came away the clear winner from Monday's Town Council meeting, generating far more in the way of discussion and items of interest per dollar of expenditure than the competition.

The council approved a $17,800 contract for the engineering of a 250-foot-long, boardwalk-style path to run over Piney Branch Creek, between the northwest and northeast quadrants of town. The path has been a subject of discussion since at least 1991, and is actually the second phase of a project that includes the Richard Black Bridge, built in 2002.

The trail, which will run from Piney Branch to Glyndon Street, was deferred until a plan could be conceived that would eliminate the need for retaining walls to deal with the steep landscape.

Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Salgado noted that, by moving the trail down off the hill and constructing a boardwalk that could vary in height, the design will be able to overcome the topographical challenges. At some points, the path may be elevated eight to 10 feet off the ground.

Salgado said the boardwalk model was recommended by a new engineer at Whitman Requardt & Associates, the company that has been on board the project since it began. "This is really the first new idea we've had," she said.

She noted that the path would be bicycle-friendly. "It'll be the boardwalk effect," she said, providing the sound effect. "It'll be the, 'D-d-d-d-d,' but it's quaint."

Councilmember Maud Robinson asked how high the railings would be and whether six feet would be wide enough for bikes to pass each other. "Because, you get one of these mad cyclists on the downgrade, and, stand back."

It may be a tight squeeze, said Salgado, but "I think we'll be fine." The railings, she said, would be constructed according to requirements.

Whether or not a railing is even constructed on certain portions of the path would be "a function of how you want to use that boardwalk," said Councilmember George Lovelace. "If you want to play with the frogs down there, you don't want a rail," he pointed out.

Salgado noted that the structure would function not only as a connector trail but also as a lookout over Piney Branch, where residents could enjoy the view or birdwatch.

THE COUNCIL ALSO approved the purchase of additional playground equipment for Meadow Lane Park, at a price tag of $21,593. This includes the cost of assembly. The equipment is considered to be of "preschool" magnitude and will be set up adjacent to the existing playground on the park, said Salgado.

She noted that a tot swingset will also be added near the present swingset, "where we have a concrete sidewalk to nowhere. We're going to take that out."

Councilmember George Lovelace wanted to know whether the equipment would be compatible with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Salgado said a certain percentage of the attractions on the site would have to be ground pieces or otherwise handicapped-accessible, and she assured that the set would meet requirements. "The sandbox is the major draw at Meadow Lane, quite frankly," she added.

The new playground set will include a Wallcano vertical wall climber, a zipper climber, a four-foot crawl tube with spy holes, a decorative panel with a steering wheel and various other amenities.

Parks and Recreation also received approval to spend $17,863 of its Town Green contingency funds to modify work orders for the green's construction. Most notably, the metal roofs on the Freeman House will be replaced with roofing of similar material and style, in order to match the roofs going on the restroom facility and stage storage room. Rot underneath the porch roof will also be repaired.

THE POLICE DEPARTMENT'S $122,531 expenditure to upgrade its radio system — about twice the amount spent by Parks and Recreation — was funded not by the town but by a State Homeland Security Program grant awarded to the department. The upgrade will allow more units to operate on a limited spectrum and is intended to improve communication within the Vienna police force and between the Vienna and Fairfax County police departments.

In other items, Windover Heights resident Charles Anderson was appointed to the Windover Heights Board of Review.

The council scheduled Jan. 29 for a public hearing regarding the possible removal of three words from the Town Code to allow more apartment space in mixed-use commercial zones.

And a public hearing and subsequent approval merged a residential lot on Park Street, N.E., with a small, neighboring "odd lot."