One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and the same is true for government entities in Northern Virginia.
The Virginia Department of Transportation began building the Fairfax County Parkway in 1985, but it left about 50 acres of property it had purchased in the Springfield District untouched. When Supervisor Elaine McConnell’s (R-Springfield) chief of staff, Steve Edwards, noticed the piece of leftover property, he started doing some homework.
“As a result, he began finding more and more [available adjacent property],” said McConnell, at the Patriot Park groundbreaking ceremony, Saturday, March 3. “Here is the complex we’ve been waiting for all this time.”
The Fairfax County Park Authority begins phase one of construction on the complex, known as Patriot Park, this month. The park is located near the intersection of the Fairfax County Parkway and Braddock Road, at 12111 Braddock Road.
The county acquired the 50-acre VDOT land, and then managed to find an additional 47-acres of adjoining property from other sources, resulting in a 97-acre park that will feature the county’s largest synthetic turf field. Part of the land acquisition, which took more than two years, also included an acre lot that would allow the park to tap into the county sewage and water system, said Ken Feng, the Springfield district representative on the Park Authority Board. Phase one will also include the construction of a storm water management facility, lighting, trails, sidewalks, parking and an access road through the Mott Community Center — the park’s neighbor.
“This is very exciting,” said Judy Pedersen, Park Authority spokeswoman. “District parks require sizable pieces of land, so we’re not going to see this happening very often.”
ABOUT 50 TO 100 ACRES of land are necessary to build district parks, so Patriot Park is likely one of the last ones that will be approved, said Feng. “It’s going to be very tight in the future.”
Patriot Park's size is not its biggest selling point, however, according to officials. Its location is also prime. Thanks to its relatively isolated location, the park will create little to no light and noise impact to residential neighborhoods, said Feng. The soil condition on the land is also prime for athletic fields, said Feng.
"We know our kids need this kind of facility, lights and all," said McConnell.
Voters passed a $65 million park bond referendum in 2004, which is funding the $2.6 million first phase. Phase two, the final phase, is scheduled to add three, 90-foot baseball diamonds, three additional soccer fields, a playground and picnic areas, according to park officials.
The only problem with phase two is the funding: so far, none exists. The Park Authority is hoping for another park bond in 2008, which would serve as more of a stewardship bond for county parks, that would fund the rest of the project, said Hal Strickland, chairman of the Park Authority Board.
One of the highlights of phase one is the adult regulation-size synthetic turf soccer field, which transforms into three youth-size soccer fields. The field is 430-feet long and 230-feet wide, making it 60-feet longer and 80-feet wider than a football field. The $900,000 field also requires less upkeep, said Eric Brunner, the Park Authority’s project manager for Patriot Park. The field is playable throughout the year, rain, snow or shine, and he suspects it will last anywhere from 10 to 15 years before the turf needs replacing.
“The big cost is really initially,” he said.
Since about 200,000 people use the county's parks and fields each year, the complex will add a welcome amenity to the park system, said Strickland.
"The county is on the right path," said Board of Supervisors Chair Gerry Connolly (D-At-large). "[Because of the Park Authority] young people have places to play and engage in sports, and not in other things."
The name for the park stemmed from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The land was acquired around that time in 2001, and after last year's two police fatalities in Chantilly, officials decided the park should be dedicated to the county's fire and police departments, as well as the many children who will benefit from its use.